UCD 22 – 33 Lansdowne – After a slight delay to the restart of AIB leagues nationwide, UCD played their first fixture of the new year against league leaders Lansdowne, reports Meghan McSweeney
Saturday afternoon’s clash between UCD and Lansdowne was one filled with nailbiting action, but Lansdowne brought something extra to the contest and were deserving victors in the end. The final score of 33-22 demonstrated the intensity of this high-scoring game.
The opening score of the game came from UCD’s outhalf, Niall Earls, who converted a penalty convincingly in the fifth minute, while the restart from Lansdowne led to the referee, Peter Roche, awarding the visitors one of many penalties. The UCD defence was slow to react to Lansdowne’s quick play from the penalty, as scrumhalf Brian O’Riordan’s run led to the game’s opening try, scored by the Lansdowne winger Mathew Healy. The try was followed by a conversion making the score 3-7 to the visitors.
The fifteenth minute saw Earls attempt a drop goal, which went slightly left and wide. It was, however, an example of the innovative and clever kicking he sought to bring into the game. UCD hooker Conor Geoghegan also began brightly and had an excellent game, regularly finding his men in the lineout. Lansdowne responded to UCD’s invention with a second try, however, coming in the twentieth minute with Kieran Lewis running in under the posts. Lansdowne’s outhalf slotted over conversion to extend Lansdowne’s lead.
The battle of the backlines had taken a severe blow when UCD lost Ian McKinley in the opening minutes of the game, while Lansdowne’s afternoon was typified by full-back David Kearney, who was outstanding in most aspects of play as the Leinster player demonstrated his talent in Lansdowne’s fluid backline play.
UCD’s responded well though, and recorded their first try after twenty-five minutes when scrum half John Cooney gave the Belfield Bowl a welcome lift. Earls’ resulting kick took UCD within four points, and College breathed a sigh of relief a few minutes later when Doherty saved their blushes in a two-on-one battle with Kearney and Healy. A second try soon followed, after a well-worked try saw winger Tom Fletcher run over, to leave the halftime score at 15-14.
The second half opened with a flurry of garryowens within minutes of the restart. Kearney continued his effective play into the second half by winning his team a scrum in a potential attacking position. The visitors showed the their clinical play off the scrum and worked another try which was duly converted.
The sixty-third minute added to the crowd’s frustration as UCD’s Calibhe Doherty appeared to score the Students’ third try, but for the referee not being able to view the ball being grounded. The home side’s patience was rewarded three minutes later, though, as innovative play from John Cooney led to a try under the posts for Rhys Ruddock. Earls converted once again to leave the hosts once again in front, 22-21.
The pendulum was to swing in Lansdowne’s favour once again, however, when a lucky fourth converted try was scored. Despite the hit, though, a six point deficit was never beyond the home side – until the UCD hooker, on his own 22, failed to find his man and allowed Lansdowne lock Neilus Keogh to scoop up and crossing the line, leaving UCD a deficit eleven points that they were unable to redress.
Aside from valuable AIB League points, Lansdowne also left with some silverware – Peter Sutherland presented his trophy to the winning captain, John Lyne, before the sides retired to the refuge of the dressing rooms.