Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) suffered a second consecutive loss to start the season, away to University College Dublin this weekend. The home side were able to avenge their loss to DUFC from last year with a combination of deadly counter-attacking play and indiscipline from the visitors, who committed eleven infringements.
In stark contrast to the miserable conditions last week’s contest against UCC, Trinity will have been thankful that an unseasonably mild October afternoon greeted them in the UCD Bowl, along with a strong contingent of loyal supporters who had travelled to see the match. It did not take long for the home side to set the tone as some skilled hands in midfield saw outside centre, Andy Marks, break away to find acres of space. Despite a brilliant effort from Colm Hogan to bring the Belfield flier to ground, the ball came to the UCD skipper, Johnny Guy, who touched down in the corner. Outhalf David Moran’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the scoreline read 5-0 to the hosts with barely two minutes on the clock.
Trinity’s trademark aggressive defence began to pay off then, as the hosts were driven backwards and Johnny McKeown forced a knock-on. After a flurry of penalties and errors from both teams culminated with an uncharacteristic mistake from Trinity hooker, Mark Nicholson, he was penalised for a crooked throw at the lineout.
Shortly after, UCD looked to have scored in the corner, despite the best efforts of Trinity’s defence. However, the referee was informed by his touch judge of foul play at the breakdown, and the try was overturned. After winning the lineout from their penalty kick, DUFC pressed the attack, and the home side struggled to cope with the relentless onslaught. But it all came to nought after a knock on. 21 minutes in and the visitors had yet to open their account on the scoreboard, with handling errors and poorly timed infringements sapping any momentum they built during their attacking phases.
However, Trinity managed to rally, and a break from Hogan followed by some strong ball carrying from Max Kearney put McKeown over the line. Trinity outhalf Micheal O’Kennedy converted the try giving the visitors the lead for the first time in the contest at 7-5.
Trinity now had some momentum and used it to their advantage. An unlikely break from prop Joe McCarthy saw them put further pressure on the Belfield men. Soon enough they had crossed the whitewash, with Kearney touching down off a driving maul. O’Kennedy was unable to add the extras, and DUFC now held a 12-5 lead.
This didn’t last long, however, as UCD’s Marks doubled his tally for the day scoring immediately after the restart. Moran made no mistake this time and tied the game at 12-12. This was not the last bit of drama in the half as Trinity winger Ronan Quinn found captain James Hickey with a deft offload, allowing Trinity to threaten again. But the pressure dropped when a knock-on by UCD saw a scrum awarded to Trinity. Calls from the crowd went unheeded as the referee decided not to issue a yellow card to UCD’s Johnny Guy who looked to have deliberately knocked the ball on with a potential overlap in DUFC’s favour. As the whistle was blown for halftime, the scoreline read twelve points apiece, with the clash very much for the taking for either side.
Both sides opted for fresh legs for the second half, Colm Hogan was replaced by James Fennelly, and Ruben Pim replaced Max Kearney. Ireland U-20 prop, Giuseppe Coyne, replaced Bart Vermeulen and made an immediate impact by forcing a penalty during a scrum and giving the ball back to Trinity. However, this dominance soon cracked and with the ball turned over yet again by an avoidable penalty, UCD slotted a kick to take the lead, 15-12.
Following a period of sustained pressure inside Trinity’s 22, Hickey and the Trinity front row received a stern warning from the referee due to repeated infringements at scrum time. During the next attacking phase, with 64 minutes gone on the clock, the referee’s patience finally wore thin and McKeown was sin-binned for being offside at the breakdown. Moran’s kick was on target again to increase UCD’s lead, with the scoreline now reading 18-12.
Despite playing a man down, Trinity showed incredible resilience after some great link-up play between Fennelly and Twomey put Hickey under the posts at the 70 minute mark. Fennelly converted to give Trinity the lead for the second time, 19-18. Unfortunately, the advantage of the hosts’ extra man soon showed. A break by Marks set up a move that put second row Tom Treacy in the corner but Moran’s so-so day at the kicking tee day continued, missing his third kick of the match, making it a one score game at 23-19.
Despite McKeown returning to the field of play, any chances of victory for the visitors were soon dashed. Marks raced away from a pick and go and scrambled under the posts to secure his hat-trick, and put the game beyond any doubt. With the conversion added, the score was 30-19 with less than five minutes left to play.
Patrick Nulty was unlucky not to secure a try under the posts as the referee called back play for a forward pass, making him an increasingly unpopular character with the visiting fans. Trinity went searching for a score which would secure a losing bonus point but it was not to be. A miscommunication at the lineout handed the ball back to UCD who were able to run down the clock before kicking into touch to avenge their home loss to Trinity last year with a 30-19 win.
Unlike last week, where they were thoroughly beaten at home to UCC, DUFC will feel they left a win on the park in Belfield. In particular, Trinity will rue their ill discipline, especially surrounding set pieces. Tony Smeeth’s men remain winless from two games in their All-Ireland League campaign and will hope to right the ship at home to Garryowen next week.