Clontarf 23 Lansdowne 15
Clontarf proved too strong for defending All-Ireland League champions Lansdowne as they deservedly clinched their place in next Sunday’s Division 1A final after a hard-fought 23-15 victory at a windy Castle Avenue on Saturday.
Andy Wood's men, who await the winners of Sunday's semi-final between Cork Constitution and Dublin University, established a commanding 18-0 half-time lead with the aid of a near gale-force wind. When winger Michael Courtney grabbed a 48th-minute try against the elements, it was a 20-point game which was simply too big a gap for a gallant Lansdowne side to bridge.
Clontarf, winners in 2014 and 2016, had impressively come out on top, 36-8, when the sides met on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch a fortnight ago, and with the wind at their backs they were quickly on the front foot.
Tullamore man David Joyce’s half-break after nine minutes brought play close to the 22 and when they recycled the ball, their talismanic centre Matt D’Arcy showed good strength to fend off the cover and touch down for his ninth try of the league campaign. Joyce failed to convert from wide on the right but Clontarf did not have long to wait to extend their lead.
There was a hint of a forward pass as D’Arcy’s centre partner Seán O’Brien received the ball on the Lansdowne 10-metre line. But the Mullingar youngster accelerated clear of the chasers and dotted down close to the posts to allow outhalf Joyce add the extras for a sudden 12-0 scoreline.
The home side were making good use of the wind but they were restricted to just two penalty goals during the second quarter as Lansdowne defended stoutly. Joyce split the posts from 35 metres out in the 23rd minute, and he added another three minutes before the interval after a strong drive by number eight and captain Michael Noone.
Coaches Mike Ruddock and Mark McHugh rallied their troops at the break and Lansdowne responded with outhalf Scott Deasy duly obliging with a 45th-minute penalty. However, Courtney struck just three minutes later after a fine handling move by the Clontarf backs. Even with Joyce missing the difficult conversion, the visitors now had a mountain to climb.
Lansdowne, who had retained the Leinster Senior Cup against Trinity last week, did dominate territory for long spells in the second half. With flanker Adrian D’Arcy in the sin-bin, winger Daniel McEvoy they finally got over for their opening try with 14 minutes remaining.
Experienced outhalf Deasy failed to convert and although Clontarf prop Ivan Soroka saw yellow late on, a 77th-minute penalty try for repeated ruck infringements proved to be a mere consolation for Lansdowne.
CLONTARF: Jack Power; Michael Courtney, Seán O'Brien, Matt D'Arcy, Mick McGrath; David Joyce, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Paddy Finlay, Royce Burke-Flynn; Cormac Daly, Ben Reilly; Tony Ryan, Adrian D'Arcy, Michael Noone (capt).
Replacements: Declan Adamson, Tom Ryan, Niall Carson, Andrew Feeney, Conor Kelly, Cian O'Donoghue, Brian Deeny.
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills (capt); Peter Sullivan, Foster Horan, Tom Roche, Daniel McEvoy; Scott Deasy, Tim Murphy; Martin Mulhall, Jack Dinneen, Ian Prendiville; David O'Connor, Jack Dwan; Jack O'Sullivan, Tom Murphy, Willie Earle.
Replacements: James Rael, Ntinga Mpiko, Greg McGrath, Joe O'Brien, Aaron Conneely, James Kenny, Harry Brennan.