UCD started 2011 in fine form with a 37-3 win over Old Crescent in the Belfield Bowl on Saturday. Gordon O’Callaghan reports
UCD 37-3 OLD CRESCENT
These two sides had contrasting pre-Christmas form, with Old Crescent only managing to win one of their six games. UCD, on the other hand, were unbeaten in the league and looking to maintain that form in the new year.
The game started as a scrappy affair with both teams struggling to come to grips with the poor weather conditions. However, UCD were first out of the blocks in the seventh minute, when out-half James Thornton slotted over a penalty from 38m away.
UCD, however, were not able to build on this early success as the weather continued to hinder play. Neither side were looking to spread the play, as the ball was rarely moved past the number ten channel.
Old Crescent enjoyed a period of good possession during the half but were met by a well-organised and solid UCD defence. The visitors quickly ran out of ideas and kicked away possession.
The UCD defence was able to force a second penalty, only for James Thornton to miss with a poor attempt from 40 metres. However, the Students seemed to grow in confidence after this minor setback, and Thornton regained his composure on 30 minutes with a fine penalty from the left of the posts to make it 6-0.
UCD were slow in building momentum, but Old Crescent continued to throw away any possession they came across – one such moment in the 35th minute, after an interception from UCD, lead to another penalty. Again, Thornton showed good composure by adding the three points.
The scoreboard was to remain at 9-0 at half time. Collidge, happy with their lead, were able to maintain both territory and possession with a relatively conservative game plan, as Old Crescent seemed unable to deal with their complete domination.
UCD switched to a more attacking style after the break, which saw scrum-half Rob Shanley crossing the white line early on. Shanley was the beneficiary of some excellent work from flanker Danny Kenny, who was able to break the line and offload in the tackle leaving the scrum-half with the simple task of crossing the line. James Thornton added the extra two points to make it 16-0.
UCD temporarily lost concentration, giving Old Crescent excellent field position inside their own 22. The visitors then proceeded to win a penalty and out-half Fergal Lawlor made it 16-3.
Collidge, however, could smell blood and hooker David Doyle went on the attack in the 60th minute with a wonderful individual effort. Doyle showed blistering pace as he picked up the ball inside his own half and broke through three tackles, sprinting fifty yards to the line. Doyle was excellent all day and will surely treasure that special score. Thornton again maintained his impressive kicking record in difficult conditions, adding the extras to make it 23-3.
For all of Collidge’s excellent play this season, one negative characteristic seems stood out: their tendency to lose concentration after scores. This was again an issue as the Students gave away a needless penalty off the restart, only for Fergal Lawlor to fluff his attempt at goal.
This appeared to be all the excitement the day had in store as the game descended into a stalemate. Old Crescent huffed and puffed inside the UCD 22, opting on numerous occasions to go for the corner only to be beaten back each time.
As the clock ticked towards the 80th minute, many fans prepared to head for the exit. The old cliché of always staying until the end paid off on this miserable afternoon, as the Students burst open their opponent’s defence twice in the final two minutes.
The first try came from full-back Michael Twomey after an excellent breakaway run down the left by captain Andy Cummiskey. The captain was involved in the second as well, as Thornton broke the line to feed the ball to Cummiskey, who in turn sent over David Doyle for his second of the game. Thornton converted both tries, leaving him with an impressive seven from eight on the day.
While the game was largely a scrappy affair, UCD demonstrated the strength and ability that will be needed if they are to earn a promotion out of the second division at the end of the season. Their next league match is at home to Terenure College on Saturday 29 January.
UCD: Michael Twomey; John Conroy, Andrew Cummiskey, David McSharry, Andy Boyle; James Thornton, Rob Shanley; John A Lee, David Doyle, Brian Hall; Brian Cawley, Shane Grannell; Keelan McKenna, David Kenny, Kevin Croke.
Old Crescent: Sean Cunningham; Keith Lyons, Rob O’Neill, Anthony Barry, John Noonan; Fergal Lawlor, Andy Brace; James Burton, Ger Burke, Eugene McGovern; Pierse Breen, Tevita Toaia; Manus Collins Smith, Lemiki Viapula, Luke Russell.