Carlow’s raw power puts early end to cup campaign

Trinity team nonetheless standing after enthusiastic performance while Carlow’s experience ultimately sees them through

Trinity team nonetheless standing after enthusiastic performance while Carlow’s experience ultimately sees them through

DUFC: 10

The league may not yet be underway, but DUFC are already gearing up to the AIL campaign. College Park, awash with sunshine and American tourists, was the venue for the first round of the AIB Leinster Senior Cup against Co. Carlow. Coach Tony Smeeth, looking ahead to the tour to the United States, chose to pack the First XV off to St. Mary’s for a sterner challenge than Division 3 Carlow could provide. It was, therefore, an untried blend of second string and Under 20 players that was ultimately overwhelmed by their more physical opponents.

Trinity had the best of the opening period, and their opponents seemed bent on making their lives easier by conceding a string of penalties. Harry Murphy at out-half was establishing himself as the brains of the operation, and after good work from the forwards to crack open the Carlow 22, he went wide to the left. His pass was none the worse for kicking up a little dust; flanker Conor McGinn scooped up the ball and outpaced the cover to score an unconverted try.

Carlow struck back soon after when, after conceding a questionable penalty for hands on the deck, Trinity were marched ten metres further back for dissent. Greg Jacob bounced the kick off House 40 to make it 5-3.

Carlow were not adverse to a little indiscipline of their own: after conceding a penalty at the scrum, they too lost ground due to backchat. From the resulting lineout, the Trinity jumper’s legs were taken from under him. A few minutes later, openside Tommy Ratahi saw an instant yellow for his contribution – a dangerous tackle after Trinity went for the quick tap ball.

Trinity couldn’t take their chances, however; a forward rumble was held up over the line, and the resulting scrum went nowhere. Another golden opportunity, this time from a lineout, went a-begging soon after when Murphy ran into traffic. Carlow’s grizzled pack was starting to take a grip on the game, but in truth they were bigger all around the park – first Marshall, then Matthews were turned in the tackle by opposition backs, and the breakdown was becoming a lottery on Trinity ball.

This shift in momentum took on tangible form immediately after half-time, when a forward rumble gave Carlow their first try and an 8-5 lead. From the restart, a huge gap opened up for Ratahi, who used up some of his surplus energy from his stint on the bench to gallop into the Trinity half. The supporting runner knocked on, but from the resulting scrum Murphy was robbed by his opposite number and after a couple of phases Carlow mustered another try, this time converted.

The scrummage continues to have a touch of the “Here Be Dragons” about it, even in the modern era, and this worked to Trinity’s advantage, as the opposition’s utter dominance in the front row conceded as many penalties as it yielded. Nonetheless, the lack of good ball from the set-piece was a hindrance, and the backs had to live off scraps for most of the match. They made the best of it, though: from one strategic retreat by the pack, the ball was flung out to wing Neil Hanratty, who glided past one would-be tackler, stepped inside past a couple more, and tossed a nonchalant ball inside to Murphy in support, who finished off a great move.

15-10 was as close as it came, however: Carlow’s pack were finished the stronger. Trinity introduced a rake of fresh legs, but coming into a pack on the back foot, and with many playing out of position, the substitutes were, if anything, a liability. The crucial score came after Trinity were pushed off their own ball one time too many: two or three collisions later, the Carlow No. 8 was at the crest of a massive overlap and ran over untouched for the killer score. The final score was a combination of good luck and good hands, as the Carlow backs managed to cling onto a couple of wild passes to work a deserved fourth try. A triumph, then, for experience over youthful endeavour. At least, after the final whistle, the Trinity team were able to stand in their huddle: the grey and bald heads of Carlow had to go for a nice sit down.