The Lansdowne Under-20s edged out their Dublin University counterparts in a thrilling Fraser McMullen Cup final at Anglesea Road on Sunday. Kevin O’Connor’s late try proved decisive as Lansdowne ran out 16-15 winners.
The match-up was a repeat of the 2013 final and with this season's two league meetings between the clubs both won by the home side on the day, another close encounter ensued in front of a sizable crowd.
Lansdowne opened the scoring with only one minute on the clock through a long range penalty from captain Ben Ridgeway, who wielded plenty of influence from out-half.
The 2013 champions followed this up with sequence of attacking play through winger Cian O'Donoghue, centre Fergal Cleary and full-back James Nolan, but Dublin University's well-organised defence kept them at bay, and replied with a well-struck penalty from Oisin Brady to level matters.
Ridgeway's right boot restored Lansdowne's lead before tighthead prop Ntinga Mpiko, who impressed all afternoon, crashed over for a try from the back of a close range ruck. The conversion was missed at 11-3.
As an entertaining first half wore on, Dublin University began to assert themselves and go through the phases, winger Rob Vallejo looked dangerous in attack as did Hugh Connors at full-back.
Lansdowne's defence, despite losing replacement Michael Fitzgerald to the sin-bin, held out through relentless tackling led by openside Jack O'Sullivan. Trinity, who turned down a kickable penalty, were unable to add to their tally from a promising spell in the Lansdowne 22.
The second period continued in the same fashion as the first, with very little between these two well-coached and talented sides.
Dublin University, through talented flanker Paddy Finlay, caused Lansdowne problems at the breakdown and the students ran in a fine breakaway try to square things up at 11-all. Replacement James O'Donovan showed great awareness to launch a blindside break from deep, evading two tacklers and drawing in a third before passing for the supporting Vallejo to race away from just inside halfway and score in the left corner.
Trinity struck again when O'Donovan's pinpoint grubber kick forced Lansdowne to concede a close-in lineout, and from the resulting lineout maul Finlay broke off the left hand side to plunge over for a deserved try which replacement Jack Balbirnie converted.
Now trailing 15-11, Lansdowne had to respond and they did so in brilliant fashion with barely ten minutes left on the clock.
From a scrum on his 10-metre line, Ridgeway threw a couple of dummies and showed lightning pace to break clear of the Dublin University defence. He passed for winger Kevin O'Connor to cover the final 25 metres and go over in the left corner despite the best efforts of the covering Bryan Mollen. The conversion was missed, leaving just a single point separating the sides – 16-15.
Dublin University immediately responded by piling pressure on their opponents' defence during a nail-biting final few minutes, but Lansdowne, with two men in the sin-bin, held out to secure their second Fraser McMullen Cup title in three years.
Referee: Oisin Quinn (IRFU)