Rugby team clinches AIL opener

Sound defence seals victory as Trinity edge past “bogey team” at College Park

Sound defence seals victory as Trinity edge past “bogey team” at College Park


Last Saturday’s contest between DUFC and Clonakilty was, by virtue of the early kick-off, the first game of the new AIL season, and if the standard of play wasn’t exactly vintage, the weather conditions were classic Irish rugby. The Trinity boys weathered a blustery, drizzly afternoon by pouncing upon the few scoring opportunities that came their way, and shutting the door firmly on any chances for their opponents.

Coach Tony Smeeth had described Clonakilty as Trinity’s “bogey team” before the game, and in a neat twist of fate it was their hefty tight-head Tony Bogue – affectionately referred to as “Bogey” by the travelling supporters – who led the way in the demolition of the DUFC scrum. It was only from the lineout, which functioned like a dream with the exception of one or two wind-wrecked throws, that DUFC were able to establish a solid attacking platform.

Platform or not, scores were thin on the ground in the first half, with out-half Michael Boland squandering a relatively simple penalty opportunity in the second minute. He was nearly made to rue it soon afterwards, when DUFC were penalised for holding on and Clonakilty sought to make use of the wind from beyond the ten metre line. They missed too.

For the next half an hour, both sides engaged in a knocking-on contest, with Trinity just about shading it. Clonakilty didn’t seem able to put their advantage in the resulting scrums to good use – poor service from the base and slow ball from subsequent breakdowns hampered their attacking efforts. They resorted to the boot, and it was when a series of poor kicks – the first of many such exchanges – was finally ended by Scott LaValla, whose determined chasing netted him an indecisive Clonakilty back. One crunching tackle and some good rucking later, the arm went up; Boland redeemed himself by addressing the ball sweetly and putting DUFC in the lead.

That aside, Trinity didn’t have the required muscle to force their way through the red shirts, despite game attempts by John Byrne and Brian Coyle. Their one clear-cut chance came when Boland ignored the posts to go for touch after Clonakilty infringed at the breakdown. A series of forward drives were halted just short of the line, and when the ball went wide a basic move broke down in crossing. The backs weren’t threatening at all, in fact, and even made a rare defensive blunder when fullback Paul Gillespie dropped an aimless Garryowen just before halftime. A retreating pack cracked at the resulting scrum, No. 8 Coyle saw yellow, and Clonakilty knocked over a morale-denting equaliser to make it 3-3 at the interval.

Pat Danahy was put in on the left wing in an effort to sharpen the backline’s claws, but with Coyle in the bin Clonakilty stepped up a gear and began to make inroads into the Trinity defence. The home side were up for the challenge, though – with captain Shane Young to the fore, the big hits started coming in. The replacement Clonakilty scrum-half looked sharp initially, but his shine wore off after being hit hard behind the ruck by LaValla in a typical spot of spoiling by the Trinity pack.

Ironically, given Trinity’s continued difficulties at scrum time, it was a penalty conceded by the opposition front row that gave them the lead. Boland pocketed a routine three points, having put in an almighty relieving kick to get into the Clonakilty half in the first place. The Corkmen weren’t making life easy for themselves – Mr. Peake let them away with nothing – and their tendency to infringe at the breakdown was getting increasingly hazardous to their health with Boland getting his kicking in order. On around the 55 minute mark, the out-half hauled his side into the Clonakilty 22 for the first time in the half with a penalty to the right touchline. The lineout proved its worth again – a good take and neat manoeuvre allowed Coyle to celebrate his return from the infamy of the bin with a try in the right-hand corner. Boland put the seal on a great spell by squeezing over a difficult conversion.

Clonakilty huffed and puffed, but the house stood firm: Young, Murdoch and Byrne all put bodies on the line, and move after plodding move faltered as Trinity refused to allow them clean possession – Tristan Goodbody typifying the opportunistic spirit with his dive onto a loose ball at the base of the ruck to break up another Clonakilty attack. The attacking effort never got going, however, with ineffectual variations on a crash ball to 12 the only move in town. It didn’t matter much, as the match petered out in a pattern of repeated turnovers between the 22s. As one away supporter put it “you’d get old watching this carry-on”, but Trinity had the cushion and can be happy with how their defence held up. Fittingly, the final whistle came after DUFC had wrested possession from their opponents at the breakdown yet again. It wasn’t quite a good start to the season, but with three points in the bag, nobody around College Park was complaining.