In a gruelling encounter in College Park, Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) were able to edge out Terenure this afternoon. The slender 10-7 win means Trinity are in the top four and in the running for an All-Ireland League (AIL) play-off.
Having come into the match on the edge of the top four and a spot in the playoffs of the All-Ireland League, DUFC were hungry for a try from the off, looking every inch a team who belonged in the league’s upper reaches. It became clear early on that Trinity had swapped out their usual expansive, running rugby, too difficult to pull off in the muddy conditions, for a more physical, pack-focused approach.
Considering the physicality of the Terenure side, it was perhaps surprising how well the strategy worked. Trinity bullied the visitors for the first 20 minutes, setting up camp in the Terenure half and launching attack after attack.
Terenure made a rare foray into the Trinity half after 26 minutes, winning a penalty off of a scrum and kicking to touch, the ball landing just inside the Trinity 22. DUFC defended the attack well and won a penalty.
It looked like the half would remain scoreless as both sides tried to wear the other down with bruising, direct running. Trinity eventually found a gap in the Terenure defence, hooker Dan Sheehan sneaking through off a ruck and sprinting to touch the ball down under the Terenure posts. Micheál O’Kennedy added the conversion to put Trinity seven points ahead going into half-time.
The second half was equally as wearing. Once again, both sides opted to try to batter the other into submission and, just before the hour, Trinity were the first to blink, when an attempted clearance was blocked down and a scrum for the visitors ensued. Jamie Glynn snuck around the corner, passing it to Eoin Joyce who crashed over. The conversion from out-half James Thornton levelled the game.
With 10 minutes on the clock, it began to bucket down, a Terenure fan on the sideline remarking that “this is a proper rugby match now”. It was clear by now that one score would be enough, and for DUFC, the introduction of James Fennelly proved the catalyst. Sprung from the bench, Fennelly, who has looked virtually unplayable at times this season, caught his own garryowen and brought the hosts inside Terenure’s 22. After a few phases, Trinity were awarded a penalty for an infringement at the breakdown, and Fennelly slotted the ball between the sticks to put Trinity 10-7 ahead.
It was clear to all assembled that a win was vital to DUFC’s playoff aspirations, and they cleverly played down the clock until. With 80 minutes showing, Fennelly booted the ball out, and the reaction from those assembled was raucous. With four games remaining, DUFC are four points ahead of Garryowen, and Tony Smeeth’s men travel to Young Munster next weekend knowing they’re only games away from pulling off an historic achievement for Trinity rugby.