Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) are up to fourth place in the All-Ireland League (AIL) Division 1A thanks to a 31-19 win against Shannon on Saturday. The students secured a bonus-point victory in College Park, with tries from Dan Sheehan and Liam Turner the pick of the bunch. Shannon’s scrum caused problems for the Trinity pack, and the college side conceded a few soft scores to keep the visitors in the game. However, Trinity also got a few lucky breaks in the match, which was ultimately the difference between the two teams.
Out-half James Fennelly had a flawless game with the boot to see the team’s winning streak extend to three matches.
DUFC made a number of changes to the side that won away to Terenure earlier this month. Bart Vermeulen and Joe Horan made way in the front row for Giuseppe Coyne and Dan Sheehan respectively, while Johnny McKeown replaced Patrick Nulty at blindside flanker. Rowan Osborne returned from injury at scrum-half, while Phil Murphy came in at inside centre, with James Hickey pushed to outside centre in place of Jack Kelly who was on Leinster duty on Friday night. A late change saw Donal Liddy come in at right wing to replace captain Colm Hogan. Shannon came into the game off the back of a 31-20 victory at home to University College Cork (UCC).
Trinity were very quick off the mark, applying huge attacking pressure with the kickoff. The students nabbed their first try as early as the third minute, with Shannon unable to cope with the hosts’ early onslaught. Fennelly slotted over the conversion to give them a 7-0 lead.
Shannon settled into the game soon after, with out-half Conor Fitzgerald marshalling his troops well to create some exciting plays. The Limerick side dominated at the scrum, heaping the pressure on Trinity tighthead Dylan Doyle and earning crucial penalties. The visitors almost grabbed a try of their own after superb offensive play, with an unfortunate knock-on over the line denying centre Pa Ryan.
However, the scrum was still working for Shannon, and with the penalties piling up at the set piece, Doyle was sent to the sin-bin. With the man advantage, full back Jake Flannery crossed the whitewash to get the visitors on the board. Fitzgerald added the extras to level the score. Shannon almost took the lead on 33 minutes but the referee penalised them for obstruction.
Trinity’s impressive attacking drive kept Shannon in a state of defensive flux and when they forced a penalty before half time, Fennelly made no mistake with the kick to lead 10-7 at the break.
Trinity began to dominate in attack in the second half. On 46 minutes, the students made a terrific break through the centre at half way. Sloppy Shannon defence did nothing to halt their momentum and Sheehan touched down in the left corner for DUFC’s second try. Fennelly nailed the difficult touchline to give them a ten-point cushion.
Shannon responded ten minutes later, with debutant Craig Casey scoring under the posts to give Fitzgerald the early conversion. Trinity gained confidence in the scrum, with replacement tighthead Thomas Clarkson giving Osborne a solid foundation for attacks.
The sides wrestled with possession in midfield; neither side were able to execute at key moments and both clocked up unforced errors and knock ons. In the 63rd minute, Hickey’s strong all-around performance was rewarded with a sumptuous try. He also had a key role five minutes later, releasing full back Liam Turner to grab the precious fourth try. Fennelly rounded off his perfect game from the tee to give Trinity a dominant 31-14 lead.
Fortune was also on the hosts’ side on the day, with an uncharacteristic dropped ball from Fitzgerald epitomising Shannon’s frustration. Despite the setbacks, the visitors refused to surrender, and when winger Ikem Ugwueru crossed for an easy try with ten minutes to go, both sides prepared for a tense finale.
However, Trinity survived a late surge from the Limerick team to regain possession, which Fennelly booted into touch to seal a well-earned victory.
Reflecting on the victory, coach Tony Smeeth was pleased overall with his team’s display: “I’m very satisfied, because they’re a good team – they’re a well a coached team as we’ve faced this year. We were under a lot of pressure from the set piece early on. Once we made a couple of adjustments, we got on top. I thought they got a couple of soft tries today, but overall our defence was good. We got lucky with the bounce of the ball a few times, which you need to beat a good team like Shannon, but to get a bonus-point win against Shannon at home is tremendous.”
DUFC make the trip to UCC next Saturday with a 3pm kickoff. Elsewhere, University College Dublin (UCD) fell to a 31-3 defeat at home to Cork Constitution.