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Fraser McMullen Cup Glory For UCD

Fraser McMullen Cup Glory For UCD

UCD lifted the Fraser McMullen Cup as they were crowned All-Ireland Under-21 champions following an exciting 28-27 victory over Lansdowne on Sunday afternoon.

Coolmine RFC was the venue for the final of the All-Ireland Under-21 Championship, with Dublin rivals UCD and Lansdowne bidding to follow in the footsteps of last year's winners UCC.

The sides shared out four tries and out-half Craig Ronaldson, Lansdowne's late hero against Buccaneers last weekend, kicked 17 points.

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But he was eclipsed by his opposite number, UCD's Niall Earls, who landed six penalties for an 18-point haul and was a key figure throughout for the College side.

Earls kicked two penalties to give UCD a 6-0 lead by the 12th minute and it was a lead that they never gave up. The commitment from both sets of players could not be questioned, and there were some huge tackles and furious action at the breakdown.

Try-scoring chances were few and far between, but Earls and his half-back partner Peter du Toit did well to bring the strong-running David Lynch, Andrew Boyle and Jordan Egan into the game.

Ronaldson thumped over an excellent penalty to get Lansdowne off the mark, but UCD crossed for their first try in the 22nd minute.

Ireland Under-20 prop James Tracy was forced off with an eye injury. His replacement Rory Hannon made quite an impact.

Hannon took a neat offload from lock Alan O'Connor and charged forward, shunning an overlap on the right to make the line and claim a brilliant score.

Earls' conversion attempt missed the target but he was successful with a penalty, 10 minutes later. Crucially for Lansdowne, Ronaldson kicked two more either side of that and UCD's lead stood at 14-9 by half-time.

The students extended their advantage with another five-pointer in the 50th minute. They switched play from right to left, with du Toit, Hannon and O'Connor all involved before centre Lynch crashed over the Lansdowne whitewash.

Both sides were going for the jugular now and with penalties coughed up at either end of the pitch, Earls and Ronaldson continued to show their place-kicking class.

25-15 behind, Lansdowne then made the breakthrough for their first try. The hard-working pack used a five-metre scrum to attack through props Scott Caldbeck and Jack O'Connell.

UCD's defence held out initially but after another rumble forward from O'Connell, Ronaldson unleashed the outside backs and centre Harry Kennedy scored in the left corner.

Earls took the pressure off his side with a well-struck penalty in the 70th minute, leaving the scoreline at 28-20. Lansdowne showed great determination and spirit to conjure up a last-minute try from winger Neal Cullen.

Ronaldson added the conversion, but the headquarters side fell just short and UCD's celebrations could begin. Victorious captain Emmet MacMahon accepted the Fraser McMullen Cup afterwards from the IRFU's Pat Fitzgerald.

This is a big week for UCD as they face familiar foes Trinity College in the annual Colours match next Saturday, a match that also doubles as their final Ulster Bank League Division 2 game.

Already assured of promotion to Division 1B for next season, John McClean and Vinny Hammond's young side could add the Division 2 title and the Colours to their All-Ireland U-21 crown.

Referee: David Connolly (IRFU)