Belvedere's late rally not enough
Hardly vintage stuff but, as expected, last year's All Ireland League runners-up duly kick-started this season's AIB League campaign with a home win over Old Belvedere at headquarters last night. In truth, it was a laboured yet comfortable victory.
The contrast between last night's game and last Saturday's international could hardly have been more acute. In teeming rain, and a near deserted Lansdowne Road, there were more handling errors in the first quarter - and thus more scrums - than in the entire 80 minutes four days beforehand.
As a contest it looked done and dusted from well before half-time. Lansdowne were always more likely to put together a more potent running game though a few untypical errors from David O'Mahony, coupled with Richard Governey's current loss of confidence, often undid their good intentions.
By comparison, Old Belvedere had little to work off and what they did have their South African out-half Rob Rein insisted on applying his mighty boot. Their limited approach was made even more puzzling when they began swinging from the hip after a lost cause and manufactured two nice tries in the final quarter.
Yet, despite their more positive approach, Lansdowne made heavy weather of their 15-6 interval lead. In truth they might even have struggled to put a limited Old Belvedere away were it not for their marked superiority in the set-pieces.
Setting the trend of the night, they pushed Belvedere off the first put-in and though Bobby McCoy sometimes struggled to hit Paul O'Connor and Aaron Freeman, his difficulties paled in comparison to Paddy Kenny; once noted for the pinpoint accuracy of his arm.
Benefiting from his tight five's control, Colin McEntee had a big game, making huge yardage, putting in plenty of good tackles and plundering a couple of tries for the Man of the Match award.
Rein forfeited an early opportunity to kick Belvedere ahead before unconvincingly cancelling out an earlier Rory Kearns penalty with his curious, round-the-corner, low trajectory kicking style.
It was but a brief interlude to Lansdowne's increasing dominance. Their set-piece control eventually yielded an opening try nearing the half-hour mark when scrum pressure forced Belvedere to concede a line-out close-in; Freeman taking and off-loading to McEntee for a well-worked score.
Shane Horgan's strength in the tackle plus driving assistance from the pack led to Freeman ploughing over Cormac Johnston's tackle from O'Mahony's pass with a big overlap to his left.
Kearns converted and Rein closed out the half with his second penalty before the Lansdowne scrum shoved Old Belvedere over the line; McEntee lost control but O'Mahony pounced to score. Kearns added a couple more penalties, the second the product of another big burst from McEntee off the Lansdowne scrum.
Concerted pressure, lasting about 10 minutes and featuring three tap penalties, eventually earned Belvedere a try. Rein orchestrated two dummy scissors before Billy Treacy hit the line at full tilt and a good angle to round Brian Quinn and break Kearns's tackle on the line.
McEntee ploughed through a disheartened defence from a close-range tap penalty before Belvedere scored the try of the night. Martin Ridge released Ronan Browne for the left-winger to make good ground in cutting inside and then putting Ridge over in the corner.
Admittedly, Rein had been hobbling from the first period but their more expansive late rally, in he belatedly plumped for a more effective running game, made you wonder why they hadn't done that in the first place.
Scoring sequence: 14 mins Kearns pen 3-0; 17 Rein pen 3-3; 29 McEntee try 8-3; 34 Freeman try, Kearns con 15-3; 40 Rein pen 15-6; 44 O'Mahony try, Kearns con 22-6; 52 Kearns pen 25-6; 56 Kearns pen 28-6; 67 Treacy try, Rein con 28-13; 73 McEntee try, Kearns con 35-13; Ridge try, Rein con 35-20.
Lansdowne: B Quinn; M Dillon, S Horgan, B Glennon, R Kearns; R Governey, D O'Mahony; W O'Kelly, B McCoy, A McKeen, A Freeman, P O'Connor, S Rooney, C McEntee, A Forde. Replacements - A McCullough for O'Connor (74 mins), S Brady for O'Mahony (74 mins), S Cooney for Glennon (78 mins).
Old Belvedere: B Treacy; W Norse, C Bewley, M Ridge, R Browne; R Rein, G McDowell; N McCarthy, P Kenny, T Kearns, M Henderson, B McDonald, T Murphy, H McDonnell, C Johnston. Replacements - S Sexton for Norse (37 mins), D McConnell for McCarthy (70 mins).
Referee: M White (Leinster).