Despite a Rob Byrne try right on the final whistle, Young Munster prevailed 18-12 away to UCD as they climbed back up to third place in Division 1A of the Energia Men’s All-Ireland League.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 11
UCD 12 YOUNG MUNSTER 18, UCD Bowl
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Dylan O’Grady, Rob Byrne; Con: Chris Cosgrave
Young Munster: Tries: Cian Casey, Mark O’Mara; Con: Evan Cusack; Pens: Evan Cusack 2
HT: UCD 0 Young Munster 8
Tries from recent debutant Cian Casey and Mark O’Mara steered Munsters to their seventh win of the season, with winger Dylan O’Grady and replacement front rower Byrne replying for the eighth-placed students.
The visitors got on top during a scoreless opening 25 minutes. Forwards Conor Bartley and Sean Rigney made some good carries and centre Jack Harrington looked dangerous anytime he got the ball.
The conditions were perfect in Belfield on a crisp December afternoon, Young Munster playing all the rugby early on but their only reward was a 26th-minute penalty from out-half Evan Cusack.
Approaching half-time, the Cookies, who were without top try scorer Conor Hayes as well as their Munster call-ups, piled on the pressure, earning a few penalties in the red zone.
A big carry from captain Alan Kennedy, as the forwards battered away at close quarters, almost got them over for an elusive first try.
Good ball retention led them to move the ball wide, Cusack flinging a skip pass, and young full-back Casey threw a dummy, using Luke Fitzgerald outside him as a decoy, to finish off neatly in the right corner.
UCD had done well to keep the deficit at 8-0, with hard-working back rowers Jack Coolican and Alec Byrne both putting in a big defensive shift. The hosts played much better in attack during the second half.
Ireland Under-20 international Chris Cosgrave was central to their improved play, and the students used him well off a scrum on the Cookies’ 10-metre line to build for their opening try.
Cosgrave accelerated through a gap between Fitzgerald and Casey, drawing in another defender before passing to his left where O’Grady took the ball on, getting past Conor O’Shaughnessy’s despairing tackle to score in the corner.
Cosgrave’s well-struck conversion made it a one-point game, and given their early dominance Munsters would have been frustrated with the scoreline. Cusack’s reliable right boot extended their lead with a penalty for 11-7.
Gearoid Prendergast’s men duly upped the ante in search of their second try, making UCD feel the pressure and forcing them to concede a number of penalties, leading to a sin-binning.
A quick tap from replacement scrum half Donnacha O’Callaghan got the visitors on the front foot, Rigney and Harry Fleming both making good ground before O’Callaghan quickly fed fellow replacement O’Mara to barge in under the posts.
The clock was not the friend of the University outfit as they looked for a quick response during the closing stages. Richie Fahy’s clever kick landed in the hands of winger Ross Deegan, getting them moving in the right direction.
They stayed patient on the ball and got their reward, the forwards having a couple of bites from a tap penalty, five metres out, before big replacement Byrne burrowed over from a ruck, despite the best efforts of O’Mara.
Tim Corkery missed the conversion from the left with the final kick, but Byrne’s last-gasp effort earned a losing bonus point for Kevin Croke’s youngsters, who sit six points above the bottom two at the halfway stage.
UCD: Chris Cosgrave; Ross Deegan, Jack Ringrose (capt), James Tarrant, Dylan O’Grady; Tim Corkery, Richie Fahy; Rory Mulvihill, Bobby Sheehan Evin Coyle, Gerard Hill, Jonathan Fish, Jack Coolican, Alec Byrne, James Culhane.
Replacements: Charlie O’Carroll, Rory McGuire, Rob Byrne, Simon Burke, Rob Gilsenan, David Heavey.
YOUNG MUNSTER: Cian Casey; Luke Fitzgerald, Jack Harrington, Harry Fleming, Conor O’Shaughnessy; Evan Cusack, Jack Lyons; David Begley, Aaron Hennessy, Conor Bartley, Tom Goggin, Sean Rigney, Alan Kennedy (capt), John Foley, Fintan Coleman.
Replacements: Mark O’Mara, Paul Allen, Aidan Quinlivan, Bailey Faloon, Jason Kiely, Donnacha O’Callaghan.