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UCD Stay On Course For Play-Off Berth

UCD Stay On Course For Play-Off Berth

Current Ireland Under-20 captain Luke McGrath was among the try scorers as promotion-chasing UCD inflicted a heavy defeat on visitors Malone at Belfield on Saturday.

The students' latest bonus point victory keeps them in second place in the Division 1B standings, a point ahead of third-ranked Dublin University who have played a game more than their Belfield rivals.

Table toppers Ballynahinch have an eight-point gap over UCD and are odds on to be crowned champions and gain automatic promotion with two rounds remaining.

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Second place is being fought out between UCD and Trinity and this form, Bobby Byrne's youngsters look like they will hold on to their current position and book a relegation/promotion play-off against either Shannon or UL Bohemians from the top flight.

Malone, whose own promotion challenge has petered out, took an early lead on Saturday when winger Chris Leathem intercepted a pass on halfway and darted clear for a converted try.

However, UCD soon got motoring and they produced another display of high tempo attacking rugby, moving into a 24-7 lead for half-time.

Sam Coghlan Murray, playing at full-back, weaved through for their opening try which James Thornton, who was introduced at out-half for the injured Niall Earls, converted.

A Thornton penalty and two more converted tries from Luke McGrath (34 minutes) and Alex Kelly (39) saw the Belfast side fall 17 points in arrears by the break.

The home back-line thrilled in the build-up to Kelly's score with Malone unable to haul down the pacy Coghlan Murray and top try scorer Barry Daly.

Into the second period, the UCD forwards did the donkey work for the hosts' bonus point try. It came from a tremendous 20-metre maul and second row Emmet MacMahon was the player to dot down with Thornton again adding the extras.

Centre Stephen Murphy grabbed the fifth and final try with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, collecting a grubber kick to go over out wide. Thornton converted from a tight angle to complete his 17-point contribution.

Coghlan Murray's pace saw him slice through the Malone defence on a late break from deep. His surging run deserved a try but replacement Rory Hannon, with an overlap to exploit, went on his own and the visitors held out on an otherwise disappointing afternoon for the Cregagh Red Sox.

Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)