Dublin University 23-20 UCD: An unforgettable last ten minutes saw Trinity snatch glory from under their Dublin 4 rivals noses, writes Fearghal Kerin.
A pulsating and unforgettable clash between Ireland’s premier university sides lit up Donnybrook last Friday. Back and forth, the match was highly entertaining and illuminated with moments of individual class, most notably Shane Hanratty’s break that led to Trinity’s breakthrough, the brilliance of Shane Young and the pressure kick by Chris Jebb.
For UCD, it epitomises what has been a back and forth season, the excellent win over Blackrock College in particular, offset by disappointment in each of the surrounding fixtures. A long period of dominance in the annual Colours game had seen UCD handed a rare defeat by a scoreline of 16-13 in 2006, but this result looks to have breathed new life in a potentially flailing competition.
UCD looked like a team determined to get their crown back last time out, and deservedly did so in impressive fashion, and many expected the AIL Division 1 to win what on paper looked like a straight forward game.
Although derbys such as this are traditionally tight affairs, UCD looked like they wanted to blow Trinity out of the water early on, making a whirlwind start, and spending the open exchanges camped in Trinity’s half. The only shocker is that in an extended period in the opposition, a series of handling errors and poor decision contrived to prevent UCD taking any sort of lead early on, be it a try or a three pointer from the boot of Killian Lett.
That Trinity managed to ride out the initial storm seemed to be a sufficient boost to allow them begin to make inroads of their own, and as the half progressed it was Dublin University who had the better of the goings, with both sides exchanging penalties, leaving the score at 6-6 with half time fast approaching.
After all their good play, UCD would have been disappointed not to have crossed the Trinity whitewash in the opening period, but that they contrived to let their opponents be the first to take a significant leads will have seriously ilked John McClean’s men.
A break by Trinity fullback Paul Gillespie allowed the pace-merchant to outstrip all before him, only to pass off to Shane Young, who was supporting him like any good flanker should do, who grounded to give Trinity a 13-6 lead they scarcely deserved on the evidence of the opening exchanges. The try was just reward for Young’s efforts, if somewhat harsh on UCD.
After the turnaround, College seemed determined to ascert their authority on proceedings, and as in the early stages of the first half, dominated their White opponents. Eventually, the waves of pressure paid off, with Vasily Artemiev’s finish in the corner giving UCD an equalising score, with Killian Lett adding the afters.
Michael Hastings’ men then moved for the kill, refusing to relent. Just ten minutes after Artemiev, the imposing Brian Cawley finished off an extended period of pressure with a good try in the corner, and from there UCD could almost have been forgiven for thinking the game was over.
In many respects, in fact, that seems to have been what went through the minds of the UCD players, with a seven point lead, all the momentum and the clock ticking down to an almost certain victory.
However, in what seemed eerily familiar to those who witnessed Vincent Clerc’s try for France againstIreland at Croke Park two years ago, UCD contrived to make a mess of the kick off.
Shane Hanratty, in what was his first touch of the game after being introduced as a substitute after Cawley’s try, snatched on a botched attempt at gathering the kick off and managed to set up fellow replacement John Byrne to score, and in doing so, completely change the momentum of the game.
If UCD were shell shocked, they scarcely showed it, and the scoreline of 20-20 made things frenetic and nervy as the game entered a curiously long period of added time. In fairness to both sides, they each went for the win as it effectively became a game of sudden death. After Trinity missed touch from a penalty, it seemed that UCD had the opportunity to gain field possession to set up a kick to win the tie.
However, almost summing up the game, a turnover forced by Young gave Trinity possession, and it was almost inevitable that UCD would concede the penalty. With all the pressure in the world on him, in front of an almost silent Donnybrook stadium, Chris Jebb sank a monster of a kick to spark wild celebrations amongst the Trinity fans, players and staff.
A second defeat in three years leaves UCD hugely disappointed. On the day, it was once more clear that the game now has greater significance for UCD’s city centre rivals, and the urgency and determination of Trinity particularly in the closing stages was there for all to see, in stark contrast with UCD’s less frantic style.
Trying to pick out standout performers for UCD is difficult, nobody really stood out to the level of their opposition players on what is the biggest stage for any university player in Ireland, and that in itself tells a certain amount about how much stock College store in this game. Vasily Artemiev can be reasonably happy with his try-scoring performance, but disappointed in his inability to score more than the single try.
His fellow Blackrock alumnus, Brian Cawley’s dogged performance in the College engine room was one of the few standout showings upfront. Getting around the field and securing scarce possession from lineout ball as well as popping up for what should have been a decisive try, Cawley was immaculate.
As for the Trinity men, there were several stand-out performances. Former Belvedere star, Colin Murphy did well on the wing for Trinity, showing an appetite for work and willingness to come in from the wing and involve himself in the game, while Richard Brady was the most exciting back on displace in the game.
Brady had all the hallmarks of a player with a future in the game, in the same way as Brian O’Driscoll famously embodies all that a backrow forward should as well as being a top drawer forward, Brady’s breaks were innumerable, combined with his unfashionable work on the floor to rob several turnovers.
The real standout performer on the night was the Trinity openside, Shane Young. Head and shoulders above all others on the night, Young looked like a man with a real future in the sport, almost single handedly scuppering the long periods of pressure by UCD with turnover after turnover, tackle after tackle.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Paul Gillespie (The King’s Hospital); Chris Jebb (Rathcoole C.S.), Conor Colclough (Belvedere College SJ), Richard Brady (Foyle & Londonderry), Colin Murphy (Belvedere College SJ); Andy Wallace (Terenure College), Edward Hamilton (Methodist College); Tristan Goodbody (Columbus College), Mark Murdock (CBC Monkstown) , James Gethings (Gonzaga College), Patrick Danahy (Stanford University), Colin McDonnell (CBS Naas), Max Cantrell (Blackrock College), Shane Young (The King’s Hospital) (capt), Brian Coyle (Clongowes Wood College SJ).
Replacements: Shane Hanratty (Gonzaga College SJ), Bryan Johnson (Blackrock College), Johnny Iliff (St. Colman’s Newry), Edward Molloy (Ardscoil Ris), John Byrne (Cistercian College Roscrea), Alan Mathews (Kilkenny College), Paddy McCabe (Belvedere College SJ).
UCD: Conor Quinn (Glenstal Abbey); Cian Aherne (Crescent College Limerick), Killian Lett (The King’s Hospital), Niall Kearns (CBC Monkstown), Vasily Artemiev (Blackrock College); Michael Hastings (Wesley College) (capt), Dara Geraghty (Blackrock College), John A. Lee (Terenure College), Conor Geoghegan (St. Michael’s College), Ben Barclay (Clongowes Wood College SJ), Brian Cawley (Blackrock College), Arthur Houlihan (Clongowes Wood College SJ), Matt Nagle (Glenstal Abbey), Kevin Croke (CPC Kilcullen), David Gilchrist (Belvedere College SJ).
Replacements: Robert Shanley (St. Michael’s College), Simon Gillespie (Sligo Grammar School), Rory Allwright (Sandford Park School), Mark Flanagan (St. Finian’s Mullingar), Paddy Conlon (Summerhill College Sligo), Brian Hall (Cistercian College Roscrea), Gavin Telford (The King’s Hospital).
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Leinster)