Tense match for DUFC against Malone FC

Angus Lloyd

Staff Writer

On Saturday last DUFC registered their first win of the season in the Ulster Bank 1B league in a nail biting encounter with Malone RFC of Belfast. The game was played at DUFC’s temporary home ground of Monkstown Rugby Club. It was a must win game for the home side as a loss would have put them eight points adrift at the bottom of the table, a situation that would be tough to resurrect.

DUFC started the game missing some key players in the backline through injury; centre Paddy Lavelle and wing Niyi Adeolokun, two of DUFC’s most experienced campaigners, both had to watch from the sideline.

The students began confidently and mauled the ball close to the opposition’s line. The ball was then moved left to inside centre Colton Cariaga, who showed great footwork to beat two defenders and stretch over the line for the game’s opening try. The conversion was missed but DUFC led 5-0 and had the strong start they were wanted. But Malone, who were also struggling for wins this season, had come to play and played an expansive style of rugby much like the home side. Their persistence was soon rewarded with a penalty just outside the 22 meter line which was converted to bring the visitors back within two points.

The first half provided some exciting play from both sides but neither team were really able to convert their opportunities largely due to handling errors or infringements. Towards the end of the first half DUFC began to get on the wrong side of the referee who eventually had had enough and sent two of the home side to the sin bin in quick succession, first Richie Halpin for an alleged tip-tackle and then Martin Kelly for side entry at a maul.

With the students down to 13, the visitors took this opportunity to get on the front foot. Just before the half time whistle Malone took the lead with a try from close in. They duly converted and went into the break 10-5 up. Shortly after halftime Malone stretched their lead out to 8 points with another penalty. DUFC were struggling with their continuity and were beginning to let their heads drop. But a moment of inspiration came when the students attacked deep into the oppositions 22. After some strong carries from the pack the ball eventually found its way into the arms of fullback Jack Fitzpatrick who barrelled over the line to score DUFC’s second try of the game. Outside centre Conor Kearns converted to bring the home side back to within one point. This represented a massive confidence boost to the home side and led to a big swing in momentum.

“Towards the end of the first half DUFC began to get on the wrong side of the referee who eventually had had enough and sent two of the home side to the sin bin.” 

Only fives minutes later the students were on the attack again. Ariel Robles pounced on a loose ball and kicked it ahead. A frantic chase by Kearns and wing Caleb Morrison ensued, resulting in a penalty try for DUFC. Kearns was alleged to have been pushed as he tried to dive on the ball. The infringing player was duly sent to the bin. The try was converted and DUFC lead 19-13 with fifteen minutes remaining.

But much to the dismay of the crowd Malone weren’t done yet. With a man down they pressed hard and scored their second converted try of the game. This made it a one point game with ten minutes to go.

As the onlookers at Monkstown RFC’s ground grew more and more anxious by the minute, the players remained calm and the experience amongst the team began to tell. DUFC worked their way patiently into the oppositions half and were rewarded with a penalty. Kearns managed to control his nerves and converted the three points.  The final seven minutes of the match were not for the faint hearted. Malone put the home side under extreme pressure in the closing moments. In the second last play of the game, the visitors patiently went through 21 phases, eventually working themselves into a drop goal position but thankfully the effort was put wide.

With the last play of the game DUFC restarted with a 22 drop out and the visitors had one final attack. Again they held onto the ball and attacked with accuracy and precision but the students were not going to let this one go. The home side defended heroically as Malone went through an impressive 28 phases before DUFC finally forced the error only yards from the try line. The students’ defence in these closing minutes was a reminder of the capabilities of this young team. A sloppy performance at times but great passion and resilience shone throughout and in the end DUFC deserved the win.

With another massive fixture next week against Blackrock College RFC the students will have to work on their handling errors and penalty count, but all in all there is now something still worth fighting for.