DULFC fell to NUIG in the final SSI match before the Christmas break. Despite the deceptive scoreline, Trinity remained competitive throughout and only a flurry of tries by NUIG in the closing minutes separated the teams.
In the first half, the spectators in a bitterly cold College Park were treated to a strong defensive showing by both sides. NUIG spent most of the half camped inside Trinity’s territory but were unable to get over the try line, as Trinity put up a ferocious defense. This period was disrupted by a few line breaks by Captain Niamh Byrne and full-back Bridget Amoako who cut through through Galway’s defense to give their teammates some respite.
Despite starting on the back foot, Trinity closed the half with a fine spell of attacking rugby. This passage began with prop Julia Bauer forcing herself through the NUIG line and storming down the pitch. Afterwards DULFC enjoyed a period of dominance, and with a series of threatening attacks on the Galway line, the inevitability of a try loomed large.
But it did not come until the start of the second half. Ashleigh Payne, who had an excellent game, once again broke through the Galway defense, with captain Niamh Byrne finishing for the opening score of the match. Payne converted and Trinity lead 7-0.
NUIG were quick to respond however, with their flyhalf touching down in the corner and although they missed the conversion, 5 minutes later the Galwegians scored in the corner once more to wrestle back the lead. This was a pivotal moment, as from the restart NUIG’s outside centre shrugged off challenges by a couple of Trinity’s defenders and ran under the posts for their third try of the match.
From the following restart, Galway muscled their way to the corner and after an intense siege with some excellent defending, forced themselves over. Their next try was similar but NUIG moved the ball wide and with extra numbers they found their way over the try line to dampen any lingering hopes of a comeback.
There were a number of injuries throughout and at one point the match was stopped for over 10 minutes. Both teams were encouraged to keep moving with the temperature dropping as the night progressed. But the intensity never really wavered. As injured Trinity forward, Loulou Catinot, urged her team “You don’t want to be miserable (after the match) because you didn’t hit hard enough”. And they certainly listened, the cold didn’t really seem to affect either team’s physicality. The only break for the players was when there was a scrum – which were uncontested – due to Galway’s missing prop.
NUIG kicked well throughout which really contributed to the dominance of field position they had for most of the match. Their ability to quickly gain field position from the boot, which Trinity failed to do, was crucial. While Trinity fielded well and often used these kicks as a platform to attack, with Amoako particularly impressive when returning kicks, they ultimately meant that DULFC had a lot more to do than their opponents.
Another issue for DULFC was their repeated attempts to offload during the tackle. NUIG were usually wise to it and if the pass didn’t go to hand they were quick to dive on the loose ball. These turnovers proved costly, especially when Trinity were attacking inside Galway’s 22.
While this is the second loss in a row for Trinity, there are some positives to be gleaned from their performance. They proved themselves adept at dodging or breaking tackles and with some excellent attacking play from deep inside their own territory there was always the sense that they could score at any moment. Hopefully, the team can build upon their strengths and emerge from the Christmas break stronger than ever.