Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) Women came storming back after trailing 12-5 against Rathdrum with two late tries to seal a win that gave them a third Leinster League win in their opening four games. In a match that was slow-paced and riddled with errors, a thrilling ending to get the result is all that matters for DUFC.
The match in Santry Avenue started badly for the home side, as Rathdrum came out racing in the opening minutes. Caught off guard, DUFC’s defence missed several tackles to allow Heather Cullen to dive over the line. Cullen converted her own try and Trinity found themselves 7-0 down early on.
After the restart, both sides traded possession around the half-way line. Neither could make a clean break to take command of play. Knock-on infringements were in no short supply as DUFC saw opportunities go abegging due to handling errors. Playing conditions contributed to the scrappy nature of the match – the previous night’s rain left the surface soft and muddy.
DUFC finally found their rhythm as the second half progressed – an excellent kick and chase from Aine Ní Chaisil moved the play into Rathdrum territory. Attacking pressure from DUFC forced a whistle from the referee to signal for a scrum.
Soon after, Ní Chaisil again broke through the defensive line, before passing it out to Katie Moore. Rathdrum gave away a penalty, and Trinity opted for the corner. Threatening the Rathdrum tryline, Trinity were within a whisker of their first score – however, after three passes across the field, a knock-on stalled the offensive move.
Trinity were not discouraged – they were back threatening soon, when a clearance kick was well taken by full-back Niamh O’Kelly-Lynch. She ran with it up the pitch before skilfully offloading to Jillian O’Toole. O’Toole was tackled five yards from the tryline. The ball was then passed out, finding Ní Chaisil in space. She dodged the attempted tackles of two Rathdrum players before grounding for the try. Susanna Mollen’s conversion fell short, keeping the score at 5-7 to Rathdrum.
Rathdrum had the first chance of the second half – Trinity surrendered possession from their own scrum, and the away side pushed towards the 22 with intent. An excellent defensive effort from Ciara Black halted the attack, ripping the ball away from the Rathdrum attackers.
DUFC survived another threat as Rathdrum were approaching the try line. Katie Moore made the crucial tackle and forced Rathdrum into touch to win back possession.
DUFC, however, struggled to maintain the ball, and Rathdrum kept coming back to pressure the defence. After a scrum in the Trinity 22, Rathdrum’s strength in the pack willed the ball over the tryline, with Linda Dempsey grounding the ball for the away side. The conversion kick was missed by Cullen, leaving the gap at seven points.
With plenty of the match left to play, DUFC remained hopeful. Substitute Ellen McGee collected received a high ball in the air, before shifting it to Annika Daniels, who rushed through to gain significant ground. After a penalty was given away by Rathdrum, DUFC took it quickly. Daniel and McGee combined to finish the move they had begun: the latter dodged several tackles to cross over the Rathdrum tryline. Mollen’s kick to level it went awry – the difficult placement meant that two points remained between the side with five minutes to go.
Although time was running out, the momentum was with Trinity. Rathdrum, with no substitutes to bring on, looked exhausted in the final stages of the match. DUFC kept pushing the ball up the pitch, but turnovers cost them. Rathdrum cleared the ball away from their tryline desperately.
The visitors managed to move play to the halfway line, but a lapse in concentration gave Trinity the chance they needed. Ní Chaisil nicked the ball away from the Rathdrum pack before breaking through the defensive line. She passed to Daniels who had McGee on her side for support. McGee’s strong carry brought the play into the Rathdrum 22.
A try looked certain, but the celebrations in the Trinity dugout were premature. McGee was caught on the tryline by the Rathdrum defensive effort. Despite this, DUFC were determined to see the play through – the ball was passed out to Ní Chaisil, who used her speed to charge through Rathdrum’s defensive line and slid in between the posts for the winning try.
The converted kick sealed the dramatic comeback win for Trinity, leaving the final score at 17-12.
After their heroics in Santry, DUFC will now turn their attention to a trip to Maynooth next week. There, they will face familiar foes in MU Barnhall – DUFC lost out in the final of the Leinster League Division 3 last season to the Kildare side, falling to a 12-10 defeat.