Relegation heartbreak for desolate Students


AIB League: UCD 14, Young Munster 17 Dara Martin watched on at the Belfield Bowl as a late drop goal from the boot of Young Munster’s Mike Pendergast ended UCD’s stint in the AIB Division 1.

UCD came up short at the Belfield Bowl on the last day of the season in the AIB League. It was second last versus third last with the loser dropping down a division, so there was everything to play for. A large crowd came out to enjoy the sunshine and a highly entertaining rugby match, barring the final result.

Both sides started slowly, with neither team stamping their authority on the game in the opening stages. Young Munster were first to establish some field position following a clever kick to the corner by outhalf Diarmuid Upton. However, UCD defended their own lineout well and cleared to halfway following a penalty for a high tackle.

youngmunsterAbout 15 minutes into the first half, Young Munster winger Matthew Costello charged down the left touchline and into the UCD 22. The ball was spread across the width of the pitch to right wing Stephen Carey who evaded several tacklers to score the opening try of the game. Fullback Mark Connolly missed with his attempted conversion.

Connolly was given a second opportunity minutes later when UCD infringed at a ruck near their 22 metre line. He duly obliged by slotting home the simple kick to extend Young Munster’s lead to eight points. UCD finally got a chance to open their account on the scoreboard when the visitors were penalised in their own half. Outhalf Ian McKinley converted the difficult kick from wide out near the touchline.

The second half was much more eventful than the first as both teams battled to avoid the threat of relegation. The Students worked their way back into the game with a well taken try shortly after the break. Following a scrum in the centre of the pitch, McKinley looked as if he was going to pass the ball wide before stepping back inside his marker and racing downfield into the visitors’ 22.

The talented outhalf drew the last defender before offloading to the supporting Cian Aherne who finished off the move. McKinley missed the conversion, leaving the score level at 8-8.

“The loss unfortunately means that UCD will be playing their rugby in Division 2 next season”

The Students were then put under considerable pressure from the visitors before eventually conceding a penalty just inside their own half. Connolly’s long-range effort bounced up off the crossbar, allowing UCD to clear their lines.

However, the relief of the home crowd was short lived as Connolly was given another opportunity moments later on the other side of the pitch after the Students had strayed offside. He made no mistake this time, allowing Young Munster to take the lead again.

The UCD pack upped the tempo entering the last quarter of the match. From a lineout on the opposition 22, they drove up towards the tryline but could not breach the resolute defence of the visitors.

Young Munster flanker Shane Hassett was finally penalised for playing the ball illegally at a ruck, and to make matters worse the referee gave him his marching orders to the sin-bin following repeated infringements by both teams. McKinley converted from in front of the posts to level the scores for the second time.

The theme of indiscipline continued as it was not long before UCD were again penalised in their own half, this time for hands in the ruck. Connolly knocked over another long range effort from near the halfway line to push Young Munster into a 14-11 lead.

UCD were then the ones to be awarded a penalty after Young Munster hooker Ger Slattery was caught offside. McKinley held his nerve to slot a difficult kick from the ten metre line. With the scores level at 14-14 and less than ten minutes to go, a dramatic conclusion awaited.

Munster squad player and scrumhalf Mike Prendergast pinned the Students back in their 22 with a fine kick to the corner flag from halfway. This enabled the visitors to pile the pressure on UCD; however, the Students remained composed and won the resulting lineout. The ball was eventually cleared downfield but Young Munster soon returned to the UCD half. Fullback Connolly positioned himself for the drop-goal, but his effort from 35 metres drifted wide of the upright.

The Students took their time restarting play, and McKinley finally sent his 22 drop-out as far as the visitor’s ten metre line. Prendergast collected the kick-off a launched a drop-goal from inside his own half. His spectacular effort nudged off the cross-bar before tipping over to put Young Munster in the lead.

There was enough time to restart but UCD couldn’t gain possession before the ball was eventually put into touch. The loss unfortunately means that UCD will be playing their rugby in Division 2 next season.