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UCD Battle to Earn Draw in Ballymen

UCD 11 – 11 Ballymena

A last minute Tom Fletcher try in the corner earned UCD a hard fought draw up in Ballymena on Saturday. In a game in which neither side gave up anything the last gasp score by Fletcher completed a late comeback, advice erasing the eight point lead which Ballymena held with ten minutes to go.

The opening scrum of the game for Ballymena set the tone up front for the game as the Antrim side was able to boss the UCD pack around and in doing so earned a penalty. The kick at goal however was missed by winger John Semple.

It ended up being the away side that got the first points on the board as out-half Niall Earls converted a penalty to break the deadlock.

The game continued to be dominated by the battle up front as the ball got bogged down in midfield with no sign of any breakthrough. Ballymena however continued to have an edge in the set piece and on the half hour managed to win another kickable penalty which Semple kicked for his team’s first points of the game.

UCD had a chance to regain the lead moments later but the angle proved too difficult for Earls as his kick dropped short and the scores remained level.

Ballymena managed to gain an edge in the territorial battle as they pegged UCD back in their own half with some good kicking. The resulting pressure lead to a penalty for Ballymena which Semple converted to give them a 6-3 halftime lead.

Ballymena came out the stronger of the two sides in the second half and for the first time in the game were able to get some space for their backs to run. One such run from Caolan Fitzpatrick resulted in a lineout fifteen metres out. Ballymena won the lineout and mauled it all the way to the UCD line for the try from Paul Pritchard. The missed conversion meant that the scores were 11-3 to Ballymena.

The Ulster side were unable to push on though, discount and slowly let Collidge back into the game. Two missed penalties from Earls though meant that the home side’s lead remained firmly intact.

All that changed though once the game entered the final ten minutes. Earls kicked a penalty to bring the game to within a try and only for a covering tackle from Alan Smyth, click UCD could have got the equalising score.

Instead it was left to the final moments when Tom Fletcher found the space in the corner to go over for the try. Although Earls had the chance then to win it with the conversion the angle proved too difficult.

UCD Team: Andrew Boyle; Sam Coghlan Murray, Andrew Cummiskey, David Lynch, Tom Fletcher; Niall Earls, Peter du Toit; Kieran Moloney, Risteard Byrne, Brian Hall, Brian Cawley, Shane Grannell, Keelan McKenna, Mark McGroarty, Danny Kenny.

Replacements: James Tracy, Neil Foley, Richie Bent, Luke McGrath, James Thornton.

PATRICK FLEMING

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