Trinity 41pts – Clontarf U20s 21pts; 23rd April 2018
Trinity have won the Fraser McMullen Trophy for the first time since 2006 when former St Michael’s College centre George Byron lifted the Trophy for the Student club. 12 years later, another former St Michael’s centre James Hickey held the trophy in Wanderers FC, Merrion Road.
The game kicked off in a heavy rainstorm which made conditions greasy. It has to be said this did not seem to affect the two teams, particularly Trinity who moved the ball from everywhere into the stiff breeze. The Students played their traditional high-tempo game, with the forwards running hard lines and the backs linking with some delightful passing and movement.
Trinity were relentless in their attack, as Clontarf aggressively tackled with great enthusiasm and energy but clearly were struggling to cope with the Trinity attack. Trinity missed a penalty early on, and dropped the ball over the line after a fabulous break out from a line out maul by hooker Dan Sheehan as he linked with the backs who moved the ball wide to Full Back Rob Russell who lost the ball while grounding. They did score minutes later when after a very patient set of phases, Trinity ultimately worked a classic 3 v 2 with Captain James Hickey and Rob Russell putting wing Darragh Porter in for his first try.
Off the restart, Trinity followed this up with another multiple phase try. They won a penalty to clear the ball for a line out on the half way line. They then took their opponents through 10 quick fire phases moving the ball from the far edges of the field, with Irish U20s second row Jack Dunne carrying three times in the passage of play. Eventually the ever alert Out Half Michael O’Kennedy held the defence before putting the trailing Darragh Porter in for his second try. 10-0 to Trinity.
Clontarf came back into the game and got territory for the first time when Trinity dropped the ball deep in their half. Leinster U19s out half Conor Kelly duly kicked the points. He followed this up with another kick minutes later.
Trinity increased their lead with perhaps their best score of the day from seven cracking tries. They counter attacked from deep with Full back Rob Russell running back a missed Clontarf kick to touch. The forwards with tireless back row Max Kearney and Johnny McKeown carrying hard made some hard yards to put Clontarf on the back foot. The ball was then snapped back to the blindside off a set play, and Captain James Hickey was put into space by some skillful handling by centre James Moriarty under pressure, a slight hint of a ‘show and go’ and Hickey went through a yawning gap in the scrambling defence. Trinity *8 Patrick Nulty came screaming up on his shoulder in support. Hickey put him through another gap, Nulty sidestepping right and left with sublime footwork ‘off loaded’ five metres out for hooker Dan Sheehan who did well to follow the move to crash over for a fantastic team try. Moriarty converted to give the Students a 17-6 lead.
Conor Kelly kicked another penalty before half time to keep his team in the contest. Clontarf must have been hopeful at half time to be only 17-9 down given the run of play. Although totally dominant Trinity were at times careless in defence and gave away some unforced penalties particularly at the breakdown.
Any hope the North-siders had of a comeback was quickly extinguished as the Students started the second half in ruthless fashion. Jack Dunne ripped out a turnover in a maul inside his own half, the ball was moved to space quickly through a couple of rucks, before being moved wide to Patrick Nulty who sliced through the defence with another weaving run. Nulty ran 40 metres deep into the Clontarf 22 metre zone, before offloading to the trailing Michael Silvester who carried the ball on towards the try line. The ball was quickly recycled with scrum half Tomas Killeen quickly moving the ball wide ‘left to right’ to Rob Russell in the wing position, Russell rounded the cover defence to score another clinical try.
At 24-9 Trinity looked to be in control. But Clontarf had another purple patch with their forwards recycling the ball through several phases, but the Trinity defence seemed to embrace the challenge as they put in some massive ‘single’ and ‘double’ hits on Clontarf runners, putting them back sometimes several metres at a time, eventually winning a penalty to clear the lines.
Trinity continued to attack at an almost frantic pace, they attacked from deep again and this time the excellent Dan Sheehan ran a great line to cut through the defence as he carried the ball 35 metres before off loading to supporting scrum half Tomas Killeen who used his ‘quick hands’ to put back rower Reuben Pim on a charging run, Pim was stopped just short of the line, the ever observant Killeen then flicked a 20 metre pass to his left to James Hickey who straightened the line and put Darragh Porter in for his third well-taken try.
29-9 and Trinity were in total control. They attacked deep in Clontarf territory and they worked through the phases at high speed winning all the collisions on the way, the ball was moved back blindside to the U20s Six Nations leading yard gainer Michael Silvester who stepped two defenders before passing to rangy Reuben Pim waiting out wide. Pim ball in two hands got over the line to increase his team’s lead.
Clontarf to their credit never gave up and kept working hard as they struggled to win primary phase ball on the day. They scored a well-worked try when their prop crashed over close to the posts. Trinity came straight back down the field with powerful flanker Johnny McKeown showing a clean pair of heels to the defence to score under the posts to complete the scoring for the Students.
Clontarf were not to be denied and they scored with the last play of the game to give respectability to the score-line 41-21.
This was a truly phenomenal performance by the Trinity U20s team who possibly saved their best to last in what has been a great season. To be able to execute at such a high level in a National Final displaying immense levels of skill, physicality and fitness is very satisfying for the Players, Coaches and supporters alike.
15 Rob Russell,14 Hugh Twomey, 13 James Hickey (Capt),12 James Moriarty,11 Darragh Porter,10 Michael O’Kennedy,9 Tomas Killeen,1 Fiacra Keane,2 Dan Sheehan,3 Joe Byrne,4 Arthur Greene,5 Jack Dunne,6 John McKeown,7 Max Kearney
8 Patrick Nulty
Subs from 16 Ben Nel,17 Giuseppe Coyne,18 Rory Clarke,19 Reuben Pim,20 Daryl Egan,21 Colm Doyle,22 Micheal Silvester