Wanderers Women – 7 Wanderers Men – 13
DUFC Women – 36 DUFC Men – 33
Walking into the Aviva was a surreal experience. A small dedicated crowd of fans and family walked into a huge, empty stadium awaiting the kick-off of an action packed day of rugby. Wanderers F.C. were celebrating their 150th anniversary and had organised a double bill of fixtures. The Dublin University F.C. (DUFC) Women’s and Men’s teams were going to take on their counterparts from Wanderers in what was set to be an exhilarating set of clashes. DUFC are Ireland’s oldest rugby club, and were credited in the match day programme with having inspired Wanderers to establish their own team.
The noise that erupted from the crowd when the women’s teams made their way onto the pitch was cacophonous. The atmosphere was that of any other match day in the Aviva. Both teams were making history before a ball was kicked, as they were the first non-national level women’s teams to play in the Lansdowne Road fortress. The sun was beating down and the match got underway in perfect conditions.
Trinity were stuck in their own half for nearly 15 minutes as Wanderers forced them into making mistakes. Luckily, Trinity steadied the ship a little with some solid defence but it wasn’t long before Wanderers were back in possession and looking for a try. With 20 minutes played, they got their reward as they managed to drive over the line from close range. An easy kick from fullback Elisa Corcoran gave Wanderers a 7-0 lead.
“DUFC are Ireland’s oldest rugby club, and were credited in the match day programme with having inspired Wanderers to establish their own team.”
But Trinity were not disheartened. With their first real attack of the game, the visiting side found themselves in a promising position. A flurry of tap and go penalties and a couple of quick passes put scrum-half Genevieve Ruesch in for a try. Unluckily, Honor McNamara’s conversion struck the upright which left Trinity behind 7-5.
On the stroke of half time, Trinity took the lead with a sensational try. A quick ball from the scrum found McNamara, who spun the ball out to the lightning fast Niamh O’Kelly with an overlap on the wing. She looked to be aiming for a pass but backed her own pace to beat two defenders and run all the way from the touchline right under the posts. No obstacle for McNamara, who added the extras to bring the score to 12-7.
Within five minutes of the second half they were over the line again with a brilliant team try. O’Kelly was once again instrumental as she created an overlap and nearly put Tara Coleman through for the score but for a last ditch tackle from Wanderers. After some quick offloads and passes, the ball fell to Áine Castles who looked like she was about to pass wide but deftly stepped inside her defender and casually touched the ball down. The kick went wide but Trinity’s lead grew to 17-7.
After that, the game settled back into a steady rhythm of abrasive conflicts. Trinity did well to hold off some impressive attacks by Wanderers but as the game entered the final ten minutes, Trinity moved it up a gear, scoring three tries. The first one was a drive from close range followed quickly by a sensational break by Castles direct from the restart. Bursting through the tackle, she ran unopposed to the try line, much to the delight of the crowd. Lastly, Doyle found herself on the wing and with a mighty fend ran over the line and under the posts, which was no more than her performance deserved. Scoring two of the three conversions meant that DUFC finished the game 36-7 victors.
Ten minutes later, it was time for the men’s fixture. Similar to the opening of the women’s match, DUFC were a little sloppy in the opening clashes. In particular, they struggled to deal with the power of the Wanderers’ scrum, giving away a couple of penalties early on. Luckily, the game was still scoreless as it approached the 20 minute mark, thanks in part to some very impressive defence from Trinity. Johnny McKeown appeared to be everywhere as he made tackles all over the park.
“The noise that erupted from the crowd when the women’s teams made their way onto the pitch was cacophonous.”
An incredible bit of play from Trinity saw them drive the home team from their own five metre line all the way outside the 22 before turning the ball over. They put the ball through the hands until it came to winger Ronan Quinn, who made an incredible break. Having gotten past the defensive line, he beat two more defenders before getting hit by the third. However, he managed to get the pass away to Billy O’Hora who cantered over the line for a try. Michael O’Kennedy split the posts with the conversion, giving Trinity a 7-0 lead after 25 minutes.
Wanderers were desperate to equalise before the break and they nearly did, twice. Firstly, an ankle tap by James Hickey stopped a certain try as Wanderers carved open the Trinity defence. The visitors managed to regroup briefly but Wanderers were on the front foot again soon enough and thought they had scored, only for the referee to call them back for a forward pass. In the end, they managed to put some points on the board when they kicked a penalty from 35 metres out. Both sides went to their huddles, exhausted, with the score 7-3 to Trinity.
Wanderers opened the second half well by pinning DUFC back to their own five metre line with a great kick over the top. However, they immediately conceded a penalty and Trinity kicked clear. The visitors secured their lineout and James Moriarty darted through a gap with a burst of acceleration. He spotted Quinn unmarked on the wing and popped through a perfect kick. Quinn ran onto it unopposed and scored right in the corner. The kick was pushed just wide but Trinity now had a little breathing room, having extended their lead to 12-3.
After some sustained pressure, Trinity did cough up a soft penalty for offside which Wanderers dutifully dispatched, making it a one score game again at 12-6. But Trinity were not to be discouraged. After some phase play, DUFC full back Luis Faria, who had been a constant nuisance for Wanderers, spotted a weak link in the defence and broke through before sending the ball out to Quinn who gleefully trotted over the line and under the posts for his second try of the match. James Fennelly, now on kicking duty, easily scored the conversion pushing Trinity’s lead to 19-6.
Wanderers luck went from bad to worse as one of their players was sent to the sin bin and it didn’t take long for DUFC to capitalise on the numbers advantage. Patrick Nulty scored a brilliant solo try when he took a quick free kick in his own half and burst into the Wanderers’ 22. Just when it looked like he was out of ideas, he threw a sublime dummy accompanied with an equally exceptional step which let him dart over the line. Shortly after, Trinity were over again. Wanderers’ defence was at sixes and sevens as Trinity put some fast passes together, allowing scrumhalf Tomas Killeen to put his name on the scorecard. Fennelly made no mistakes with either conversion and with minutes to go, Trinity were 33-6 ahead.
Wanderers did eventually succeed in crossing the line. With the clock ticking down and all their players back on the pitch, the home side drove over from close range and added the extra two points to reach double digits for the day. That was the last action of any consequence and as the final whistle went the final score was 33-13.
Both Trinity teams will be happy with their performances as they fought through to two comprehensive victories over impressive Wanderers sides. There are a lot of positives to be taken into the dressing rooms as they prepare for the start of the season. And while Trinity may have spoiled the party, so to speak, the crowd of fans, friends and family alike were all treated to an incredible rugby spectacle.