Shannon 22pts – Trinity 25pts; 2nd January 2016.
Trinity made the wet trip west to Limerick to play the second part of their ‘back to back’ series with Shannon RFC in a very soggy Thomond Park back pitch on Saturday.
It was always going to be hard to match the performance from four weeks ago in College Park, where conditions were very windy but firm under foot. In Limerick, it was hard to change direction and stay on your feet on a grassy but very soft pitch.
The students to their credit took the game to the home team, trying to create multiple phase play and moving the big Shannon pack around. They created chances but dropped overlaps and scrambling defence held them out. Out half Jack McDermott kicked a penalty early on.
Trinity continued to attack and eventually the cracks appeared. Full back Conor Kearns sliced open the defence before offloading, ‘Sonny Bill’ style, to Michael Courtney who used great hands to put wing Tim Maupin away in the corner for a sensational try given the conditions. The home team would have been forgiven if they were thinking “here we go again”.
Trinity then got a bit loose and handed the ball and momentum back to Shannon with some inaccurate kicking. Shannon put on the pressure backed by a large home, holiday weekend, crowd. Trinity flanker Brian Du Toit was sin binned under pressure. Shannon kicked a penalty immediately and then followed this up with a try off a scrum, exposing some rare poor tackling by the students. 10-10 with the home supporters roaring their approval, Trinity were now in a dogfight!
The students responded well though. After some really nice approach play featuring the entire team, captain Nick McCarthy found some space in the middle to display a surprising turn of speed and swerve to score by the posts.
15-10 up at half time, Trinity knew they faced a home backlash playing with the breeze. So they aimed to take the game away from the home team by just keeping the ball but continuing to attack Shannon at every opportunity. A superb sweeping handling move put wing Tim Maupin away but he was stopped short of the line. Shannon dived into the ruck and McDermott stepped up to kick the points 18-10.
Trinity jumped on Shannon straight away after the restart and, from a line out, No. 8 Tom Ryan was put through a gap and ambled 60 metres to score under the posts for a well worked try – again exhibiting great speed and power.
Trinity looked in control at 25-10 and the scoreline remained this way until the dying minutes. Shannon battered the Trinity line with waves of runners for 15 minutes but the students seemed to almost relish the challenge and the adversity. Shannon were awarded a controversial try when they looked to be a foot short in the corner.
Trinity responded and went down the other end in search of a bonus point for four tries. They set up a line out maul near the host’s line and caught and drove. While three Shannon players appeared to be in the side of the maul, frustratingly the home team were given the scrum for the maul being held up. Trinity’s opportunity for five points was gone.
On the last play of the game Shannon put together their best rugby in two games, when they scored off a wonderful counter attack to grab a bonus point themselves to close the score to three points.
Although not as easy on the eye as the game in College Park in December, this win was far more important. The students had to find another way to win as they copped some injuries to key players during the game while also facing an old style ‘one eyed’ noisy home crowd. For young players to endure that and come out on the right side of the result displayed character beyond their years.
Next week the students return to College Park for a game against the much-improved Buccaneers, -packed with Connacht professionals. The fight goes on as both St Mary’s and Ballymena achieved easy wins gaining bonus points at home. Trinity lie in 3rd place just four points off the top and two points behind the men from the North.
Team; 15 Conor Kearns, 14 Tim Maupin 13 Michael Courtney 12 Paddy Lavelle (Ruadhan Magee 45), 11 Killian O’Leary, 10 Jack McDermott, 9 Angus Lloyd, 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 Patrick Finlay (Matt McCann 40), 3 Andrew Keating (Fintan Murphy 72), 4 Jack Burke, 5 Raef Tyrell (Conor Gleeson 1), 6 Nick McCarthy, 7 Brian Du Toit. 8 Tom Ryan