UCD 32-3 Ballymena 

A strong UCD side overcame a limited Ballymena outfit in the UCD Bowl on Saturday, treatment scoring some fantastic team tries in wet and windy conditions.

The home side had the better of the early exchanges, with loose head James Tracy and openside Mark McGroarty affecting a choke tackle resulting in a scrum for the home side.  From the resulting play, fullback Andrew Boyle made an excellent line break, the ball was recycled and the forwards were used for a midfield hit up, Ballymena infringed in a very cynical fashion, killing the ball, and James Thornton slotted the resulting penalty to make it 3-0 inside the first 10 minutes.

Ballymena immediately had a chance to equalise after Shane Grannell infringed at the restart, however they failed to capitalise. Poor kicking, both at goal and for field position, was a characteristic of Ballymena’s play throughout the first half.

The first half was largely characterised by UCD’s high tempo running game. They kicked the ball only 10 times in the opening 40 minutes. This high tempo approach, coupled with excellent passing from Thornton, Lynch, and Kelly, meant that line breaks were aplenty in the first half. When captain Risteard Byrne ran 60 metres, further pressure led to UCD’s second penalty, which Thornton converted for a 6-0 lead. Ballymena eventually got off the mark, after 18 minutes, when Mark McGroarty was penalised for an overly exuberant tackle, which lead to play being stopped and a concussion assessment.

The score was well poised at 6-3 when UCD finally got the break through their ambitious play during the opening quarter deserved. Conor Gilsenan secured Thorton’s restart, the ball broke for McGroarty, who carried strongly into the centre of the Ballymena defence, breaking two tackles before being stopped. The ball was moved right and Thornton threw a beautiful pass to Danny Kenny, which put him on an outside arc, his fast hands allowed the ball to be moved on the Sam Coghlan Murray, who scored in the corner. Thornton’s touchline conversion made it 13-3.

Things would only worsen for Ballymena, who lost outhalf Rory Drysdale to the sin bin, for a deliberate knock on. UCD could sense there were more scores out there with their opponents reduced in number. However four times they entered Ballymena’s 22, and failed to score; they were guilty of trying to force the passes, much to the frustration of coach Bobby Byrne.

Winger Barry Daly did manage to score just before half time, again it was down to UCD building the phases and not trying things that weren’t on. The conversion was missed, and Collidge lead 18-3 at half time.

A more spirited Ballymena appeared for the second half. However while they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, their passing was far too lateral, and UCD were more than up for the physical battle on the gainline. Ballymena’s one period of sustained pressure five yards from the UCD line, eventually ended when second row Shane Grannell won a penalty for not realising.

After failing to score following such a long period of pressure Ballymena’s spirits began to rapidly drop, they lost number 8 Matthew Rea to the sin bin for an off the ball tackle following Danny Kenny’s 50 metre break. From the resulting penalty, UCD went down the touchline, Emmet MacMahon claimed the lineout, McGroarty was used as first receiver, his pass was excellent and meant that Sam Coghlan Murray had plenty of space to use his fleet feet, to score his second. The two points were added by the inform Thornton.

The bonus point was secured following an excellent break up the wing but Coghlan Murray, who kicked infield for the onrushing Gilsenan to score under the posts.

A comprehensive and thoroughly deserved win for the home side who showed excellent defensive discipline throughout.

UCD: Andy Boyle, Sam Coghlan Murray, Alex Kelly, David Lynch (Stephen Murphy 60mins), Barry Daly, James Thornton, Jamie Glynn (Rob Shanley 60mins) , James Tracy, Risteard Byrne, Kieran Moloney (Rory Harrison ht) Shane Grannell (Brian Cawley 60mins) Emmet MacMahon (Shane Grannell 72mins) Conor Gilsenan  Mark McGroarty (Adam Clarkin 60mins) Danny Kenny.

-Conall Devlin