Winning mentality crucial to UCD's superb start, insists Byrne
Lansdowne 14 UCD 27
UCD must be considered real contenders for Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League following their impressive opening victory over defending champions Lansdowne on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
To be fair to Lansdowne, they had to line out minus several members of the side which brought them success last season. But nothing should be taken away from UCD.
They were outstanding in both attack and defence, scoring three tries through flanker Conor Gilsenan, left-wing Barry Daly and full-back Andy Boyle. That was quite a feat, given that three of their players were sin-binned in the first half.
Lansdowne, who themselves had a player yellow-carded after the interval, could have no complaints. They had their chance, particularly when playing against 13 men and ahead 9-8 early in the second half.
But UCD somehow survived a scrum under their own posts and never looked back. Once they got their full complement of players back on the pitch, they regained control and won with a good deal to spare.
It was only well into injury-time that Lansdowne managed a try, wing Cian Aherne going over in the corner. Generally, the defending champions found it difficult to penetrate the UCD defence.
Consequently, they had to rely on three penalties from out-half Scott Deasy to establish their 9-8 half-time advantage. UCD took an early 5-0 lead with Gilsenan's try but then made life very hard for themselves when Eoin Joyce, Boyle and Mark McGroarty were all shown yellow cards by referee David Wilkinson.
Lansdowne should have established a worthwhile lead but instead they failed to avail of a number of good attacking situations.
The students, by contrast, had no such problems with all of their tries well executed. Out-half James Thornton was responsible for the remainder of their points, kicking four penalties.
UCD coach Bobby Byrne was understandably pleased: "We didn't do ourselves any favours discipline-wise in the first half.
"But once we got our players back on the pitch after the interval, and got a bit of ball, we began to cause a bit of damage. The momentum we built up in gaining promotion last season is a key factor; the players have a winning mentality."
Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock gave UCD credit, admitting: "We had our chances but didn't take them, and, in fairness to UCD, they came back really well.
"They've beaten us twice in a few weeks, so there was no fluke about today's result. We just have to pick ourselves up and get a few fellows back – but it's still early days."
Lansdowne – R McCarron; C Aherne, S Gahan, M Roche, C Toolin; S Deasy, P O'Driscoll; P Dooley, T Moran, A Boland, W Earle (capt), R Jones, C Ross, C Butterworth, R Boucher.
Replacements: J O'Connell, S Collins, B Moylett, T Kiersey, G McDonald.
UCD – A Boyle; S Coghlan-Murray, A Kelly, S Murphy, B Daly; J Thornton, L McGrath; J Tracy, R Byrne, R Harrison, S Grannell (capt), E MacMahon, C Gilsenan, M McGroarty, E Joyce. Replacements: L Hyland, A Clarkin, M Cawley, N Earls.
REF – D Wilkinson