The Belfast Trojans opened their season in the best possible manner, beating the University of Limerick Vikings 16-9 on Sunday at UL Bohs rugby club.
The game was a typical early season affair, with both offences struggling to find rhythm on a pitch that frankly was barely fit for football. Nevertheless the Trojans ground out a tough road victory, their longest trip of the season. It wasn’t pretty but come the fourth quarter, the Trojans answered the bell and played their best football of the game when it mattered.
It was actually the perfect start for the visitors. The first kick return of the game was taken back for a touchdown, with Tom Morris getting the season off with a bang, following his blockers down the sideline to take it back all the way.
The Trojan defence also came out firing on all cylinders, physical play up front causing the Vikings running game issues. A shuddering hit caused a fumble that was recovered by the Trojans, but the offence would stall. Penalties and sloppy play were hurting the Trojans on offence, but the soft underfoot conditions mixed with long grass meant this was anything but a fast track for offensive skill players.
The score remained at 7-0 up to the halftime interval, but it was Belfast who extended the lead to 10-0 in the second half. Good work on the ground by Dave Richardson and then Morris with a smart catch and run set up the Trojans inside the five, but they failed to punch it in. Stephen Pressley added the field goal to extend the lead.
The Vikings then started to gain momentum. The first Trojan defensive mistake of the game led to a long catch and run, but they buckled down and only allowed a field goal to move to 10-3.
It was soon 10-9 after more Trojan mistakes. A fumble inside their own 20 gifted UL outstanding field position and a nice speed option with QB Garvey and their running back led to paydirt. Andrew Henderson blocked the crucial extra point to maintain the Belfast lead.
Into the fourth quarter now with the game in the balance and the Trojan offence took over. Finally the running game was able to gain ground, with Jake Warry and Gareth Millar running hard behind the offensive line to gain crucial yards.
The deciding touchdown came soon after, Mark McVeigh putting the ball far enough in front of Richardson who went up and wrestled it from veteran Viking defender Sean Sheehy and clung on to the ground to cap an excellent drive.
A missed PAT and field goal would mean the Trojan defence still had work to do to see out the game. The Vikings had the ball with two minutes remaining and were attempting to drive but second-year Trojan defender Jonny Bryans came up with the timely interception to kill the game and with it send the Trojans to 1-0 on the 2019 season.
Belfast now take a few weeks off before returning to action with another trip south on Sunday 14 April as they take on the West Dublin Rhinos.