In a season hallmarked so far by tight, low-scoring and highly competitive matches, last Saturday’s encounter on the Aviva back pitch with the students of University College Dublin went entirely to pattern.
The pivotal moment in the game came after 55 minutes when, with the score 14-10 in favour of College, the referee penalised UCD’s retreating scrum for the third time in a row and sin-binned the UCD hooker, James Tracey.
Inexplicably, the referee seemed to consider this sufficient punishment and did not award the penalty try. The packs again re-formed, Lansdowne lost control of their advancing scrum and the ball was lost forward. College cleared their lines, and the effect on the Lansdowne side, which had dominated play since the commencement of the second half, was palpable. UCD, to their credit, upped their game and went on to dominate possession for the remainder of the match, scoring a great try in the process to seal the win and deprive Lansdowne of a losing bonus- point.
The raid and wind arrived just before kick-off, and UCD played with the dubious advantage of the elements in the first period. Out half Ross Byrne kicked the visitors into an early lead in the 6th minute after Scott Deasy was caught in possession. Byrne hit the post with a penalty in the 12th minute, but Lansdowne failed to find touch with their clearance and impressive UCD no. 6, Peadar Timmons took advantage of slack Lansdowne defence to charge over in the corner for an 8-0 lead to the visitors.
Byrne again hit the post with the kick, a feat he matched for a third time in the second half. He was, however, successful with a penalty only moments later after Lansdowne were adjudged to have protected the catcher from the restart to increase the visitor’s advantage to 11-0.
This galvanised Lansdowne and, with College No. 8 Shane Grannell in the sin bin, they enjoyed their best period of the match. The Lansdowne scrum was proving to be too much for the students to handle, although the dominant side was penalised as often as the opposition to the extent that it was unclear what was going on. The front row of Ian Prendiville, Dylan Donnellan and Adam Boland put in a hard shift at the office, but their good work went largely unrewarded.
From a line-out on the College 22 in the 31st minute, the Lansdowne pack set up a driving maul which resulted in a penalty try when it was dragged down just short of the UCD line. Deasy kicked a neat conversion across the wind. The restart went astray, allowing College to strike with a further Byrne penalty for a 14-7 half time lead.
Given the strong wind, this wasn’t a lead that the visitors could feel comfortable with. Indeed, Lansdowne hopes were raised when Scott Deasy kicked an early second half penalty for 10-14, and another powerful scrum drive and penalty deep into the 22 resulted in scrum half Adam Griggs being stopped inches short of the line. This set up the series of plays which should have created a second penalty try for the home side and, as mentioned above, was a key turning point moment in the game.
Instead, it was UCD who took full advantage, and they went on to play some excellent rugby, controlling possession and eliminating their error count. Winger Sam Coughlan made a break-out from defence which was carried up the left by full back Billy Dardis, resulting in a fine try by Ross Byrne for a 19-5 lead, which they were not to relinquish.
Lansdowne struggled to gain possession in the final 20 minutes and, when they did, they committed handling errors that stifled continuity in their play.
Once again captain Ron Boucher was deeply committed to the Lansdowne cause and flanker Aaron Conneely was prominent throughout, while centre Tom Farrell, despite one or two handling errors, looked sharp in possession.
Overall, this was a tough encounter against a good UCD side at full strength. Lansdowne will now need to re-group in advance of next Friday’s visit to Templeville Road and a St. Mary’s side eager to reverse their loss to Ballynahinch last Saturday.
Match report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v UCD fixture.