Ronan Foley’s sixth try of the season could be his most important of all after UCD edged out Clontarf 22-19 in a fiercely-contested Energia All-Ireland League tie at Belfield.
Using the rain-soaked pitch to his advantage, number 8 Foley squeezed in under a couple of defenders to score a decisive 70th-minute try in a game that doubled up as the Leinster Senior Cup final. The students are provincial champions for the first time since 2016.
Facing into a gusting wind in the first half, Clontarf’s hopes of bouncing back from a heavy defeat to Garryowen took some early hits.
Alex Penny and David Ryan both crossed for the students inside the opening quarter of an hour, adding to James Tarrant’s initial penalty.
It was a fascinating battle at scrum half where Leinster pair Paddy Patterson and Hugh O’Sullivan chipped away behind two determined packs.
Closing in on half-time, ’Tarf got off the mark with a well-worked score from winger Michael Courtney for 15-5.
Good patience by the Clontarf forwards was rewarded with a 47th minute try, prop Ivan Soroka grounding the ball under a pile of bodies.
Courtney was released to complete his brace in the 64th minute, with Sean Kearns adding another well-struck conversion for a 19-15 turnaround in very testing conditions.
However, that good work was undone five minutes later when ’Tarf captain Michael Noone saw yellow and UCD wrestled back control for the closing stages.
Foley swiftly seized his opportunity to drive in low over the line, Tarrant tagging on the extras for a three-point advantage.
Kevin Croke’s charges showed impressive composure and game management to close out the result, controlling possession with a frustrated Noone watching on from the touchline.
UCD have closed the gap on second-placed Garryowen to five points, while ’Tarf now lie seven points outside of the top four with four rounds remaining.