The Belfast Trojans kicked off their 2017 season with a thrilling 49-34 victory over University College Dublin.
The game was a rematch of the 2016 SBC semi final, but in stark contrast to that low-scoring 10-7 Belfast win, this was an offensive shootout with both teams piling up the yards and points.
Both quarterbacks were firing on all cylinders, with Trojans’ Mark McVeigh and UCD’s Tom Donovan finding receivers with precise accuracy.
It was the Trojans who opened the scoring on their first offensive play from scrimmage. It was 2016 MVP Jona Siri who got his year off to the perfect start. The running back bounced a run off right tackle to the edge, before displaying his trademark speed to out run a number of UCD defenders and open the scoring from over 60 yards out. The Trojans defence continued their good start to the game with Neil Graham notching a sack of Donovan. A good punt pinned the Trojans deep but a fantastic 85 yard drive was capped when full back Jake Warry ploughed in from close range to double the lead.
Belfast would add to the lead in the second quarter. McVeigh was spreading the ball around nicely with rookie Aidan Gribbon catching a ball in the endzone and expertly dragging his feet, meaning his first career catch went for six points. It would soon be 28-0 when another new boy Adam Cole snagged a ball in the endzone to cap another smart Trojans drive. UCD bounced back soon after though, Donovan leading the students down the field to get off the mark.
The halftime score was 35-6 though as Mohamed Ramadan added to the offensive outburst catching an out route before taking it in from close range to score his first career touchdown. After the break UCD came back with a bang. The 28 point deficit was quickly reduced to seven with around 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Donovan was on fire in the second half, evading pressure, scrambling for yards as well as keeping his eyes downfield and finding and open receiver.
The Trojans offence though took over, after a stuttering third quarter. Jona Siri returned to the game after leaving just before halftime and he sparked the offence back to life with some solid running. McVeigh found David Richardson deep down the right sideline and the veteran was shoved out of bounds at the two yard line, with an unfortunate injury being suffered by a UCD defender. Siri took it in from two yards to restore the two score advantage before a 40 minute stoppage as the injured UCD player could be taken to hospital.
After the restart the Trojans turned the ball over on the very first play. A botched handoff between Donovan and his running back saw rookie defensive lineman Ross Thain dive on the loose ball giving the Trojans excellent field position to kill the game. Siri again made no mistake and brought up his hatrick with another strong run to cap a fantastic day for the star running back. Not even a late UCD consolation score could take the shine off a great start to the season for the Trojans, as they look to climb back to the top.
Belfast will be back in action on Sunday 26 March as they make another trip south to take on student opposition in the form of Trinity College Dublin.