The DUFC men emerged victorious after a ferocious battle with UCD in the 64th annual colours match on Wednesday night. While it was nip and tuck for much of the contest, Trinity were clinical towards the end, halting any hopes of a UCD comeback.
College Park proved an excellent venue, with an electric atmosphere on a cool spring night. Despite the wear and tear the pitch has endured over the season, it was the perfect choice for a fixture which is normally played in Donnybrook due to the crowd it attracts.
Strong start by Trinity
The day began well for UCD as their women’s team overcame Trinity with a last gasp try in the final play of the game to steal a 13-12 victory. The men didn’t start so well, allowing Trinity to dominate field position in the opening ten minutes. Their number 6 Michael Cawley was sent to the bin for a slap down and all signs pointed towards a Trinity victory.
Nonetheless, it was UCD who scored first as they turned the ball over, and executed a perfect chip and chase. They missed the conversion but it was the 14 man UCD team who drew first blood, showing that Trinity could not afford to lose concentration regardless of how well they were playing.
DUFC showed resolve and responded well with a blistering display of passing as they weaved the ball inside the UCD backline. Winger Max McFarland scored under the posts for an easy conversion putting the home side back on top to the delight of most of College Park.
While the Trinity backline seemed more capable of scoring at any given time, the UCD pack started the game better and with 10 minutes to go to half time they forced a penalty after a collapsed maul. UCD converted, putting themselves 8-7 up.
The second half began with the same intensity as the first, with Trinity again playing the better rugby. After an excellent blocked kick by number 8 Tom Ryan, Conor Kearns converted a penalty to retake the lead. He converted another penalty a few minutes later from a difficult angle to put Trinity up 13-8.
From the restart, UCD enjoyed a sustained period of strong attacking play inside Trinity’s 22. Winger Adam Byrne burst through the Trinity back line and while he was pulled down, his forwards forced the ball over a minute later. The try was duly converted putting UCD in front by two.
Match begins to open up
However DUFC refused to go into their shell and within 2 minutes they were camped inside the UCD 22 on the cricket pitch side. But a sickening crossing penalty foiled what seemed an inevitable try giving UCD some breathing room.
Yet, this moment of respite was short-lived as Max McFarland burst through the UCD defense and allowed his teammates to begin an onslaught on the UCD try line. This pressure proved too much for UCD as they saw their second yellow of the match with number 8 Peadar Timmons sent to the bin. While the UCD pack had enjoyed the better start, the DUFC forwards were dominant in the second half, outmuscling UCD at every given opportunity.
Trinity elected to go for the scrum from a penalty, a bold move, but as UCD had collapsed the previous scrum and their 8 was waiting in the bin it seemed the only option. Once again Trinity got a great shove on and as they drove towards the line, UCD were forced to collapse the scrum. This time the ref awarded a penalty try. Kearns slotted the conversion. 20-15 to the home side.
DUFC introduced some fresh legs in the form of Conor Gleeson who replaced Dermot O Flynn as they prepared for an expected UCD onslaught. But it was Trinity who put the next points on the board with Kearns tapping over a penalty in front of the posts, putting College up by 2 scores. Trinity weren’t safe yet however as some of the team must have remembered last year’s fixture where UCD stole the spoils with a double try salvo in the final 10 minutes. Despite this, UCD were visibly demoralised as their heads began to drop and they showed signs of fatigue.
But Peadar Timmons’ return from the bin seemed to galvanise the team. And after a blistering run down the flank, UCD were awarded a penalty. The kick drifted agonisingly close to the post but trailed wide at the last moment and the sizable crowd breathed a sigh of relief. This miss didn’t stem the UCD attack and if it weren’t for an unlucky bounce on a chasing kick they could have set up a grandstand finish.
The DUFC defense held firm and a couple of minutes later Tom Ryan touched down in the corner after an interception close to the halfway line. College missed the conversion but it didn’t matter as they emerged deserving victors on a 28-15 scoreline.
This was a massive victory for College, ending a five game losing streak in this fixture. And as “We are the Champions” by Queen blared out over the PA, a forgivingly tongue-in-cheek choice, it was clear to everyone in College Park that this was a strong statement on the health of Trinity rugby.