Lansdowne put title charge back on track

 

LANSDOWNE could very well be on course to break the stranglehold which Munster has had on the All Ireland League since its inception. A slow start which saw them fall six points behind in seven minutes at Lansdowne Road on Saturday was followed by as comprehensive a trouncing as the Temple Hill club has experienced in a long time.

The contrasting looks of delight and disbelief on the faces of the respective coaches, Donal Spring and Ralph Keyes, told their own story. Spring was jubilant, Keyes typically reflective, for neither had thought that a gap of 24 points between the sides was a likely outcome at the start.

Constitution set about their task with some conviction. They piled their way down towards the Lansdowne Road terrace with some fire and within two minutes Ronan O'Gara accepted the time and space made available to him by his pack by popping the ball over the bar for a drop goal.

Five minutes later the Lansdowne pack, under continued pressure, erred in the loose and O'Gara stretched Constitution's lead from the penalty.

A vociferous, though small, band of Cork supporters were in fine fettle at this stage but it was to be their last moment of celebration. Lansdowne settled themselves and, with the pack driving forward with considerable pace and passion, they swept into the lead.

Finding a foothold near the Cork line they won a lineout and a subsequent maul and Mark McDermott did what captains are supposed to do, wriggled his way through the Constitution defence to touch down. Eric Elwood converted to put Lansdowne ahead.

Lansdowne continued to force Constitution backwards and Rody Corrigan, Dave O'Mahony and Richard Governey were prominent in sweeping moves towards the Cork line before Kenny Murphy just managed to beat Marcus Dillon to the touchdown after Elwood had placed a shrewd kick behind the defence.

Elwood was by now showing signs of distress, favouring his right leg, but this did not prevent him popping over a penalty kick to put Lansdowne 10-6 ahead at the break.

Lansdowne took almost total control thereafter and, after Stephen O'Connor won the ball with a hoisted jump near the Cork line, the Constitution forwards dragged down the maul and the referee Doug Chapman from England awarded a penalty try which Elwood converted.

O'Connor was posing problems which Constitution were incapable of solving and another huge leap won the ball for Lansdowne and Dave O'Mahony went over. This time Elwood missed from an angle and distance which would normally be expected to be well within his compass.

It was an uncharacteristic miss by Elwood and raised some worries about his fitness for next Saturday against Wales but the fact that he remained on the field with his team in clear control assuaged these fears and later he expressed no concern.

Constitution were not without some spirit and made several attempts to break out of the Lansdowne stranglehold. Most notably, Niall Murray tried to spur his troops with a mazy run but Elwood punished another indiscretion by Constitution with a successful penalty kick.

Some untidy play and a halfblocked kick to touch added to Cork's woes with five minutes to go and Rody Corrigan scampered over at the corner flag to complete a rout which will cause Constitution to think long and hard.

For Lansdowne, however, this was a major boost to their prospects of winning the All Ireland League and breaking the Munster domination of the competition.