Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) were forced to share the spoils with University College Dublin (UCD) on Saturday, as the sides played out a 23-23 draw in their AIL Division 1 encounter at College Park. While they led for most of the match, unforced errors from the Trinity side allowed the visitors back into the game. The wet conditions hugely influenced the outcome of the game.
The home side were the better team early on, with UCD conceding four penalties inside the first 15 minutes. Trinity were far stronger in the scrum, putting huge pressure on the visitors’ front-row. Out-half James Fennelly kicked two penalties to give the hosts a 6-0 lead on 13 minutes.
UCD were wasteful with their limited number of chances – Tim Carroll in particular was guilty of squandering golden opportunities for UCD to get back into the game.
However, the Belfield side got a try midway through the first half. Full-back Conall Doherty added the extras to give UCD a 7-6 lead. Trinity responded with a great individual effort from captain Colm Hogan. His kick through on the left wing resulted in a footrace against the UCD back three, and while the bounce may have been fortunate, it helped Trinity to a 13-7 score. UCD nabbed a penalty to leave the score at 13-10 at the break.
From the restart, UCD began to play better. A good UCD maul resulting from a poor lineout by Trinity, required strong defensive pressure near the five metre line to halt the UCD offensive.
After this, play moved back into the UCD half and a well coordinated attacking line between loose head Bart Vermeulen and full back Rob Russell, through the middle of the UCD defense, led to an excellent try and conversion.
With the scoreline 18-10, UCD continued to attack DUFC and a hasty line clearance from Trinity landed straight back into UCD hands. However, before the pressure could begin to mount again, captain Colm Hogan, after charging up the field, landed a tremendous tackle to stifle the attacking threat.
For the rest of the game, however, the pressure continued to mount from the Belfield side, a dangerous tackle from Trinity on the hour mark resulted in a UCD penalty.
With the lead narrowed and seven points between the two sides, Trinity mounted an offensive move breaking wide to the right wing. Another high tackle resulted in a penalty, this time for the DUFC men and the score stood at 23-13 as both sides went into the last ten minutes of the game.
However, despite the rain slackening off, conditions underfoot continued to worsen. UCD were finally successful breaking through the DUFC defense to score a try. After UCD’s conversion, the scores stood at 23-20.
After DUFC kicked for touch from the restart, the resulting maul stripped UCD of possession. Trinity’s turnover resulted in a penalty from play for DUFC, however the distance proved too great for full back Rob Russell.
At 23-20 and in the dying moments of the game, UCD mounted one last assault on the DUFC defense. Trinity eventually conceded a penalty from the pressure which UCD duly converted. At 23-23, a draw was as good as a loss for coach Tony Smeeth’s side.
“I thought we had it, always thought we were gonna win it, the whole way through the game I thought we were going win it,” Smeeth said and rued his side’s missed chances. “It’s a tough league, the best league in the country, you’re not playing college rugby here, you’re playing senior rugby.”
Speaking to Trinity News after the game, captain Colm Hogan said: “It’s a good experience for a young team, so next week we’ll be back and stronger again and finish it off. It’s kind of sickening alright.” Hogan continued to say that the playing conditions were “always going to be a leveller” but described UCD as a “good defensive team” used to playing “high stakes, high pressure rugby, so a 10 point lead is nothing to them, we kind of relaxed a bit going 10 points ahead when we needed to drive on”.
DUFC play Cork Constitution FC next week in Temple Hill in their next AIL Division 1 fixture.