University College Dublin showed admirable discipline and steel to hold off a rally from Garryowen RFC to secure another win in the top division of the Ulster Bank rugby League at Belfield. Scrummaging power, a quick pressing line and accurate kicking proved crucial in a game of high attrition.
It was UCD (Collidge) that had the brighter start. After an exchange of kicks, an initial forage into UCD territory by Garryowen went astray as UCD won a scrum in the middle of the field. From there, the Collidge front row got the better of Garryowen and forced a scrum infringement. A nice kick to the corner by Matthew Gilsenan was followed by a well-executed lineout. After a few pick and drives at the Garryowen line, the Belfield home side caught their opponents out wide and dived over for a try.
After the early spark, the game was marred by the inability of both sides to put multiple phases of attacks together. Spilled possession became a common feature of the first quarter, which meant that UCD were unable to take advantage of their superior pack. However, Collidge were eventually rewarded for consistent presence in Garryowen territory win a penalty, that Tom Fletcher squared over for 3 points.
To their credit Garryowen fought back and scored a try of their own. Much like UCD before them the try had come from a period of sustained linkages in play. Calm nerves under pressure allowed Liam Combes to break through and bring some life back into the game on 35 minutes. At 8-7, the game was on.
Collidge turned on the flair at just the right time however, some brilliant link up play from the backline created a move that started from the middle of the field and ended in the corner with a try from UCD lad Tommy O Brien. This time there was no mistake with the conversion to put the score at 15-7 to UCD’s advantage.
Garryowen players will wish that they made the most out of the subsequent minutes as from a penalty that was as a result of foul play, the scrumhalf chose to split the posts with a penalty to make it 15-10 at halftime. The Limerick side had been on a war path towards UCD’s try line, and the home side were lucky they only gave away 3 points.
The Collidge boys had to come out fighting in the second half, their good line speed and pressure managed to wrestle the game’s momentum from Garryowen’s grasp. Strangely however, despite the dominance of UCD, perhaps they could be accused of switching off at this point, going into the second quarter. The perennial problem of the boys in blue, discipline, let them down again and allowed Garryowen to grow in confidence pushing forward.
Another penalty for Garryowen, which reduced UCD’s lead to 5 points proved to be a bit of a wake-up call for the Belfield based outfit. They struck back with a snap try, back row James Ryan breaking free unopposed to touch down on 55 minutes.
The student side didn’t seem to miss some of their leaders, mainly Garry Ringrose, and Josh van der Flier who travelled with the Irish national squad for the Chicago game against the All Blacks.
Towards the end possession and territory was bossed by Garryowen as a sense of urgency came into their attacks. Again, despite mistakes by both sides, the line speed of UCD proved a crucial factor as they could clear trouble and rush Garryowen’s passing. In the last minutes of the game, yet another Garryowen attack was repelled and turned over with a scrum, to signal the end of an intensely physical affair with UCD coming out on top.
UCD RFC …… 23
Conor Lynott | Sports Editor