Dublin University and Lansdowne served up a rousing finale to the Leinster Under 20 season in a highly-entertaining and competitive match played partially under lights in Donnybrook on Wednesday 4th May.
Trinity were seeking to complete the double, having already clinched the League title. They started as firm favourites, in particular in light of their fearsome pack, which included formidable Irish Under 20 prop James Bollard.
It was the lighter, but highly mobile, Lansdowne eight, however, which saw early set piece dominance in the scrum, with props Ntinga Mpiko and Martin Mulhall and later on Sean O'Hehir putting in a serious shift that always had their opponents on the back foot.
The lineouts were a different matter, with Trinity marksman Joe Horan highly accurate with his arrows, and this gave the students a significant platform throughout the encounter.
After some early sparring in near perfect playing conditions, which included some ferocious tackling by both sides, it was Lansdowne who seized the initiative through an exceptional piece of footwork and strong running by centre Conor Gowing, who had a fine match. His try started from a break inside the Lansdowne half showing both pace and perception, and made a statement on behalf to the Lansdowne backs that they were not intimidated by their opponents' reputations.
The opening try was ably converted by out half Charlie McGickian who, in addition to his accuracy from the tee, led the back line superbly on the end of an excellent service provided by scrum half Ruairi Farrell.
Trinity came storming back into the match from the restart, and quickly scored a good try through centre Michael McDermott. The conversion was missed, but Tommy Whittle made amends with a well-struck penalty to nudge his side ahead mid-way through the opening half, which he followed up with a similar effort for an 11-7 advantage.
At this stage the students were marginally having the better of the exchanges. Lansdowne brought on Irish Under 20 international back row Max Deegan on the half hour, and his presence served as an inspiration for his fellow forwards, who began to take charge up front. Another excellent break saw the speedy Lansdowne backs break the line again, and resulted in a try by No. 8 Paul Boyle which McMickan again converted for a 14-11 lead at half time.
With the floodlights finally on for the second period, Lansdowne again seized the initiative early on, and the inspirational Deegan capitalised on a tiring Dublin University defence as he emerged from the bottom of a ruck to plunge over for Lansdowne's third try. Trinity quickly responded with Hooker Horan crossing for an unconverted effort, but these were to be Trinity's last points of the evening as they closed to three points at 19-16.
Scrum half O'Farrell was then present to round- off the best move of the night with a fine try, again converted by McMickan as Lansdowne extended their lead to 26-16. Gowing was then present to capitalise on an enforced Trinity error to again show excellent pace in rounding-off the try scoring with a spectacular solo effort, converted by sub out half Jack Duffy, as the students' heads began to dip.
Captain Jack O'Sullivan was outstanding throughout, and was ably supported by Boyle and Collie Joyce Aherne, while second rowers Eoghan murphy and Brian Larkin and winger James Lappin were prominent. Lansdowne rounded off the scoring in what was an excellent match between two fine sides with a penalty converted by Duffy for a 36-16 result.
This was the Headquarters side's third cup final win in four seasons against the students; two in the All Ireland and now in the McCorry. With Trinity's promotion to Division 1A of the AIL Ulster Bank League, there is little doubt but that many of the players on view last evening on both sides can look forward to renewing rivalries at a higher level in the years to come.
Match report by Michael Daly