Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) registered a well-earned win against Ballynahinch RFC in College Park on Saturday afternoon in the third round of the AIL Ireland League.
It was a relatively quiet start to the game for both teams, with the first chance falling to the home team five minutes into the first half. Having broken through the defensive line of Ballynahinch, an excellent last-gasp tackle was required to put the Trinity player in touch and keep the scores level early on. Ballynahinch struggled to settle into the game from set pieces, losing possession from the majority of their first-half lineouts, but it wasn’t until the 14th minute that DUFC were able to open the scoring.
Having mounted pressure on the Ballynahinch defensive line for several minutes, a gap finally opened up on the wing for the ball to be played out to fullback Luis Faria, who dodged a final tackle before finishing in the corner. Outhalf Micheal O’Kennedy converted well from a tough angle to put the Trinity team 7-0 up with 15 minutes played.
DUFC were the more dominant team in the first half, being quick and aggressive in the tackle, but failed to make the most of possession deep into the Ballynahinch half on a number of occasions. It took the visitors ten minutes to respond to the opening score, with Greg Hutley converting a penalty from a very difficult kick.
DUFC centre Liam Turner was a standout player throughout the game, being consistent in his tackles defensively and gaining yards for his team with his offensive runs on the ball. An excellent run by Turner on the verge of half time offered DUFC a chance to increase their lead, but an excellent tackle on the try line kept the score at 7-3 in favour of the home side going into the break.
Ballynahinch emerged much stronger in the second half. Some good possession in the 43rd minute led to a chance for the visiting team, with the Ballynahinch forward finding two successive gaps in the DUFC defensive line, but failed to keep both hands on the ball, losing possession in the final tackle. Ballynahinch shortened the gap between the two sides after 52 minutes, with Hutley converting another penalty from distance.
However, it wasn’t long before DUFC stretched their lead once again. At the 55 minute mark, a clever dummy pass by Turner sold his opposition tackler and opened a gap for him to make it through the Ballynahinch defensive line. Turner did well to make it through another tackle before laying it off to Giuseppe Coyne, who was able to find Marcus Kiely to finish in the corner. A well-taken conversion by O’Kennedy gave DUFC a 14-6 advantage and meant that the Trinity team were in a strong position with just over a quarter of the game to play.
A well-executed lineout deep into the Ballynahinch half allowed DUFC to extend their lead with just 10 minutes to play. With the ball dropping down into a maul from the lineout, the DUFC forward line were able to drive over the opposition try-line as Anthony Ryan brought the ball to ground. Despite O’Kennedy’s conversion attempt coming off the upright post, DUFC found themselves in a strong position for the closing minutes of the game.
Ballynahinch threw everything in their offensive arsenal at the Trinity team for the final few minutes of the game. DUFC defended aggressively and conceded successive penalties on the try line before eventually losing Faria to the sinbin. It wasn’t until the final play of the game that Ballynahinch found a way through the depleted DUFC defence to earn a consolation try and leaving the final score at 19-13 in favour of the home team.
Speaking to The University Times after his team’s victory, DUFC coach Tony Smeeth gave his thoughts on the performance:
“I thought we played some really good rugby in the first half, right up until what we call ‘the warzone’, which is about five metres from the line, and then we got a bit individual. I thought we probably should’ve been two or three scores up at half time”, he said.
“But I’d rather be annoyed after a win than after a loss. I thought we played some good stuff but we didn’t quite finish. Then we let them back into the game and it was a bit iffy from then on … but I’m happy to win, because this league, it’s tough to win in this league.”