Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) were beaten 10-32 by Lansdowne RFC at home on Saturday.
It was Trinity’s seventh consecutive defeat in a ten-game winless run, stretching back to their victory against Shannon on November 12th.
That win came in very different circumstances – Trinity had then won all five of their games in what was DUFC’s best start to a top-flight season in the club’s history.
Lansdowne was one of those early-season scalps. Having beaten them 17-27 away from home DUFC would have doubtless gone into Saturday’s game hopeful of turning the tide in a campaign that has somewhat stuttered since the turn of the year.
Indeed, with the way Trinity went about their business in the first half one would be forgiven for forgetting their torrid streak.
Despite conceding a converted try born from a driving maul, nine minutes in the early momentum DUFC had drummed up beforehand was not to be derailed. By the fourteenth minute Trinity had crossed the whitewash themselves from a maul of their own following a line out.
DUFC deservedly took the lead after twenty minutes with a Harry Colbert penalty, and Lansdowne lamentations were enlarged when they were reduced to 14 men for an undisputedly high tackle.
For the duration of the handicap, Trinity did their utmost to score – as reflected in their almost undiluted possession of the ball and position on the pitch. The ball only escaped the Lansdowne twenty-two when hurriedly cleared by one of the backs, and even then it wasn’t long before the increasingly muddied white shirts rumbled back again.
Scrummaging was difficult on what was already a damp day made damper by intense showers. However, in this aspect of the game, Trinity were superior throughout the opening forty minutes.
Superior but not dominant. They were unable to convert their ascendancy into points, lacking a clinical edge both with and without the numerical advantage. And for this, they were made to pay.
Right on the cusp of half-time, a rare Lansdowne appearance in Trinity’s twenty-two – unusual in that it had but one precedent, namely when they had scored in the first ten minutes – bore fruit.
A lineout from a penalty pitched the away side in position of promise incongruous with the half’s proceedings. DUFC withstood the initial siege – holding up the ball on the line – but conceded a penalty in the process.
Whilst the larger defenders bore the brunt of the initial tap-and-go and ensuing carries, Lansdowne eventually burrowed over, much to the delight of their bench – and to the surprise of the Trinity faithful filling the side-lines.
Conceding so late in the half so against the run of play after coming so close to scoring themselves seemed to have an understandably detrimental impact on DUFC’s morale. Perhaps it was more the case that it inflated Lansdowne’s. Either way it was the latter who began the restart stronger, a throttle they were not to relinquish for the remainder of the game.
10-12 up, Lansdowne threw themselves at everything. In defence they were the more physical, with several tackles drawing audible reactions from the crowd. In attack they were the sharper, regularly recycling the ball at the breakdown at speed and making significant yardage whilst doing so.
Only a last-ditch tackle and another hold-up on the line prevented another quick start for the visitors. But rather than use this as a springboard from which to get a foothold in the game, a moment of madness instead consigned DUFC to the backfoot.
As the Lansdowne number eight lumbered up the field after collecting a clearing kick, he was hit high, without arms and out of nowhere by Anthony Ryan, the aptly titled Trinity blindside flanker.
The fracas which followed potentially saved Ryan from a red, for he was fortunate to receive a yellow given the reckless nature of what was scarcely a tackle.
Once DUFC were down to fourteen, it wasn’t long before Lansdowne’s momentum produced points. Fifty-five minutes in they score their third try of the afternoon – triggering more handbags in a scrap to which almost the entirety of both teams was drawn.
It was now Lansdowne who dominated the scrum, milking it for penalties, who took the lead in the lineout, who ruled the loose – and Lansdowne who scored next, this time a penalty to make it 22-10.
Had Trinity put more currency on the scoreboard when they had the chance in the first half, the game may not have swung so dramatically in Lansdowne’s favour in the second half. Perhaps it was the sin-bin which punctured their initially promising performance. Either way, even with the return of Ryan to the fray, Trinity were unable to make any inroads into the deficit.
Instead it was the away side who kept the scoreboard ticking over, slotting another penalty to make it 25-10 with just twelve minutes to go.
Another DUFC sin bin – this time lock Stephen Woods, for collapsing the maul – all but sucked the wind from Trinity’s sails. Shortly afterwards, the visitors crashed over again to bag the bonus point with their fourth try, the final score of the game.
The result means that Lansdowne move up to 6th place on 37 points, one place and one point above DUFC who drop to 7th.
Next up for Trinity is Friday’s Colours game against University College Dublin (UCD) at the UCD bowl. DUFC’s rivals lie three points and one place below them, in 8th, adding another dimension to a game already laden with significance.
As 38-24 victors back in October, Trinity may have the psychological edge. But confidence is unlikely to be high in the wake of their recent residence in the doldrums; and as last week’s defeat to Lansdowne proved, early season form can be misleading.
For the wider DUFC community, results elsewhere meant that it was not an entirely gloomy weekend. The U20s beat Clontarf in the semi-final of the McCorry Cup, meaning they play UCD in the final on April 22nd. The J3s tasted some success of their own, winning the Metro League Division Six Final after beating Clontarf in the final 19-5.