Captain Michael Courtney was Dublin University’s try-scoring hero as they regained the Colours Cup with a gripping 11-10 victory over UCD at College Park last night.
It may have been short on tries but the college rivals served up another entertaining and fiercely-competitive edition of this prestigious annual fixture, which drew a large and vocal crowd to the city centre venue.
The 66th Colours match saw last year's winners UCD burst into an early 10-0 lead thanks to Patrick Patterson's converted try, however Tony Smeeth's Trinity side scored eight second half points without reply, including centre Michael Courtney's crucial touchdown, to win the Colours title for the second time in three years.
The result also had huge significance for Trinity's Ulster Bank League Division 1A status as it ensures their top flight place for next season. UCD, who are seventh in the table on the same tally of 32 points, are also safe heading into next week's final round, leaving St. Mary's College with a confirmed bottom-two finish and likely entry into the relegation/promotion play-offs with Division 1B opposition.
With Ireland Under-20 captain Tommy O'Brien among the international contingent in the UCD line-up, the visitors were quickest out of the blocks. Skipper Jamie Glynn burst through a gap within five minutes, drew in Jack McDermott and released scrum half Patterson, who had run a well-timed support line, to go over unopposed.
Patterson's half-back partner and fellow Ireland U-20 international Harry Byrne converted and added a well-struck penalty, from Trinity's 10-metre line, to open up a 10-point lead. The hosts were sluggish early on and nerves were playing their part.
It was tit-for-tat stuff as the first half progressed, Trinity denying College from a five-metre lineout opportunity, and UCD returning the favour by holding up a maul. After Byrne narrowly missed a penalty, full-back McDermott was able to open Trinity's account to make it 10-3 for half-time.
Trinity's front row were now making more of an impact, Martin Kelly winning a scrum penalty and lively hooker Paddy Finlay showing his pace on an immediate second half break. 6ft 7in Ireland U-20 lock Jack Dunne also had the desired impact off the home back. The tide was beginning to turn as UCD lost their tighthead Liam Hyland to the sin-bin, and a second McDermott penalty, following a lineout infringement, cut the gap to four points.
In a key period in the game, UCD's discipline let them down again when loosehead Jeremy Loughman saw yellow for not retreating the required 10 metres for a Trinity penalty. Midway through the second period, the pressure was building and it paid off when Courtney held onto Tommy Whittle's flicked pass, looping around to brush off Patterson's challenge and crash over for a terrific try in the left corner.
McDermott was off target with the conversion and Byrne suffered his second penalty miss of the night, following a promising run by busy winger Steven Kilgallen. Working hard for each other, Trinity determinedly held onto their one-point advantage despite the best efforts of O'Brien and Stephen McVeigh who were UCD's best players on the night.
Smeeth's charges dug deep to hold UCD's much-vaunted attack at bay, bundling Conall Doherty into touch off a late UCD scrum. The 22-year-old Finlay, who recently played for the Ireland Club International team, starred as the man-of-the-match, catching the eye with another barnstorming run in the closing stages.
Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)