By Conor Bates
Jim Flynn was naturally hopeful before his side’s game against Old Belvedere: “this game will tell a tale in itself” said the U21 Rugby manager. The tale he desired would not be a Trinity horror story on a dark Halloween evening. The sides lined out at College Park on a pitch which was bearing the scars of many training sessions and looking very cut-up and patchy in spots. The weather was dry but the pitch was slick: perfect conditions for rugby.
Trinity received the opening kick-off and the game with a spell of nervous kicking from both sides. Trinity settled in well, taking advantage of many of the lineouts which followed the kicks. Forwards Will Scott, Jack Kelly and Daragh Kiely rose highest to bring in dead-straight throws from Paddy Carroll: a master-class in all round lineout play. They made solid progress from as early as the third minute, with powerful, effective mauling and forward play and quick passing to the backs, provided by scrum-half David Fanagan. Indeed, there was only one moment of chance for Belvedere in the opening exchanges when they broke quickly from a penalty scrum, but flanker Warren Larkin was on hand to make a textbook tackle.
Trinity began to dominate in all aspects, in particular the lineout, even winning some of the opposition’s throw-in’s and continued to battle their way up-field. They were rewarded with a penalty in the 8 minute for an offside. Unfortunately, this was missed by full-back Barry McGuinness.
They retained the ball well, made monster breaks and hit hard on defence. The fruit of their labour was a penalty in the ninth minute which was dispatched to the corner for another lineout. Trinity again won possession and almost converted it for a try in the 11th minute. Their forward momentum was unfortunately halted when fly-half Jack Costigan committed a forward pass on the 5 metre line, after a strong tackle. In reality, it was all Trinity for the first ten minutes.
Trinity continued to drive forward and attack the space, getting to the 10 metre line again before turning over the ball. Belvo began to respond to the mounting pressure from their Premier Division opponents and slowly started to carry the ball towards the Trinity end line.
However, Trinity were equal to Belvedere’s probing and centre Ed Barry carried the ball tenaciously, forcing a penalty in the 25th minute. Again, Trinity played for the corner, with Costigan setting up another lineout for the boys in red and black. The resultant rucks moved the ball the last ten metres as flanker Warren Larkin powered over the line for the game’s opening score: a try in the corner. Full-back McGuinness missed the conversion to make it 5-0 after 27 minutes.
After the restart it was more of the some from Trinity. But Belvedere dug in, and began to finally make headway into the Trinity defence. Uncharacteristic turnovers and quick breaks from the Belvo centres against the run of play granted them glimpses of opportunity. In the 32nd minute, the admirable Trinity defence could withstand no longer, as Belvedere fly-half Gearoid McDonald dived over beside the post, and converted himself, to make it 7-5 in favour of the visitors.
Trinity never gave up and recovered possession after the restart. As half time closed in, Belvo began to force the issue, and Trinity conceded a penalty for crossing. McDonald missed from his position, wide on the right.
Half time came with the score 5-7, and this game becoming more of a rollercoaster and more intriguing with every second. Expletives and encouragement poured in from all of the managers in this bruising display of forward bulk and power.
From the restart Trinity maintained their composure. They drove well into challenges, gaining ground, but ultimately conceding the ball close to goal as the result of a penalty. Belvo responded in kind, throwing everything at Trinity winning scrums and forcing some last ditch tackles. As they mounted pressure they appeared to cut the defence open, but a tackle from winger Ariel Roblez prevented any further movement. They game continued in the vein of a heavyweight fight for the next 15 minutes. They made subs as their courageous frontline began to succumb to the effects of 60 minutes of intense rugby.
In the 60th minute, Belvo struck a blow when they were rewarded a penalty in front of goal, 15 metres out, which was easily converted.
They were to have the next sucker punch as well, when a brief moment of sloppy Trinity defence allowed Belvo a try in the corner. They failed to convert, leaving the score at 15-5, in the 70th minute.
As desperation began to set in for a side that didn’t deserve to be losing, the home side began to become more adventurous in their ball carrying.
They were rewarded very late on when Ed Barry offloaded to Rob Creuss Callaghan, who dived over beside the post. His try was converted by winger Niyi Adeolukan. With time running away on them, Trinity tried their best to keep the ball in play, and in true testament to their character, they did so very effectively.
Ultimately, however, it was to be Belvedere’s day, as they forced the ball over the touchline to receive the spoils of war, beating Trinity 15-12.
In truth, Trinity had played much better and had just not scored enough points. For a team which has less weeks’ worth of practice behind them than most of their group rivals, they performed exceptionally. They never gave up at any stage, and admittedly dominated many aspects of the game.
Dublin University under-21s have previously beaten St. Mary’s and Old Wesley, and this loss will do little to dent their confidence, as they continue to push for league glory.