Jake Swaine was the star performer at Lakelands Park on Friday night as Terenure College secured a much-needed win over high-flying UCD in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.
Terenure entered this fixture on a back of difficult run of form which had seen them losing five league games in succession. Their most recent league win was against Ballynahinch on November 7, and you have to go back to October 3 for their last home success in the top flight (a narrow 23-22 victory over Garryowen).
They did have two points to spare over UCD at the Belfield Bowl in mid-October, but following that reversal, Noel McNamara's students won an impressive seven matches from eight in Division 1A.
With nine victories and one draw from 13 outings, table toppers UCD began the weekend with a five-point lead over second-place Clontarf. The visitors were facing into a stiff breeze during the opening period, but with full-back Billy Dardis (a former student of Terenure College) and winger Barry Daly carrying the ball effectively, the were on top of possession early on.
Indeed, they looked set to claim the opening score of the contest, with just five minutes gone, when they developed a powerful maul inside the 'Nure 22-metre-line. Yet, the hosts managed to halt this march by the students, and in a very physical first-quarter of play, James Blaney's men were doing their best to frustrate their south Dublin rivals.
Some clever tactical kicking – with the aid of a strong wind – also helped them to establish a foothold in the UCD half at times, and even though they failed to capitalise on a 15th-minute lineout maul, there were a number of encouraging signs for 'Nure as the half wore on.
UCD continued to threaten, but all of 27 minutes into the action, it was 'Nure who eventually broke the deadlock. Right winger Jake Swaine stepped up to the kicking tee from just inside the opposition half, and although it was a significant distance, he split the posts in spectacular fashion to make it 3-0.
This was the kind of boost that the home team were looking for in such a tricky fixture, and with Robbie Smyth, Gary Hamilton and John Dever all entering the fray on the 30 minute mark, there was a freshness to their pack in the latter stages of the opening period.
From his first significant involvement in the game, Smyth had a try ruled out for an infringement on the right hand side, but from a close range opportunity on 34 minutes, Swaine doubled 'Nure's advantage.
The Dublin 6W outfit suffered a setback when influential flanker Robert Duke was sin-binned before the break, but thanks to their disciplined defensive approach, Terenure held a six-point cushion when the action resumed.
UCD were hoping to exploit their temporary numerical advantage on the resumption, but it was Terenure who made the brighter start to the second half. Half-time replacement Harry McNulty was beginning to make an impact in the UCD midfield, though, and 'Nure had to be on their toes throughout the period.
They failed to open their account in the absence of Duke, however, and they were subsequently hamstrung 55 minutes in as replacement hooker Gordon Frayne was yellow-carded by referee Dudley Phillips.
The students did manage to regain a foothold inside the 'Nure 22 just past the hour mark, but after he intercepted an attempted pass, Swaine covered almost the entire length of the pitch to touch down under the UCD posts.
He added the extras to this five-pointer in routine style, and with just 18 minutes left, Terenure had created serious daylight – 13 points – between themselves and UCD.
Considering how well they have performed in the league in recent weeks, UCD were struggling to find their best form, but a lot of credit has to go to Terenure for the way they frustrated their opponents.
College skipper Stephen Murphy almost broke through on the left flank for a 78th-minute score, but Terenure ultimately sealed their fifth league victory which will give them renewed confidence for the rest of the campaign.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)