On a chilly Saturday afternoon University College Dublin (UCD) visited the Energia Stadium in Donnybrook to take on Old Wesley in the Energia Community Series. After a loss to Trinity last week, Collidge looked to show that they had not lost any impetus during the months without rugby.

UCD got off to a rocky start with their kick-off heading straight into touch. An early attempt at goal from Old Wesley’s Ian Cassidy went wide, after UCD were penalised at the breakdown. Both teams were feeling each other out in the first 10 minutes, however the home side looked to gain the advantage early on.

The visitors’ defence held up in their own half, keeping out the Old Wesley attack and shutting down their line breaks. UCD almost got the first score of the game after a turnover led to a break down the touchline. Richie Fahy was unable to secure the inside pass, with the subsequent scrum resulting in a penalty which allowed Old Wesley to clear the ball out of their half.

On the 20-minute mark, Cassidy pushed another penalty attempt wide. The teams went in for a water-break after the missed attempt, with three quarters of the game left to play.

The visitors were camped in the Wesley half for much of the following 10 minutes, attempting to swing the ball wide early and go around the defenders. Each near break was eventually shut down with a missed final pass.

Wesley burst back into the UCD half with an exceptional breakaway and some broken play, getting the hosts to within five meters of UCD’s try line. A knock-on in contact from Ben Burns brought an end to the attack. UCD cleared the ball from the scrum, with scores remaining level heading into the final five minutes of the half.

Wesley had great field position for the final play of the game, taking a lineout just inside Collidge’s 22 metre line. Johnny Fairley managed to turn the ball over and recycle it to allow his side to kick the ball free. Halftime in Donnybrook and the scores remained 0-0.

The home side started off the second half, declaring their intentions immediately. A long floating pass to a wide-open Thomas O’Callaghan would have resulted in a certain try, if it had not drifted forward. Josh Pim eventually earned Cassidy another shot at goal, winning a penalty at the breakdown, which broke the deadlock and gave Wesley a 3-0 lead.

Collidge’s ill-discipline, particularly at scrum time, started to build up against them. The first try of the game came in the 47th minute of the game through a penalty try from a scrum, which also resulted in a yellow card for Robert Byrne.

Being down to 14 men seemed to spur Collidge on, however as they began to string together strong phases and put real pressure on the hosts. The hosts in turn began to let their discipline slip, allowing UCD back into the match.

UCD reduced the deficit just seconds before Byrne returned to the pitch, after a brilliant offload from Ronan Foley put Andy Marks into open space and he went in untouched. David Moran added the extras and took the score to 10-7 halfway through the second half.

With Wesley back on the attack after the restart, UCD again gave up a kickable penalty. Replacement Ben Murphy slotted the penalty with ease, taking their lead to six points into the second water break of the match, with 20 minutes left to play.

The game began to open up in the final quarter, a both sides threw caution to the wind. Wesley started to play an expansive game that they hadn’t played earlier in the match, and a string of skilful offloads eventually put Nathan Randles in the corner for Wesley’s second try. Murphy was unsuccessful with his second kick of the match, but Wesley remained in the lead; 18-7.

Two scores down in the final 10 minutes of the match, UCD looked to be cracking under the time pressure. Every opportunity they built in the opposition half resulted in an un-forced error that allowed the hosts to clear the ball out of their 22m.

With time running out, UCD managed to get the bonus point through a try which was converted to take the visitors just four points short as the final whistle sounded. Full time Old Wesley 18, UCD 14.

Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor