UCD 22 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 23, Belfield Bowl (played on Friday)
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Harry McNulty, Jamie Glynn, Matthew Gilsenan; Cons: Ciaran Frawley 2; Pen: Ciaran Frawley
St. Mary’s College: Tries: Dave Fanagan, Myles Carey; Cons: Sean Kearns 2; Pens: Sean Kearns 3
HT: UCD 12 St. Mary’s College 10
Sean Kearns’ 13 points from the tee helped St. Mary’s College edge out hosts UCD – 23-22 – in a compelling Division 1A contest at the Belfield Bowl on Friday night.
The influential out-half was a key figure as the Peter Burke-coached Mary’s team recovered from back-to-back defeats, keeping up their fine recent record against the students who lost twice to them last season.
With Ireland Sevens internationals Billy Dardis and Harry McNulty returning to the UCD back-three, the home side bossed possession early on but Ciaran Frawley was narrowly wide with his first penalty attempt, from a tight angle.
The deadlock was broken by Mary’s in the 16th minute, their first serious attack seeing teenage winger Craig Kennedy surge into the UCD half and full-back Dave Fanagan gathered his offload to speed over in the right corner in superb fashion. Kearns swept over a terrific touchline conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Kearns increased his influence with a well-struck penalty from the 10-metre line, before UCD finally breached the visitors’ defensive line just past the half hour mark. At the end of a sustained spell of pressure, winger McNulty burst down the left flank to finish off an incisive team move, with the conversion missed by out-half Frawley.
However, Frawley was on target when he comfortably added the extras to captain Jamie Glynn’s try as half-time approached. As UCD began to dictate the flow of the game, centre Glynn intercepted a wayward Mary’s pass out of defence to claim his third try of the campaign and make it 12-10 to the students.
Some excellent work by the Ciaran Ruddock-led pack sparked Mary’s response on the resumption, Kearns firing his side back in front with his third successful penalty in the 50th minute. The dynamic number 10 added his fourth from a similar position just outside the 22, barely four minutes later.
UCD, who had brought on Leinster and Ireland prop Andrew Porter and Academy back rower Josh Murphy at the start of the second half, had to chase the game once more.
There was plenty of rugby left to play and Frawley’s crisp 57th-minute penalty closed the gap to a single point, Mary’s leading 16-15. Try-scoring opportunities were few and far between in a tense and tightly-contested final quarter.
With the clock ticking down, it was Mary’s who were making the attacking inroads and they went through several phases close to the UCD posts. Although a series of pack drives failed to produce a score, replacement Conor Gilsenan’s pinpoint cross-field kick in the 75th minute sought out Myles Carey, a member of last year’s St. Mary’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup team, on the right wing and the youngster acrobatically got his hands to the ball to ground it for a crucial try, converted superbly by Kearns.
Kearns’ fifth successful kick of the night had Mary’s ahead by more than a converted score, but UCD fought hard for a last-minute losing bonus point when Matthew Gilsenan, a brother of Mary’s squad member Conor Gilsenan, powered over the line for Frawley to convert and bring this eventful encounter to a close.
UCD: Billy Dardis; Stephen Kilgallen, Jamie Glynn (capt), Stephen Murphy, Harry McNulty; Ciaran Frawley, Nick Peters; Rory Mulvihill, Sean McNulty, Jeremy Loughman, Brian Cawley, Emmet MacMahon, Jonny Guy, Alex Penny, Stephen McVeigh.
Replacements: Gordon Frayne, Andrew Porter, Josh Murphy, Matthew Gilsenan, Tom Fletcher.
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Dave Fananga; Myles Carey, Darren Moroney, Ryan O’Loughlin, Craig Kennedy; Sean Kearns, Paddy O’Driscoll; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Adam Coyle, Ciaran Ruddock (capt), David O’Connor, David Aspil, Nick McCarthy, Jack Dilger.
Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Jack Aungier, Daragh McDonnell, Conor Gilsenan, Conor Dean.