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UCD Maintain Momentum With Third Straight Win

UCD Maintain Momentum With Third Straight Win

UCD kept up the pressure on the four teams currently ahead of them in the Division 1A play-off race with a 31-24 victory over Ballynahinch at Belfield.

Garry Ringrose excelled on both sides of the ball for College who attacked at every opportunity and might feel they left a winning bonus-point behind them.

Tries from Shane Grannell and Nick McCarthy, coupled with a breakaway effort from second row Gavin Thornbury, were good enough for the students in the end, with out-half Ross Byrne's impressive kicking game another key factor.

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The game started at a frantic pace and after a poor clearance kick by UCD, Ballynahinch wingers Ross Adair and Chris Quinn and full-back Adam Craig all made line breaks.

It was Craig whose break inside the UCD 22 created some inviting space on the left. When Blane McIlroy spread the ball wide, James Simpson popped it back to flanker David McGuigan whose line of attack caught UCD out and he duly touched down to the left of the posts. Quinn converted for a 7-0 lead inside three minutes.

But the students shot straight back when Ross Byrne fed centre Ringrose whose delightful pop pass back inside for Shane Grannell saw the in-form number 8 stroll in unopposed. Byrne was off target with the conversion.

UCD played some thrilling rugby with half-backs McCarthy and Byrne and Ringrose linking up on several occasions, and full-back Billy Dardis and winger Sam Coghlan Murray were also full of running.

On 13 minutes Coghlan Murray took advantage of a gap on the right before offloading to Ringrose. He drew the defender and fed McCarthy who raced 35 metres to touch down under the posts.

Byrne added the conversion and when Ringrose chased down a clearance kick, his superb tackle on Adair, who tried to run it out, saw Byrne convert the resulting penalty. It left the students 15-7 ahead after a quarter of an hour.

Quinn replied with a penalty for 'Hinch and only a knock-on by second row James Simpson prevented the visitors from crossing the whitewash just moments later. However, poor UCD play saw them cough up possession and with Quinn going down the line in the 26th minute, flanker Paul Pritchard mauled over from 10 metres for a well-executed second 'Hinch try.

Byrne replied with a penalty that crept inside the right hand post with McGuigan penalised for not releasing. The kick edged UCD in front again at 18-17. 'Hinch piled on the pressure and were in try-scoring range when young lock John Donnan was penalised for going off his feet.

UCD managed to tag on another three-pointer before the break, moving into a 21-17 lead as Byrne rewarded a series of pick and goes from the likes of Ross Molony, James Tracy and Gordon Frayne.

Byrne sent a penalty wide six minutes into the second half, but UCD pushed further clear when Thornbury intercepted a Harry McAleese pass to run half the length of the pitch and score to the left of the posts. 11 points separated the sides following Byrne's successful conversion.

Either side of the hour Byrne and Quinn both missed penalites, while a brilliant cover tackle from McCarthy maintained UCD's healthy lead.

Ballynahinch were knocking on the door and with 10 minutes remaining, UCD lock Molony was sin-binned for infringing at the breakdown with Quinn bringing the County Down outfit back to the hosts' 22.

Scottish referee Lloyd Linton awarded 'Hinch a series of penalties in the next five minutes and after the initial one was sent to the corner, they opted for scrums on several occasions. Eventually, scrum half McIlroy unleashed the outside backs and centre Jordan Grattan (pictured above) got in for a try, closing the gap to 28-24 with just two minutes remaining.

UCD's replacement out-half Liam Bourke had a drop goal attempt drift wide and in injury-time, he completed the scoring with a well-struck penalty to seal the result.

UCD and 'Hinch remain fifth and sixth in the table respectively, with Bobby Byrne's youngsters just two points off away from a play-off berth.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)