Last Friday night saw UCD RFC host a Blackrock College side who started the night rooted to the bottom of the table after four successive defeats. UCD, on the other hand, came into the game buoyed after their narrow 18-15 away win over Malone RFC the previous week.
There were three changes to the UCD side from the victory over Malone. James Tracey reassumed his duties at loosehead, while Leinster academy prospect Jordan Coghlan lined up at blindside flanker and Shane Grannell took over from last week’s two-try hero Eoin Joyce at number 8.
For the majority of the first half, both sides struggled to maintain any rhythm in their play as a series of mistakes marred the opening proceedings. Blackrock attempted to pin UCD back in their own half, relying on a kicking game, but UCD were more than happy to respond on the counter-attack.
UCD’s wingers skipped numerous Blackrock tackles, continually giving Collidge a good foothold in their opponents half. Still, UCD players were left isolated too often as Blackrock tacklers poured in to rob possession and clear their lines.
Blackrock grew into the game and began to take control around the half-hour mark. A careless kick by UCD centre Alex Kelly, just outside the UCD 22, flew straight into touch, gifting the visitors a platform to maul their way towards the UCD try line.
UCD struggled to hold off the powerful Blackrock pack and were forced into conceding numerous penalties close to the touchline. After successive lineouts deep in UCD territory, Blackrock found the breakthrough and Colin Philps touched down, although Michael McKeever could not convert.
Conceding the try kicked UCD into life and they ferociously hit back at their opponents, looking to narrow the deficit before half time. The marked increase in the intensity of UCD’s play forced holes to open up in the Blackrock defence and Collidge’s free-running centres exploited the gaps.
UCD’s Stephen Murphy glided through the Blackrock defence to beat the first tackler before hands in the ruck from Blackrock’s scrum-half Izak Muller earned UCD a penalty and Muller a yellow card. James Thornton duly stepped forward to kick UCD’s first three points of the game, with the score 3-5 at the half.
UCD started the second half with a roar, as Boyle yet again showed his value to this UCD team with another great break up the middle of the pitch. The pace of play told a story of a UCD side ready to take a step up to the next level, but they were left frustrated with any venture into Blackrock territory, as the referee continually blew in favour of the visitors.
Occasionally, Collidge looked a little over-eager at the ruck. Both sides found themselves having to exert a lot of energy and man power into simply retaining the ball, but Blackrock began to build on their lead in 49th minute, as poor UCD discipline right in front of their posts gifted Blackrock two opportunities to kick at goal, which McKeever converted accordingly.
Reserve fly-half, Niall Earls, entered the game on 55 minutes, looking to give UCD a different point of attack to unlock the solid Blackrock defence. Despite this, Blackrock again added to their lead through McKeever, and now UCD were faced with an 11-3 score to overhaul.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Blackrock struggled to hold back the UCD onslaught and gave away a penalty that resulted in another yellow card, this time for second row Des Dillon. Buoyed by the benefit of being a man to the good, UCD eagerly went in search of that important try.
A sloppy pass in midfield right on the try line was intercepted by Blackrock’s Jan-Simon Byrne, who took it the length of the field to make the score 19-3, with McKeever missing the conversion.
It was apparent that it wasn’t UCD’s evening at the Belfield Bowl, but the students were persistent. This was particularly evident in the mammoth performances of flanker Coghlan and substitute Conor Gilsenan continued to carry the ball, hoping to inspire a comeback.
Their efforts in the end didn’t go unrewarded. From a penalty deep in Blackrock’s half, UCD took a quick tap and the ball was spread to fullback Boyle. Still with a lot of work to do, Boyle managed to break the first tackle and evaded another to score UCD’s first try.
Now within a sniff of a bonus point, UCD continued to rally forward, and through sheer persistence, carved another try scoring opportunity for themselves. Earls had found his rhythm by this stage and was readily unleashing his back line and forwards to carry the ball.
As full-time approached, Collidge reverted to their lacklustre play of the first half, but still managed to carve out one final opportunity for Daly to race through the centre of the Blackrock defence and score UCD’s second try, and with Earls’ conversion, the score stood at 19-17 in favour of the visitors.
Now well past the 80-minute mark, the game was thought to be over on three separate occasions, yet the referee allowed proceedings to continue. UCD pushed hard for a third try or an opportunity at goal, but Blackrock closed the game out and notched up a well-earned victory.
UCD: Andrew Boyle; Paddy Dix, Alex Kelly, Stephen Murphy, Barry Daly; James Thornton, Rob Shanley; James Tracy, Risteard Byrne (capt), Kieran Moloney, Brian Cawley, Emmet MacMahon, Jordan Coghland, Mark McGroarty, Shane Grannell. Subs: Rory Hannon, Adam Clarkin, Conor Gilsenan, Shane O’Meara, Niall Earls.
Blackrock College: Jan-Simon Byrne; Tom Kevany, Michael McKeever, Rob Keogh, David Rowan; David Godfrey, Izak Muller; David Lewis, Ryan Fisher, Colin Phillips, Des Dillon, Owen Cullen, Michael Carroll, Peter McCague, Job Langbroek. Subs: James Mannion, Michael Carroll, Richard Liddy, Mark Scott-Lennon, Billy Glynn.
By Killian Woods