It seems like mere weeks ago I was reporting on UCD Women’s rugby team’s first game of the new season, the calendar has yet to strike December and the squad have already found themselves in a national final. The girls in blue earned their place in the SSI Division 1 League Final as they toppled TUS Midlands on the 23rd of November. Just a week later on the last day of the month, the college were set to face the on-form University of Limerick Wolves at home in the Belfield Bowl, with both teams placing first in their groups and winning their respective semi-finals. The visitors came into the game as heavy favourites, managing a ludicrous 166 points in their last three outings, guaranteeing a monstrous challenge for UCD.
Under the famous lights of the Bowl, accompanied by the low temperatures of an Irish Winter, the two teams lined out in front of a freezing, yet enthusiastic crowd. UCD’s nerves showed through the first play of the game as the kickoff was mishandled by a player in blue, leaving the UL crowd with something to cheer for just seconds into the game. Capitalising on this, the Munster side imposed early pressure in the first five minutes, UCD eventually clearing their lines as captain Emma Kelly booted downfield. A battle for possession over the next ten minutes culminated in a well-worked score for Limerick via the right channel, as Aisling Stock burst down the sideline and ran over the first points of the game. With Kate Flannery’s subsequent conversion pulling left of the posts, the score read UCD 0-5 UL on the 17th minute mark.
UCD failed to respond in a positive fashion to Stock’s try, as the visitors maintained control of the ball. Benefiting from their large share of possession, the women in green and black would double their lead through their out-half Kate Flannery less than eight minutes after the opening try. The 10 put through a clever chip in behind the UCD defence, and after some confusion between both sets of players due to the bounce of the ball, Flannery retrieved her own kick and touched down behind the home team’s try-line. Failing to convert her own score, Flannery’s try determined a score of UCD 0-10 UL, which would remain the case for the remainder of the half as the teams went into the interval with ten points separating them.
A motivated UCD emerged from the dugouts upon the referee’s call to resume for the 2nd half, as the college hoped to see a turn in their fortunes over the next forty minutes. Despite noticeable improvements in the line defence of the Belfield women, the travelling side continued to slice through, ultimately notching a third try in the 65th minute. It was Alana McInerney’s turn to write her name onto the score sheet as yet another break down the right-wing saw her diving over the line, with Flannery adding the extra two on this occasion, UL’s tally grew to seventeen points.
Following an absence in response from the UCD representatives in the remaining fifteen minutes, the game would finish with an unflattering scoreline of UCD 0-17 UL, leaving the girls disappointed at the final whistle. Despite the uncharacteristically poor performance, a blue huddle formed in the middle of the pitch after the game, a display of togetherness from the UCD players and a reminder of the long and opportunistic season that lies ahead for them.