Dublin University Football Club (DUFC), Trinity’s Rugby team, won the Dudley Cup and the Conroy Cup at the Irish University Rugby Union’s annual Festival of Rugby this weekend.
This is DUFC’s third successive win of the Conroy Cup and the first time DUFC has housed the Dudley Cup since 1995. The Festival of Rugby, held this year in Terenure College RFC, is the largest third-level rugby event of the year, staged as the Rugby Intervarsities, with 22 teams and 550 players participating.
The Festival saw four DUFC teams compete across all competitions. The Kay Bowan Cup (women’s), the Maughan Scally cup (Junior men’s rugby) and the Conroy Cup (under 20s men’s rugby) all consisted of group games with the leaders of each group progressing to the final. The Dudley Cup (senior men’s rugby) was a robin round. DUFC had a very successful day, seeing three finals and bringing home two cups.
The Conroy Cup was the most highly-anticipated of the four competitions, by the club and spectators alike, as DUFC were seeking their third successive win in the prestigious competition. The DUFC Under-20s began their defence of the title in remarkable style, beating NUI Galway 38-5 in their opening game, playing a high standard of rugby that would continue throughout the day. DUFC caused a lot of trouble from their scrums, comfortably maintaining possession and generating tactical play to capitalise from every set-play opportunity they had. The positive attitude and disciplined play carried through in their second group game when the DUFC fended off a threatening University College Cork side to win 13-0. DUFC dominated possession in the game, with most of the game played in the UCC half.
DUFC demonstrated a great awareness of space, moving the ball across the pitch when the UCC defence closed the space between the forwards and the goal line. Under constant pressure from the promising DUFC side, the UCC defence did well to keep Trinity from capitalising on their attacking play. It was patient passing play, waiting for the space to open, that rewarded Trinity with their only try of the game when the right winger received a wide ball, side-stepped the waiting UCC defender and brought the ball over the line. The wins guaranteed the Trinity side a spot in the cup final.
DUFC faced their Belfield rivals, UCD, in the final. Unlike the previous two Trinity games, in which the DUFC men dominated play, UCD were a tougher and more physical challenge. Out-half, Jack Balbeirne, opening the scoring when he successfully placed a DUFC penalty between the posts, but Trinity’s lead was short lived when UCD managed to turn over the ball and move wide to find the space and break away for a converted try, giving them a 7-3 lead at half-time. The UCD defence was determined not to relinquish their lead, with a trojan performance holding off the pressing Trinity play. With mounting pressure from Trinity and the possession kept through careful touch and go play, a score for the Trinity side seemed imminent, and sure enough, the break eventually came for them through flanker Tony Boyd, cancelling out the early UCD try and putting Trinity a point ahead. Although the conversion wasn’t completed by Balbeirne, he later widened their lead and sealed their victory with a penalty kick. The DUFC ended the game 11-7 winners over UCD, and retain the Conroy Cup for a third year.
DUFC also saw success in the Dudley Cup with their First XV, led by Nick McCarthy. DUFC overcame last year’s winners Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) 44-12 in a true spectacle of the senior game. In contrast to the women’s game that had graced the same pitch that morning, the senior men were much more confident in their kicking game, chasing and creating space by putting their boots to the ball. Trinity contested well in the air, successful in most of their challenges for possession. Great communication, preparation and planning proved to be the difference between the two sides, aiding Trinity’s ability to maintain possession and break down the QUB defence. This was most evident in Trinity’s first try in which a DUFC line out was received and the team immediately formed a maul, which essentially walked the ball over the line. A very similar move was done with the same result in their match against UCC.
Trinity outplayed UCC in their final match of the day to win 28-0. The wear of the day’s rugby was evident in the game as the pace and energy from both teams was a little slow, but no less physical and demanding. It took cohesive team play, such as the maul, or bursts of individual talent to inspire the DUFC tries from Tim Maupin and Conor Kearns. The Trinity defence were strong and disciplined, quickly and decisively dealing with any UCC attacking breaks. The win saw DUFC lift the Dudley Cup for the first time since 1995.
The DUFC Ladies had a disappointing day in the Kay Bowan cup, having drawn a challenging group. They lost their opening game against NUI Galway 24-0. Although NUI Galway dominated the possession and play for most of the first half, the determined DUFC defence managed to prevent Galway from scoring. It was only when DUFC were brought down to 14 players, following a sin binning, that Galway took full advantage of the extra player with Rhona Jullian of NUIG intercepting a Trinity pass and carring the ball over the line. A DUFC injury early in the second half was a huge blow to the squad’s strength and morale and allowed NUI Galway to break away. NUI Galway went on to beat UCD in the final, winning the Kay Bowan cup for the third year running. The DUFC Ladies redeemed themselves in their second game drawing 5-5 with UCC. With a number of key players out of action on the day, DUFC Ladies will take a lot of lessons from the competition that should be employed when they face Galway again in their next league game.
In the Maughan Scally cup, the DUFC 3rd XV beat NUIG and UCC in their group games. Despite getting an early lead in the final against UCD, DUFC could not hold onto it and UCD stepped up their game in the closing minutes to beat the Trinity men 11-5.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the Conroy Cup as the Conway Cup.