Match Report - UCD v Old Belvedere

Image Credit: Christine Coffey

In the AIL Men’s Energia Community Series, UCD beat Old Belvedere 22 points to 15. Match report by Christine Coffey.

Both UCD and visitors Belvo were looking to get their first win of the new look AIL Energia Community Series in the Saturday afternoon kick-off in the Bowl.

The hosts were looking to bounce back from an opening day defeat to Old Wesley in their first home game of the campaign. Old Belvedere made the short trip down the N11 looking to make their mark on the community series after a heavy loss to Trinity in Ollie Campbell Park last week. With no World Rugby Series games, 7's player Harry McNulty lined out at number 7 for Belvo against his old side, as did fellow former UCD player Calum Doyle in the second row.

UCD found themselves defending from the off with two penalties conceded in the first four minutes of the game, to give Belvo an attacking platform in the UCD half. The visitors failed to threaten the collidge defence and the students gradually established a territorial advantage from the boots of out-half James Tarrant and full-back Luke Maloney. Old Belvedere suffered for their indiscipline in the opening encounters and their second high tackle of the game proved to be very costly. An excellent nudge from Tarrant put UCD deep in the Belvo half and the maul from the resulting line-out put UCD within striking distance of the line. Several carries around the corner later the collidge crossed the line for their first try of the afternoon and Tarrant added the extras to put UCD in the lead. 

In a first half littered with knock-ons and set pieces, UCD would have been looking to improve on their scrum performance against Wesley last week and would have been frustrated to give away three penalties in the scrum before half time. Justin Leonard converted one of these penalties just inside UCD's 22 to secure Belvo's first points of the game. 

The final ten minutes of the half saw tries for both sides. UCD continued to hammer at the Belvo line and an infringement under his own sticks saw flanker Baxter given ten minutes in the bin. UCD opted for the scrum and a sweeping set-piece move released the winger, who dotted down in the corner. Tarrant's conversion flashed agonisingly just to the left and wide. UCD were playing most of the rugby, but against the run of play James McKeown pounced on a loose pass and scampered away from the scrambling home defence. Leonard failed to convert the conversion, but Belvo now found themselves only four points behind. 

On the stroke of half-time UCD were on the receiving end of yet another high tackle and were awarded a penalty just inside the opposition half. Tarrant's kick probably had another 10 meters to spare as it sailed between the posts to restore the 7 point advantage going into the break. 

The second half saw the visitors restored to 15 men, which freed them up to spread the ball more and stretch the UCD defence. Belvo's outhalf Justin Leonard seemed undeterred by the UCD line speed, regularly taking the ball to the line and releasing members of his pack. An excellent kick from Leonard found grass behind his opposite number in the back-field, but the enterprising Tarrant took the line-out quickly, throwing the ball to himself and spreading the ball wide so full-back Maloney could exit. 

The home side's spread defence worked to great effect and pressure on the ball forced knock-ons and mistakes from the visitors. A penalty for UCD from a scrum was met with physically distanced scenes of jubilation from the home 'crowd' (backroom staff and replacements). 

UCD turned down the chance to point towards the posts on a reasonably kickable penalty and instead decided to kick for touch. Tarrant found a good touch, but UCD failed to secure possession from the resulting line-out and Belvo were able to exit off the back of the scrum they were awarded. 

After a big turnover on their own 5-metre line, UCD broke down along the right-hand touchline and managed to hold onto possession from sloppy ball. Tarrant's attempted left-footed cross-field kick fell short of its target and Belvo were able to turn the UCD defence by finding touch in behind. The students weren't able to find much distance in their exit, but Belvedere failed to execute a line-out maul and UCD were able to exit through a scrum. Belvo continued to use their territorial advantage to heap pressure on the UCD defence. They worked the ball wide well, and a combination of a slipped tackle and excellent footwork led to the equalising try for the visitors at the end of the 'third-quarter' of the game. 

After the final water break, Andy Marks started to find space in the Belvo defence and injected an intensity and pace into the UCD attack that the visitors struggled to contain. An excellent step allowed him to beat the edge defender on the outside before he was eventually brought down. Moments later he found the ball back in his hands and again broke the line. He might have scored himself, but the ball was recycled and substitute Dan O'Donovan used every inch of his tall frame to reach for the Belvo line and score. Tarrant's extra two points restored UCD's seven-point lead and gave the hosts breathing room for the final exchanges.

A taxing defensive segment followed for the hosts. Ben Murray and captain Ronan Foley lead the charge in containing the Belvo attack with an impressive combination of ball pressure and big hits. UCD will feel somewhat hard done by, having not been awarded more for their efforts in fighting for the ball on the deck throughout the second half.  

In truth, after Dan O'Donovan's try it didn't feel like Belvo would be able to overturn the seven-point deficit and UCD managed to play most of the remainder of the game outside their 22 and were defending in the right areas of the pitch. The collidge side didn't give away many scoring opportunities and were deserving winners on the day. It finished UCD 22 - Old Belvedere 15. Plenty to work on, but plenty of positives for Kevin Croke's young charges ahead of their bye-week. 

They next face Clontarf away in two weeks .

Editor's Note : "Collidge" is the nickname of UCD's rugby team