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Favourites Lansdowne duly despatched a game, if ultimately out-gunned UCD side on the Aviva back pitch last Saturday as the Headquarters team took the honours with a bonus-point victory.

Lansdowne thus retained the Billy Sutherland Cup, a trophy presented by the late Peter Sutherland, who represented both clubs with distinction, in memory of his late father, the Great Billy Sutherland.

Both Billy and Peter would have looked down and smiled from the warmth of Heaven as their successors fought out an entertaining match which was played in what can only be described as absolutely Baltic conditions.

Lansdowne made light of the loss of full back Eamonn Mills during the warm-up, with former UCD player Conall Doherty slotting in at full back and an extra forward, Leinster Under 20 Ruairi Clarke, added to the bench.

A strong Lansdowne forward unit, with Leinster’s Peter Dooley and Connacht’s Greg McGrath propping, provided a solid front row along with always-lively hooker Luke Thompson, who regularly shows off his former back-row skills in open play.

More importantly, Thompson’s arrows were almost pitch-perfect on the day, and his replacement, James Kavanagh, took up where Thompson left off when he came on. The two hookers notched up three tries between them, a measure of the success of the home line-out platform and attacking maul.

Likewise, the scrum was a dependable source of possession, yielding three penalties against a UCD unit that, while never caving in, was nonetheless under always considerable pressure in the tight.

Two early penalties set the tone and the Lansdowne forwards worked the second of them well off the subsequent line-out. Open side Michael O’Brien linked well with second row Jack Dwan before his fellow second row, Joey Szpara, slipped through the Students’ defence for the opening try after only two minutes.

Lansdowne’s line kicking from penalties was a little errant early on, but out half Peter Hastie soon found his rhythm as the flow of good, front-foot possession provided an ideal launching pad for several probing attacks in midfield.

Lansdowne duly added a further score in the 14 th minute, as a pressurised UCD pack continued to give away penalties. Following several pick and gos off a penalty line-out, Lansdowne opted for a scrum from a further penalty and proceeded to turn up the visitors’ pain.

This resulted in a penalty try as the dominant home scrum advanced steadily towards the line. UCD narrowed the gap to 12-3 with a penalty from full back Chris Cosgrave after 16 minutes. From the restart wing Peter Sullivan was almost away only to be called back for a forward pass.

Collidge conceded a further penalty in the subsequent scrum, and a line-out maul 15 metres out set up a driving maul for Thompson to score the first of the hookers’ hat trick. Hastie converted with the benefit of the inside for the upright and Lansdowne were 19-3 to the good on 22 minutes.

UCD proved they were not prepared to lie down, and some good attacking play brought play into the Lansdowne ’22. From a penalty line-out they mauled the ball well for their open side, Sean O’Brien, Collidge’s best player on the day, to score in the corner. 19-8.

In the 32 nd minute winger Peter Sullivan led a charge from his own ’22 into UCD’s, from where the ball was swung left to find prop Peter Dooley lurking on the wing. The loose head duly cantered over in the corner for the bonus point try and a 24 – 8 lead which Lansdowne maintained until the break.

With the match and the bonus point effectively secure, in truth some of the passion subsequently went out of the match. Lansdowne’s usual aggressive defensive line wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, some of which may be put down to the absence of their inspirational captain, Jack O’Sullivan, from the back row who is recovering from a slight knock.

This didn’t stop Szpara from putting in a great covering tackle and Dooley pulling off an outrageous steal as the home forwards continued to dominate. UCD weren’t helped by the loss of O’Brien and Foley, their best forwards, through injury, but ultimately their cause was a losing one.

Powerful Connacht winger Peter Sullivan duly added a further try – his third in two matches – breaking free down the left to cross for an excellent effort, while scrum half Cormac Foley racked up his fifth of the campaign, breaking from an attacking scrum to cross the line.

With Hastie adding the extras to the first of these efforts, Lansdowne were well home and hosed at 36—8 after 53 minutes, with several of their supporters spotted nervously looking at their pre-match score forecasts.

UCD again refused to yield and ran a penalty from 5 metres out in the 59 th minute which saw replacement back row Richard Fahey plunge over. Cosgrave boosted the effort with his convert and the Students had the consolation of a second try on the board with the gap narrowed to 36-15.

Stung by this temerity, so to speak, Lansdowne returned to the attack and scored two more late tries from driving line-out mauls, both by replacement hooker James Kavanagh, with the latter converted by centre Charlie Tector, finally taking over the kicking duties.

Perhaps the best piece of play deserving of a try late on was a lovely piece of football by Lansdowne No. 8 Mark Boyle, who just failed to gather his own chip over the top on the UCD line for what would have been a “try of the season” contender.

Job done, and a bonus point gained. A trip to Ballynahinch next weekend followed by the return leg at home in early January, then UCD again in Belfield marks a series of matches from which Lansdowne must maximise their return if they are to be contenders for end-of- season honours. We wish Mark McHugh and his committed young squad every success in
their endeavours.

Match Report: Michael Daly

Match Details: ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A:

LANSDOWNE 48 UCD 15, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Scorers:

Lansdowne: Tries: Peter Dooley, Luke Thompson, Joey Szpara, Penalty try, Cormac Foley, Peter Sullivan, Jamie Kavanagh 2; Cons: Peter Hastie 2, Charlie Tector, Pen try con

UCD: Tries: Sean O’Brien, Richard Fahy; Con: Chris Cosgrave; Pen: Chris Cosgrave

HT: Lansdowne 24 UCD 8

LANSDOWNE: Conall Doherty; Sean Galvin, Andy Marks, Charlie Tector, Peter Sullivan; Peter Hastie, Cormac Foley; Peter Dooley, Luke Thompson, Greg McGrath, Joey Szpara, Jack Dwan, Clive Ross (capt), Michael O’Brien, Mark Boyle.

Replacements: Jamie Kavanagh, Ben Popplewell, Daniel Murphy, James Kenny. Ruairi Clarke.

UCD: Chris Cosgrave; Luke Maloney, Jack Ringrose (capt), Ben Brownlee, Dylan O’Grady; Tim Corkery, Rob Gilsenan; Robert Byrne, Bobby Sheehan, Evin Coyle, Jonathan Fish, Gerard Hill, Tom Coghlan, Sean O’Brien, Ronan Foley.

Replacements: Charlie O’Carroll, Rory McGuire, Rory Mulvihill, Donal McMahon, Richard Fahy, James Tarrant.

Referee: Paul Haycock

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