DUFC’s Senior XV’s winless woes continued on Thursday night as they fell to a 31-7 defeat against a strong Clontarf side in College Park. Despite brave defence in the first half, fatigue and inexperience proved critical, as the home side eventually caved to the overwhelming pressure exerted by their opponents.
With many of his key players on interprovincial duty, coach Tony Smeeth was forced to dip into the U20’s squads in order to field a matchday squad. On top of this, the Clontarf team contained six ex-Trinity players. While the Leinster Senior League is seen as merely a warm-up competition ahead of the All-Ireland League, Smeeth admitted that beating Clontarf would prove a tall order.
From the kick-off, DUFC were on the back foot, with the visitors pinning them back in their own 22. Despite a fiery and physical attack, Clontarf failed to convert their chances, thanks to a combination of valiant defence from the hosts and their own ill discipline.
Throughout the first half, the visitors conceded soft penalties, which Trinity out-half James Flannelly booted into touch to clear his lines. Trinity’s defence was outstanding in the early periods, with full-back Phil Murphy serving up a crunching tackle on his opposite number.
But Clontarf broke the deadlock on the 21st minute, when their rapid passing allowed them to create an overlap on the right wing and run in the opening try. However the young student side showed their character just before the break, when on their own line, they forced a penalty to end the half on a positive note.
Clontarf’s unforced errors continued as the second half got underway, with poor handling preventing them from stretching their lead. An early try however seemed to settle them, as Trinity’s defence were again unable to catch the scorer, this time on the left wing.
Finally, Trinity’s brave defence was rewarded, as a clever bit of interplay between the backs allowed Murphy to break down the right wing and sprint in from halfway. While they missed the conversion, a 12-5 scoreline seemed to motivate the under-strength side.
Clontarf showed their professionalism, as the exhausted home team began to lose concentration and make silly errors. With their energy levels low, Clontarf began to land more heavy punches, collecting three more tries on their way to a comfortable victory.
After the game, Smeeth was honest in his reflections: “It’s the result we all expected. They’re an incredible outfit and we were down on players, there’s not much to say after that. We just have to regroup and prepare for the next match.”
DUFC’s next game is against Lansdowne, last year’s AIL Division 1A champions, in Lansdowne Road next Saturday September 15.