UCD’s New Zealand-born lock Richie Mandeno reflects back on what might have been as the students lose the lead late on against Cork Constitution and eventually go down 28-21 to the Division One leaders.
“It seemed that the same old story of our season continued this weekend, just when we had the opportunity to win a match and, just maybe, step out of the dreaded relegation zone.
“What happened against Con? Well, first we gave away a stupid penalty that allowed them to draw level at 21-21. Directly off the restart kick, yours truly gets a little bit nuggety for the referee’s liking and is penalised for taking the jumper out in the air.
“Con were straight back on the attack for the final five minutes. Despite our best efforts to defend our line and obtain a valuable two points, we had to settle for just the one as their winger Cronan Healy got over for an injury-time try.
“I think this game just illustrates how close the top and bottom of the league are. While we gave ourselves a huge opportunity to win, we did not have the hard ‘under belly’ that Con had to close out the match, which justifies why we are currently sitting rock bottom in the Division One table.
“After the match, there was a huge sense of another missed opportunity. Everyone was really down, knowing that we had the chance to take the match, slightly ease our relegations concerns. But then losing by seven points was hard to stomach.
“For the second game in a row, we had developed and a lead and were unable to close out the match. Worryingly, it seems this is becoming somewhat of a pattern for UCD.
“The team faces a huge challenge in our last two matches. The one positive is that the potential to stay up on the top flight is still within our own grasp. In our final two games of the season we face fellow strugglers Buccaneers (away) and Belfast Harlequins (home).
“The equation is if we win these two games we will stay up. If we do not, then UCD will be a Division Two club next season. Although the threat of relegation looms over us, it is probably a very exciting period for the club as well.
“These next two matches I am sure are must wins for all the clubs involved, making them the equivalent of finals or play-offs.
“As our coaches have been saying for the last few weeks, these matches were always going to be must wins. And the idea is that if we are not good enough to win against the teams around us in the league, we do not deserve to stay up.
“Over the next few weeks we face an uphill slog, but it is one that I know the whole team, club and myself are looking forward to.”