Killian Woods, in Donnybrook
UCD 28-8 Dublin University, Donnybrook
The 58th annual Colours match between University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin University (Trinity College) was not a classic encounter that will go down in the history books, but it did throw up a few memorable moments that lived up to the colourful nature of this contest.
With Donnybrook stadium the venue for this infamous grudge match, and an ample crowd in attendance, Trinity College started the stronger of the two teams. In the opening two minutes, UCD’s forwards could not refine their enthusiasm for the occasion and gave away a needles penalty from a scrum in their own half. Trinity fly half, Dave Joyce made the wise decision to have an attempt at three points and punished UCD for their mistake as he gave his side an early three-point lead after only two minutes.
This was an excellent start of Trinity College and boded well for their efforts to claim the bragging rights in this fixture for the third time in four years. However, UCD roared back into the contest at a rate that not even they themselves could have expected. Collidge showed determination, flair and brutal efficiency in the aftermath of Joyce’s penalty as they notched up 14 of their overall 28 points on the night in a productive three-minute period.
The first try from Andy Cummiskey came after a drop goal attempt from UCD fly half Niall Earls fell short of the required distance and his effort hit the cross bar. The first bounce on the ground was favourable to UCD’s full-back Twomey, who showed good fortitude to chase up Earls’ attempt and ground the ball as it was loose in the Trinity try box.
From the resulting kick off after the try, UCD recycled possession and off the first phase, Conor Geoghegan powered through Trinity’s porous defensive line and the hooker surged out of his own half. Clearly not going to outpace his opponents to the line, Geoghegan kicked forward and with support, he retrieved the kick. Service from the ruck was very quick and with Trinity still
retreating back into their own half, Earls found himself with ball in hand and two free backs in the form of Twomey and Fletcher unmarked to his left.
Without hesitation, the young out half weighted a perfect cross field kick into the corner and though the ball evaded Twomey on the ground, it perfectly skipped into the path of the onrushing Fletcher for the winger to score in the corner. Earls slotted over the difficult conversion from the sideline and after an early blitz, UCD found themselves 14-3 ahead after five minutes.
The game slowed down to a normal pace after the frantic opening and as Trinity tried to pick their way back into the contest, Earls kept them at bay with his masterclass in tactical kicking pinned Trinity back in their own half for long periods. With UCD now spending long spells deep in the Trinity were becoming continuously more susceptible to giving away silly penalties. From a clearance kick, Trinity did just that as their chasers were judged to be ahead of the kicker and offside by the referee. Earls punished his opponents for their silly mistake as he slotted over the penalty to extend UCD’s lead to fourteen points after 18 minutes.
Trinity picked up their game on twenty-five minutes and showed good commitment in the rucks. However, they were finding few gaps in the UCD defence and needed a lucky break to get back into the game. This break came after a cross field kick from Trinity out half Joyce in UCD’s half seemed to hang in the air for a considerable time, but looked little threat to Collidge’s defence with Terry Jones ready to catch in his own twenty-two.
Unfortunately the winger fumbled the kick and Trinity’s blindside flanker Alan Matthews was sharp to pounce on the error, and after some weak tackling by UCD, he fell over the line to score Trinity’s first try of the night.
After gifting Trinity a lucky try, UCD didn’t hang around as they looked to make amends for their mistake. UCD found themselves with good possession in the Trinity twenty-two and with their opponents line showing little sign of buckling, Earls elected to take the three points and slotted over a drop goal to extend UCD’s lead yet again.
Few opportunities were going Trinity’s way at this stage of the game, and though they appeared willing to scrap for the ball in the rucks, they struggled to recycle possession at times as UCD showed more hunger. Their inability to match UCD’s intensity at the ruck was typified when Earls punished them yet again from the boot. Referee Kevin Beggs awarded UCD a penalty just metres inside the Trinity half and Earls continued his season long consistency with the boot as he kicked another three points.
His successful attempt brought the score to 23-8 and neither side had much impact on the scoreboard until the 58th minute when Tom Fletcher got his second try, and UCD’s third of the evening.
The score came after Earls’ penalty attempt from halfway fell short of the post. However, UCD’s chasers kept pressure on Trinity as they followed up the kick and turned the ball over deep into Trinity territory. A delicate kick into the corner was gathered by Tom Fletcher after confusion between two Trinity defenders and he touched down under some pressure. Earls missed the conversion as the score stayed at 28-8.
As the game went on, Earls’ accuracy with the boot decreased as he missed a series of penalties, albeit from long range. Trinity showed little sign of breaking the UCD defence for a second time as UCD always looked in control of the game. Their No.8 Brian Coyle was sin binned for infringement in the ruck after 72 minutes, and from this point UCD took the initiative as they closed out the game, while looking likely to add to their lead.
The second half failed to live up to the excitement of the first, as only five points were scored throughout the forty minutes, leaving the final tally of 28-8 in favour of UCD. Conor Geoghegan was awarded man of the match post game. He was the outstanding performer for UCD, with his line breaks giving Collidge the platform to attack their fierce rivals and keep them on the back foot. While UCD captain Matt Nagle accepted the cup on behalf of the team after the game and celebrations ensued.
UCD: Michael Twomey, Terry Jones, Andy Cummiskey, Eoghan Conran, Tom Fletcher, Niall Earls, Rob Shanley; John A Lee, Conor Geoghegan, Brian Hall, Ciaran Ruddock, Brian Cawley, Shane Grannel, Kevin Croke, Matt Nagle (capt).
Replacements (from): Conor Mitchell, Risteard Byrne, Arthur Houlihan, Rory Allwright, Peter Du Toit, Richie Bent.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Andy Wallace; Neil Hanratty, Conor Colclough, Conor Mills, Colin Murphy; Dave Joyce, Mick McLoughlin; Tristan Goodbody, Mark Murdock, James Gethings, Scott LaValla, Pierce Byrne, Alan Mathews, Johnny Iliff (capt), Brian Coyle
Replacements (from): Craig Telford, Paddy McCabe, Max Waters, Dominic Gallagher, Tim McCoy, Richard Brady, Dermot O’Riordan.