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UCD Are Top Of The Tree For Christmas
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UCD Are Top Of The Tree For Christmas

UCD Are Top Of The Tree For Christmas

UCD will take in the Christmas break as Ulster Bank League Division 1A leaders after maintaining their winning form with a 20-12 defeat of Old Belvedere on Saturday.

UCD entered the final round before the festive period at the top of the table, just one point head of last year's beaten finalists Clontarf. Old Belvedere were hoping to extend their unbeaten league run against the students to four games, but they played into an extremely strong wind in the first half.

With UCD putting them on the back foot straight from the kick-off, the visitors found it difficult to make genuine progress in attack. The flow of the opening quarter was disrupted by a succession of scrums for both sides, and the play was also halted when Belvedere's Nigerian siblings, Connor Owende and Michael Oyuga, collided with each other just five minutes into the action.

After a significant hold-up, Owende was eventually able to continue, but openside flanker Oyuga was replaced by Max Ludwig. Even though they were struggling to progress beyond their 22-metre line, some excellent defensive work was keeping UCD at bay.

They forced a number of errors from Noel McNamara's charges, but just as 'Belvo attempted to break away in the 15th minute, UCD won a five-metre attacking scrum. This gave the hosts an ideal opportunity to finally break the deadlock, and after scrum half Jamie Glynn spread the ball out wide, winger Tom Fletcher squeezed over in the left corner.

Out-half Ross Byrne, who was lining up against his Leinster 'A' colleague Steve Crosbie, was off target with the tricky conversion attempt. 'Belvo persisted with their challenge and they found a way into the UCD half – for the very first time – with 20 minutes on the clock.

They were still living off limited possession for the remainder of the half, though, and Byrne had a chance to extend his side's lead in the 33rd minute. He was narrowly wide of the mark from a long range penalty, but a determined UCD gave themselves a decent cushion during the closing stages of the half.

A lineout maul on the left flank was finished off by former Ireland Under-20 prop Jeremy Loughman, and in addition to his excellent conversion, Byrne also added a superb penalty from the 10-metre line.

This meant that UCD brought a 15-0 lead into the second period, and momentum was now very much on their side. However, 'Belvo were hoping to exploit their wind advantage after the restart, and a strong break by full-back and captain Daniel Riordan helped them to establish a foothold in the opposition half.

UCD were playing with a lot more confidence against the conditions, however, and Byrne almost found winger Hugo Keenan with an audacious cross-field kick eight minutes into the half.

Belvedere received another blow when second row Jack Kelly was sent to the sin-bin on 50 minutes, and from the resulting penalty, the impressive Byrne opted to kick into touch.

UCD produced a big push after winning the subsequent lineout, but they were turned over by the hard-working 'Belvo pack. A series of knock-ons also offered Paul Cunningham's men some breathing space, before a third UCD try arrived 17 minutes from the end.

The students were awarded a succession of five-metre scrums inside the Belvedere 22, and although there were some calls for a penalty try, flanker Peadar Timmins managed to cross the whitewash in powerful fashion. Although Byrne was agonisingly short with his conversion attempt, McNamara's side had a sixth league success in their sights.

'Belvo were not prepared to go down without a fight, and the ever-influential Riordan finally opened their account with a magnificent converted try on 74 minutes. This galvanised their challenge and after a lengthy period of pressure inside the UCD half, Kelly dotted down in clinical style.

Aidan Wynne's missed conversion meant that Belvedere missed out on losing bonus point, but their improved final quarter performance does give them a boost ahead of their Leinster Senior League Cup final against UCD in a fortnight's time.

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Billy Dardis; Hugo Keenan, Jack Power, Stephen Murphy (capt), Tom Fletcher; Ross Byrne, Jamie Glynn; Andrew Porter, Sean McNulty, Jeremy Loughman, Gavin Thornbury, Emmet MacMahon, Josh Murphy, Peadar Timmins, Shane Grannell.

Replacements: Gordon Frayne, Liam Hyland, Brian Cawley, Nick McCarthy, Liam Bourke.


Away Team

Daniel Riordan (capt); Shane McDonald, John Kennedy, Aidan Wynne, Kevin Barden; Steve Crosbie, Aaron Sheehan; Adam Howard, Ed Rossiter, Declan Lavery, Connor Owende, Jack Kelly, Kieran O'Gorman, Michael Oyuga, Karl Miller.

Replacements: Andrew McGrath, Darrell Ryan, Max Ludwig, Willie Staunton, Charlie Rock.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Tom Fletcher, Jeremy Loughman, Peadar Timmins; Con: Ross Byrne; Pen: Ross Byrne

Away Team

Tries: Daniel Riordan, Jack Kelly; Con: Daniel Riordan