DUFC’s Senior XV put in a strong performance away from home against Division 1A veterans Clontarf in a scintillating game on Saturday afternoon , but unfortunately came up short, losing 29-24. This fixture has been dominated in recent years by Clontarf and they appeared to be expecting a lot less of the students, who showed character by edging their way back from a 22-10 deficit at halftime, against a side packed with current and former professionals of the game.
It was a tense and cagey affair from the off in Castle Avenue, with both teams giving away early penalties and the scoreline lying at 3-3 after only a few minutes. The home side were the first to cross the whitewash for a try, winger Rob McGrath crossing after Clontarf built phases with some big carries from their heavy forward pack. DUFC didn’t take long to strike back, as outhalf James Fennelly poked through a delicate grubber kick for last year’s Ireland U20’s Captain and Trinity wing Jack Kelly to finish in the corner. The conversion brought the score to 10-8 to the visitors.
Unfortunately, that was to be Trinity’s final score of the half, as Clontarf responded with a powerful try courtesy of a pick and go effort from Leinster’s Tony Ryan. Following this, the home side were also awarded a questionable penalty try, as college scrumhalf Rowan Osbourne was yellow carded for holding back an opponent attempting to chase down a grubber kick that bounced down near the Trinity tryline. The students responded admirably while down to 14 men, almost scoring off a sharp linebreak from replacement scrumhalf Danny Joyce before the halftime whistle sounded, although they were unable to finish off the opportunity.
DUFC came flying out of the blocks in the second half, applying huge pressure to the Clontarf tryline, before captain Michael Courtney crossed after some neat interplay out wide, bringing the score to 22-17. The students were attempting to bring a dynamic and high tempo brand of rugby to the game, but were hampered somewhat by the power of the Clontarf pack which suited the boggy conditions underfoot. This showed again when the home side responded with a try for center Matt D’Arcy, who crossed under the posts after sustained pressure on the Trinity line. The try was converted by outhalf David Joyce, bringing the score to 29-17.
Trinity would not surrender, however, and showed tremendous heart to fight back up the field. Good carrying work from hooker Paddy Finlay, as well as a strong effort at the breakdown area from the rest of the pack, left space outside for Michael Sylvester to make some good yardage, although the conditions underfoot again proved to be a significant factor in hampering progress.
Sustained pressure deep inside the Clontarf half led to them giving up two yellow cards for separate instances, and the students eventually took advantage after the dynamic pairing of James Fennelly and Sylvester produced yet another brilliant chip and chase try, bringing the score to 29-24 with less than ten to play.
The final few minutes were incredibly physical, with both sides exchanging possession and looking to build phases in the middle of the park. However, both sides defences were desperate and accurate, with thumping tackles coming in from both sides for the remainder of a match. A minor brawl erupted with less than five minutes to play, resulting in an original yellow card against Tarf and Leinster Tighthead Royce Burke-Flynn for dropping a knee on Trinity replacement hooker Dan Sheehan. However, he reacted incredibly negatively towards the referee and was thus given an early shower as he was shown a red card. The rest of the game took place around the halfway line, as the students threw themselves at the Clontarf attack attempting to win back the ball, but to no avail, as the home side held on to take the win.
DUFC managed at least to pick up a losing bonus point, and stay out of the relegation zone at the bottom of the table. They face Clontarf again at home next on the 9th of December, and, with Captain Burke-Flynn likely to face ban time, will look to press on from this strong performance and steal a win from the 2016 AIL Champions.