Dublin University took their time to get going but when they did, there was no stopping Tony Smeeth’s side from running out 35-16 bonus point winners over Ballynahinch.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A: Saturday, October 29
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 35 BALLYNAHINCH 16, College Park
Scorers: Dublin University: Tries: Max Dunne, James Dillon 2, Ronan Quinn; Cons: Aran Egan 3; Pens: Aran Egan 3
Ballynahinch: Try: Jamie Macartney; Con: Greg Hutley; Pens: Greg Hutley 3
HT: Dublin University 15 Ballynahinch 16
Ballynahinch quietened the College Park bearpit by taking a 13-point lead, number 8 Jamie Macartney barging over from a lineout maul with Greg Hutley kicking the rest of the points.
A late Dublin University rally closed the gap to 16-15 by half-time, with rangy lock Max Dunne crossing for his third try in two games.
However, with their scrum getting on top, the students surged clear thanks to a fine breakaway effort finished by Ronan Quinn, James Dillon’s second try of the afternoon, and a 15-point kicking contribution from Aran Egan.
It was a Saturday to remember for Dublin University as their Under-20 team won the Conroy Cup in Cork, overcoming arch rivals UCD 21-14 in the final at the Farm Sports Grounds in Curraheen.
Ballynahinch were the more accurate team during the early stages at College Park, out-half Hutley launching over a long-range penalty with a crisp strike in the fifth minute.
Hutley’s opposite number, Egan, lacked his usual precision early on, sending the restart kick straight into touch. The game’s first scrum resulted in a penalty to ‘Hinch as the hosts were guilty of collapsing.
Hutley’s half-back partner Conor McKee stepped up to try his luck from just inside the Ballynahinch half, but his effort fell wide to the right of the posts.
The Ulstermen’s aggressive, smothering defence, coupled with a subsequent poach by prop John Dickson, saw ‘Hinch keep Trinity at arm’s length and prevent them from getting into their usual free-flowing rhythm.
Egan overcooked a penalty kick to touch and the hosts’ lineout was also coming under pressure. Macartney, Bradley Luney and captain Thomas Donnan worked hard to slow up Trinity ball and stop them from getting over the gain line.
Back on the offensive, Donnan claimed a lineout at the second attempt, the ‘Hinch maul sparking ten-plus phases in the opposition 22. Luney spun out of a tackle and the McCall brothers, Kyle and Zack, were also heavily involved.
A thumping man-and-ball tackle by Trinity’s teenage prop Paddy McCarthy deserved a turnover, but instead he was penalised for hands on the ground. Straight in front of the posts, Hutley mopped up with the three points for a 6-0 lead.
Monaghan youngster Ethan Graham then pinned the students back with a cracking 50:22 kick in the 25th minute. It was worth its weight in gold as the resulting maul was driven over in the right corner, Macartney the scorer after good work from Claytan Milligan.
Although Hutley converted with aplomb from out wide, Trinity lifted their game approaching the break. McCarthy made the initial incision with a rousing run through the middle.
Tom Martin appeared to ruin the hosts’ next lineout opportunity, but the Ulster Academy’s Harry Sheridan stole possession back and his lock partner Dunne burrowed over with timely support from Mark Nicholson.
Hutley cancelled out Egan’s conversion, rewarding tighthead prop McCall’s work at the breakdown, only for Trinity to squeeze in a late eight-point spurt to suddenly trail by the minimum.
Louis McDonough did really well to wriggle through heavy traffic and release winger Dillon for a 30-metre run-in to the corner. Egan missed the conversion before splitting the posts following a Thomas Connolly-led scrum penalty.
Smeeth’s youngsters held onto the momentum for the start of the second half, another scrum penalty seeing Egan kick them in front at 18-16. A McDonough interception then saw the white shirts flood forward in spectacular fashion.
Egan and Colm Hogan released Gavin Jones into space down the left and he fed speed merchant Quinn to scamper over out wide. Egan clipped over a neat conversion for a nine-point lead.
‘Hinch laid siege to the Trinity line in response, with replacements Nacho Cladera Crespo and Ben McMullan both carrying well. However, an unfortunate scrum penalty cost them just a few metres out.
In a further setback, ‘Hinch had industrious flanker Luney sin-binned for a cynical offside past the hour mark. Sheridan made them pay, smartly cutting back to the short side to loft a pinpoint pass out for Dillon to bag the bonus point.
Trinity continued to have a stranglehold on the scrums, forcing two penalties and giving Egan the chance to finish off his own tally for the day. He now has 60 points for the campaign.
‘Hinch did well to keep the deficit at 19 points, having lost Mark Best to a yellow card and been taken through some long defensive sets. A final lineout steal from Diarmuid McCormack ruined their hopes of a late consolation try.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Colm Hogan; James Dillon, Louis McDonough, Gavin Jones, Ronan Quinn; Aran Egan, Louis O’Reilly (capt); Paddy McCarthy, Mark Nicholson, Thomas Connolly, Max Dunne, Harry Sheridan, Diarmuid McCormack, Ruadhan Byron, Aaron Coleman.
Replacements: Matthew Victory, Bart Vermeulen, Dan Barron, Dylan Ryan, Cormac King, Hugh O’Kennedy.
BALLYNAHINCH: Rory Butler; Ethan Graham, George Pringle, Mark Best, Aaron Cairns; Greg Hutley, Conor McKee; John Dickson, Claytan Milligan, Kyle McCall, Tom Martin, Thomas Donnan (capt), Zack McCall, Bradley Luney, Jamie Macartney.
Replacements: Conor Piper, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Stephen Campbell, Chris Gibson, Oscar Yandall, Ben McMullan.