UCD RFC 38 – 7 Malone RFC
UCD RFC continued their strong vein of form in this year’s league by defeating Malone RFC in their final home game of the season, showing real class and an indomitable spirit. The UCD side demonstrated their superior offloading skills and precise kicking; converting all five of their tries. The win puts them within seven points of league leaders Ballynahinch, with only two games remaining.
Although the final score was 38-7, the victory was not as easy as one might think. The wet and windy conditions were not ideal for either side, with rain contributing to a lot of handling errors, particularly under the high ball. Thankfully, the pitch held up and so both sides were able to scrum and run successfully, providing the crowd with a thoroughly enjoyable game.
Malone got off to a great start, when an early slip up in UCD’s defence allowed their winger to make a break for the line, dodging at least two UCD defenders to plant the ball over the try line. Coupled with a successful conversion, it was apparent that UCD could not cruise to victory.
It wasn’t until the 11 minute mark when James Thornton seized a scoring opportunity after being awarded a penalty, putting UCD on the scoreboard for the first time in the game. The next few minutes saw both sides trading attacks, as they each opted to kick and chase.
Neither side was able to find any joy from this disjointed passage of play. It was not until the 21st minute when Sam Coughlan Murray ducked and weaved through the Malone defence, scoring a much needed try and pushing UCD into the lead.
The score definitely awoke the home side, as they dominated Malone for the rest of the half. The visitors spent the second part of the opening half desperately defending against an unrelenting UCD attack. Eventually, Collidge’s sustained efforts brought about a final product; as Luke McGrath edged over the line to bring the score to 17-7 to UCD.
Malone attempted a counter attack just before the end of the half and succeeded in driving UCD back to their line. It looked certain that they would score, but for a valiant defensive effort. Following a fortuitous turnover, Alex Kelly was on the receiving end of a brilliant offload and ran the length of the pitch for UCD’s third try of the game. James Thornton was in flying form and successfully kicked another conversion leaving the score at 24-7 at the end of the first half.
UCD started the second half in the same spirits as they finished the first, forcing Malone to defend their own half for the best part of 20 minutes. The away side’s defence was eventually worn away, allowing Emmet McMahon to punch through the defensive line to score UCD’s fourth try, securing the bonus point and hoisting UCD’s lead to 31 points to seven.
Malone then fought back and managed to push UCD into their own half, but the feisty visitors were held on the precipice of the try line by the superior UCD defensive effort. Eventually, UCD took advantage of a Malone side who seemed to cracking under the pressure of an unassailable deficit, by overturning the ball.
This forced their opponents scramble back to defend, after some of the forwards broke a couple of tackles, allowing Stephen Murphy to run the ball in for the final try of the game. The try was successfully converted by James Thornton giving him a perfect record for the game. Malone refused to give up, but with the score at 38-7, there was a feeling of it being too little and too late. Their final attack was foiled by UCD, ensuring a comfortable victory.
UCD continue to excel this season, with good play from all of the back line and especially James Thornton. Thornton’s kicking was perfect, giving his team plenty of opportunities to use their numerous set plays from the lineout. Their lineout provided a stable platform, from which they successfully mounted attacks.
The UCD backline showed true class with their offloading ability, especially impressive considering the wet conditions, which contributed to almost all of the tries. They were equally strong in defence, barring their initial slip up, keeping Malone from scoring again for the rest of the match.
Malone showed early promise, but failed to capitalise on their excursions into the home team’s half. They were particularly bad when catching the high ball, which was unfortunate as they seemed dedicated to kicking and chasing. This ultimately led to them giving away possession and points as UCD ran in the tries around the halfway point of the game.
UCD will take a lot of confidence from their performance on Saturday, while Malone will need to go back to the drawing board. UCD’s brand of exciting fast paced rugby seems to be paying off, and with only two more games left in the season, it remains to be seen if it can push them to the top of the table.
The game itself was a great demonstration of how rugby should be played, bringing continual excitement throughout the whole game to the crowd. Both sides should be commended for not giving up. In spite of the score, UCD kept pressing and Malone kept defending right to the end. Hopefully UCD will continue to play in this manner in their upcoming games as they look to sneak into first place in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B.
By Dónal Woods