UCD 7 -14 Garryowen: Garryowen out-muscled UCD in a scrappy, error-strewn game at Belfield on Saturday, writes Dara Martin.
The swirling wind did not help matters by making it difficult for kickers to find their targets. The students, whose recent run of good form seemed to come to an end, did not get on the score sheet until right winger Noel Reid touched down for a try in the 65th minute.
Numerous knock-ons and spilled passes dominated the early stages of the game, with neither side putting together any meaningful attacks in the opening few minutes. Garryowen were then given an opportunity to get some points on the board after UCD fullback Simon Gillespie was penalised for holding on to the ball. His opposite number, Conor Kilroy, was successful with his first kick from UCD’s 22 metre line to give the visitors a three point lead.
The Students struggled to gain a foothold in the game. Perhaps they were short on match practice since their last game almost three weeks ago was postponed due to the weather conditions. They spurned several early attacking opportunities by knocking-on or conceding penalties. Kilroy had a second attempt at the posts when some of the UCD forwards were caught offside at a ruck, however he was unsuccessful from wide out on the students’ 22.
Garryowen looked the more likely of the two sides to score the first try of the game. From a lineout on halfway the visitors spread the ball across the field to winger Lorcan Bourke who made a break down the touchline. He tried to chip the ball over Gillespie but a despairing dive by the UCD fullback blocked the ball into touch preventing the try.
UCD’s numerous careless errors were undoubtedly the cause of defeat
Several minutes later, the referee stamped his authority on the game by issuing a yellow card to UCD flanker, Kevin Croke, following repeated infringements at the breakdown by the Students. Kilroy stepped up to take the penalty from the UCD 22 in front of the posts, leaving the score at 0-6 going into half-time.
Garryowen remained in control of possession following the break. They rumbled into the Students 22 before backrow forward Conor Hartigan spilled the ball five metres short of the line. UCD outhalf, Michael Hastings picked up the loose ball and off-loaded it to Brian Cawley before being tackled. The second row looked at his options before deciding to hoof the ball away. It proved to be an excellent choice as he found touch on halfway having kicked it from his own try line.
Garryowen regained possession and made their way back into the Student’s 22. Centre Kevin Hartigan kicked the ball towards the corner flag and raced after it. UCD was then penalised for deliberately knocking the ball into touch near the line, giving Kilroy a chance to increase the visitor’s lead to nine points. He duly obliged.
The Students only started to come to life in the last quarter. From a scrum in the middle of the pitch, the impressive No.8 Kevin McLaughlin broke of the base and offloaded to Kevin Croke who raced towards the Garryowen 22. The ball was spread wide to winger Noel Reid who sprinted down the touchline to score in the corner. He then converted his own try from a difficult angle. This passage of play seemed to give the Students new found determination, and now that they were within one score of the visitors, it was all to play for.
UCD centre Cian Aherne and hooker Conor Geoghegan both made strong carries, allowing the Students to gain territory inside the Garryowen 22. However, indiscipline by the Students again cost them an opportunity to take the lead. They were penalised for not releasing the ball allowing Garryowen to clear their lines and relieve some of the pressure.
The visitors then dealt a killer blow to UCD. After Garryowen won a lineout just inside the Students’ half, scrumhalf Conor Murray sniped around the side of a ruck. He caught the UCD forwards by surprise and raced past them, diving over the line just before Gillespie could get across to make the tackle. Kilroy missed the conversion but with only minutes remaining and Garryowen leading 14-7, it seemed the game was up for the Students.
They never stopped trying though, with Aherne and Hastings running the ball back at every opportunity, however time was against them. The win moves Garryowen up to second in the AIB League table while UCD are down in thirteenth, four places off the bottom.