Old Belvedere 30 – 14 UCD: UCD got off to the worst start possible at the beginning of the new AIB League season against local rivals Old Belvedere, writes Fearghal Kerin.
Old Belvedere got the best possible start with a five try victory over neighbours UCD last Saturday at their Anglesea Road grounds. While the hosts will be delighted to get the season off to a flier, College will question how exactly they started so poorly and allowed Belvo to amass an unassailable lead in the early stages. UCD came out on top in the corresponding fixture last Christmas in perhaps the game of the season with 24-22 victory, but there was no such celebrations this time out.
Belvo flew out of the blocks with the wind behind their backs and played perfect rugby for the conditions. Intelligent kicking caught UCD cold and within a quarter of an hour, backs Dave Mongan, Phil Treacy and Eddie Devitt had all gotten their name onto the score sheet with tries that, despite the quality of the Belvedere play, still came largely from rudimentary errors.
By the time UCD had gotten into the game, it was all over and the late rally was mere consolation
Their failure to convert these scores however, left the gap at only fifteen points and UCD could have come back into the game. A good period of sustained pressure from UCD was undone by allowing a soft turnover from which the Belvedere forwards got their first sniff at the UCD line. Leo Auva got just rewards for the forward’s hard work by touching down just before the half hour mark, gaining a remarkably early bonus point in the process.
A better second half performance by UCD was capped with tries from Michael Hastings and Kevin Croke which were both converted by Killian Lett, but by this stage Belvo had long taken their foot off the gas and could easily have raised the tempo once more if UCD had gotten close to threatening their lead.
For Belvo, it was a complete performance. Dominating in all facets – the set piece, in the tight and when spreading the ball wide – this result bodes well for the coming season. Most impressive for Belvo were the loose forwards, with their back row causing problems around the fringes of rucks and forcing UCD into unnecessary errors and stopping them gaining a foothold in the match.
If Belvo keep up this level of performance, and with the abundance of young stars breaking through the ranks, this could be a major season for the Black and Whites.
What will most irk the visitors on the day was how poor they started out. After competing in the Leinster Senior Club Cup, there was disappointment at how rusty the backline in particular looked in the early stages, allowing Belvo to run riot. By the time UCD had gotten into the game, it was all over and the late rally was mere consolation.
A rare star for UCD on the day was Ireland underage international outhalf Killian Lett, who continued probing for the College side long after the game was over as a contest. His kicking out of hand was a joy to behold, while he converted the two place kicks that came his way.
Lett and his fellow UCD backs have the potential to score tries should they get sufficient go-forward ball, something that was sadly lacking on Saturday, and this will be something to rectify before next week’s clash with Cork Constitution.
The game against Con, last year’s champions, will provide the ultimate test and the defensive errors that littered this first half will be unacceptable, with the experienced Cronan Healy ready to snap on any mistakes UCD make.
The potential for a successful season is there, but should they perform in this manner at the Bowl next week, the Students’ will find themselves on the back of two trouncings and zero points to show from their opening games.
After narrowly escaping relegation in 2007 after a poor opening to the season, UCD will be well aware of the pitfalls of making a slow start and will be keen not to find themselves on the backfoot early on, starting with a necessary improved display next weekend.
Tries: Dave Mongan, Phil Treacy 2, Eddie Devitt, Leo Auva’a;
Con: Conal Keane;
Pen: Conal Keane
Tries: Michael Hastings, Kevin Croke;
Cons: Killian Lett 2