Ballynahinch 9pts – Trinity 18pts; April 30th 2016
Trinity travelled North to Ulster for what was THE most important game in the recent era. It was a highly intense winner-take-all game, with a rare place at the top table of Irish club rugby at stake.
Ballynahinch who have been in fabulous form the last four weeks with huge wins over UCD, Garryowen and Buccaneers, started the game with a very direct physical approach against the far smaller Trinity pack. They were rewarded early with a penalty, which they duly kicked. With a strong wind behind them they were back on the scoreboard with another 40 metre effort by Chris Quinn their kicker.
Trinity struggled all game to get their usual high tempo/multi phase game going. Due to tough home defence and sloppy ball handling, the backs broke the line time and time again only for opportunities to be spilled. It was frustrating for the students who had great intent all game.
They did however stretch the home defence into making countless errors at the breakdown and this gave the visitors good field position into the wind. From one of these line outs the forwards drove the ball, out half Jack McDermott broke for the line, the ball was quickly recycled and scrum half Angus Lloyd put number 8 Tom Ryan under the posts for a well worked, clinical try.
The home team kicked another penalty just before half time to go into the break 9-7 up.
The wind seemed to get stronger and Trinity now had the elements in their favour. In the opening minutes of the second half out half McDermott kicked a penalty to give the students the lead that they would never relinquish.
Trinity continued to attack but continued to spill the ball at the most inopportune times. Meanwhile the students showed why they have the best defence in the top three leagues in Ireland as their defence dominated the game. Trinity open-side flanker phenomenon, Brian Du Toit, led the way getting multiple turnovers at the breakdown in probably his last game for the team after four years of starting for the 1st XV.
Both teams were positive in their play but it was from a quick penalty that Angus Lloyd moved the ball to outside centre Michael Courtney who displayed great hands to put speedster Max McFarland away for a 70 Metre run to the line for a sensational try.
15-9 Hinch were clinging on for their survival as the very fit and quick Students attacked from all over the field. McDermott then kicked the vital penalty to put his team two scores ahead 18-9. These were ‘heady’ times for the students who could feel the spirit draining from the proud home team and it vocal supporters.
The Hosts never came close to scoring a try in the entire game and Trinity played some effective rugby only for uncharacteristic handling errors near the Hinch line to stop the score exploding.
There were no more scores in the game, as Trinity finished the game totally dominant with Captain Nick McCarthy, number 8 Tom Ryan, wing Tim Maupin centre Paddy Lavelle and hooker Patrick Finlay all ball carrying tirelessly.
The final whistle brought a pitch invasion from the considerable Trinity support!
The night in Ballynahinch clubhouse was memorable, as the hosts showed great class and hospitality in what would have been a disappointing day for them.
This was a fantastic climax to a fabulous two years for this College squad. The team were perhaps unfortunate not to have gained promotion last season losing out by 1pt, but had the resolve to do it all again with this time getting the correct outcome after the hiccup in Templeville Road (v St Marys) three weeks ago.
This team has achieved what very few Trinity teams in the past have done.
They started the season when an injury hit squad came runners up in Oxford in the inaugural Universities World cup – which included a win over the New Zealand Universities, plus a hammering of the host team Oxford in the semi final.
They followed this with their first Dudley Cup success winning the Irish inter varsities in Terenure College.
The early All Ireland league start in early September continues to hinder the Trinity squad and, after losing the first two league games, they set about chasing St Marys and Ballymena at the top of the league. They did this by scoring more points and conceding less points than any club in the top three leagues of the AIL playing some of the best rugby played in recent times.
In March they won the Colours v UCD in front of possibly the largest crowd of the modern era 28-15. A week later they slipped up in the rain against rival St Marys 9-5, after beating them well in October. But then with exam time raising its ugly head (!) they showed great character to come back and win the new play off system and gain promotion to the promised land!
With the U20s winning the JP Fanagan League for the first time, the U20s Conroy Cup Inter-varsities, and now in the McCorry Cup Final (on Wednesday in Donnybrook 8pm KO) ……this has been a memorable year for the players and their delirious supporters!!
15 Conor Kearns, 14 Tim Maupin, 13 Michael Courtney, 12 Paddy Lavelle, 11 Max McFarland, 10 Jack McDermott, 9 Angus Lloyd, 1 Eric O’Sullivan (James Bollard 65), 2 Patrick Finlay (Matt McCann 70), 3 Andy Keating (Tom Collis 55), 4 Jack Burke, 5 Raef Tyrrell, 6 Nick McCarthy, 7 Brian Du Toit, 8 Tom Ryan.