UCD 47-24 Belfast Harlequins
UCD’s convincing 47-24 victory over Belfast Harlequins sets the stage for a very successful season, writes Gordon O’Callaghan
UCD made it four straight wins from four in the All-Ireland League last Saturday with an excellent bonus point victory over the Belfast Harlequins. This victory encompassed six tries past the visitors, including a wonderful hat-trick for hooker David Doyle.
Belfast started the game well by putting the Students under heavy pressure early on. Within the first few minutes, UCD right-winger John Conroy was forced to prevent a seemingly inevitable try with a vital interception. The college defence also managed to hold up a Harlequins player over the line and turned over possession in the resulting scrum.
However, Harlequins were not be thwarted a third time, as inside-centre William Stewart was able to break the line and feed right-wing Matthew Holmes for a try in the corner. Harlequins’ scrum-half Michael Heaney was unable to convert the kick, leaving the score at five to nothing.
UCD’s response to the opening try was emphatic. Straight from the kick off the Students managed to secure possession in an attacking position. Inside-centre David McSharry barged through the Belfast defensive line and off-loaded to full-back Michael Twomey to complete the task of crossing the line for their opening try. Unfortunately for College, out-half James Thornton was unable to convert, and thus the score remained five all.
The frantic pace of the game continued after the opening scores and both teams exchanged penalties with Thornton converting for UCD from 45 yards out and Heaney once again missed for the visitors. After being the second-best team in the opening minutes of the game, the home side found themselves ahead by three points.
Belfast refused to let going behind impede their style of play and continued to move the ball wide as quickly as possible. They soon saw the benefits with a fine backline move off the set piece, resulting in a try for full-back Miles O’Hagan after good work from Holmes.
It was not shaping into a good day from the tee for Heaney, as he was unable to convert the try, putting his kicking tally at 0/3.
The pendulum swung in favour of UCD straight after the restart again, as captain and outside-centre Andy Cummiskey threw a massive skip pass to hooker Doyle, who took advantage of the overlap and crossed the line for his first try.
Belfast’s lack of concentration at the restart was costing them dearly in a game where they should have been leading. Thornton again slotted the kick over, pushing the scoreline to 15-10.
UCD started to grow in confidence from that moment and began to dominate the game, slotting over another penalty.
Belfast were able to pull a try back though, when a fine chip on the right and an error from Twomey saw number 13 Michael Allen cross the line for Belfast. The score moved to 18-17, after Heaney’s first successful kick of the game.
There was to be just enough time for one more try from UCD before the half-time whistle, as Conroy stepped inside the Belfast cover and passed to Twomey for his second try of the match. With a successful conversion, the home side went into the half-time break leading 25-17.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, with Belfast Harlequins applying the pressure inside the College 22. This time though, UCD were able to soak up whatever was thrown at them and managed to turnover possession and clear their lines.
Belfast’s inability to convert their possession into scores seemed to affect their confidence and from that moment on, the Students ran away with the game, scoring two tries in quick succession through the in-form Doyle.
The hooker’s second was the try of the game, and possibly the season, as the Students started the move inside their own half, passing the ball through six sets of hands, before Doyle crossed the line for the score. UCD now led 37-17.
Harlequins fought back with a consolation try through substitute Tim Morton after a drive from the lineout. The home side again fired back with their last try of the game as Conroy crossed the line for the score. With another try from Doyle and a last-minute penalty from replacement Niall Earls, UCD completed the rout, running out 47-24 winners.
The Students next call of duty is in Towns Park, where they will face a strong Middleton side. A win for their opponents will see them overtake UCD in the league, so a fifth consecutive win for the College is imperative to keep this stellar season on track.