Young Munster 26
Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) picked up a bonus point victory at College Park on Saturday to record their first win of the season in AIL Division 1A. Michael Silvester and James Fennelly put in strong shifts, as the College side ran out 37-26 winners at home to Young Munster. However, Trinity made hard work of it, giving away crucial penalties and making unforced errors which ultimately allowed Young Munster back into the game.
The home team needed a strong performance after their first three games ended in disappointment. Having amassed only two points in the league before Saturday’s match, head coach Tony Smeeth looked to get his charges back on track and gather some momentum. The hosts were helped by the return of full-back Silvester and winger Liam Turner. Young Munster headed into the game off the back of a home victory against Cork rivals UCC, so Trinity would have to produce a solid display to beat them.
The students got off to a bad start, as the visitors’ first attack forced the home side to give away a soft penalty. Young Munster fly-half Clayton Stewart made no mistake from the kicking tee, and it was the visitors who drew first blood in the second minute. His opposite number James Fennelly responded three minutes later, with his penalty bringing it back to 3-all. Trinity’s poor discipline proved to be the difference between the sides in the early stages, as the hosts conceded three more kickable penalties. Stewart only converted two of these however, missing a spot kick just to the left of the posts in the 12th minute.
DUFC squandered golden chances in the opening quarter, as they were plagued by a combination of unforced errors and disciplinary issues. A quick break from Silvester saw the home side come close to nabbing the opening try, but the visitors recovered well and the full-back was penalised for holding onto the ball on the ground. The College team’s defence was solid for the most part, but a few lapses in concentration allowed Young Munster to make a few breaks and threaten the Trinity line.
To make matters worse, Trinity lost scrum-half Rowan Osborne on the half-hour mark to injury. Osborne, who looked sharp for the home team in the early exchanges, was replaced by Conor Lowndes, and it looked like it would be a tough day at the office for Trinity. Stewart took advantage of the hosts’ anxiety with a few kicks behind the Trinity line which Fennelly barely managed to gather.
However, Silvester proved his worth on 37 minutes. After a promising attack from the visitors fizzled out, the full-back looped around and fired a pass to winger Colm Hogan. The captain danced past two defenders and charged down the left flank, offloading to Silvester for a vital five points. Fennelly was spot on with the difficult conversion, and the hosts suddenly found themselves 10-9 up. Centre James Hickey made another break moments later, passing to Silvester who crossed the line for his second try in as many minutes. Fennelly added the extras to give Trinity an eight point advantage at half time.
DUFC picked up where they left off after the break, with another penalty from Fennelly bringing the score to 20-9. Young Munster replied soon after, with winger Darragh O’Neill touching down to narrow the margin to six points. Stewart missed the conversion, and the score remained 20-14. Silvester stretched his legs, putting some smart kicks behind the visitors’ back line to give Trinity good field position. Another clever kick from the full-back was snatched by Turner who added another try to the home side’s tally. Five minutes later, Silvester blazed past the Young Munster defence on the left wing to complete his hat-trick. With the bonus point secured, Trinity had a 20-point advantage and the game appeared to be over heading into the final quarter.
But Silvester limped off with an apparent ankle injury on 65 minutes, with Rob Russell coming on to replace the U20 international. The Limerick team were far from slain, and poor defending gave the visitors some steam and allowed them to pile on the pressure. Trinity caved, and replacement lock Cian O’Dwyer was awarded a bizarre yellow card for holding onto the ball in the ruck. Regardless, Young Munster capitalised and scored two more tries to cut the Trinity lead to just eight points at 34-26. Trinity held their nerve for the final five minutes and Fennelly rounded off a perfect game from the tee with a penalty as the clock turned red. Final score: 37-26 to Trinity.
Smeeth was naturally pleased with his team’s performance, citing Silvester’s return as a key factor in the result. Speaking to Trinity News, Smeeth said: “[Silvester] made the difference today; him being back gives everyone a lot of confidence. To be honest, I thought we were going to win by more and I felt we should have won by more, but I’ll happily take a four-try bonus point win either. It is tough to win in this league so to win today is huge for us.
“Our penalty count was disappointing today, but what really disappoints me was that most of them were offensive penalties. But a win is a win – they’re a young team and I feel we’re just going to get better and better as the season goes on.” DUFC travel to bottom side Terenure College on Friday November 2.