Dublin University enjoyed a winning Ulster Bank League Division 1A debut as they handed 14-man Terenure College a 25-18 defeat at Lakelands Park tonight.
Trinity started brightly on a beautiful evening for rugby, with the Terenure defence coming up quickly in an absorbing first few minutes. A penalty allowed Trinity's outstanding out-half Jack McDermott to open the scoring, before disaster struck for 'Nure as their scrum half Kevin O'Neill was shown a straight red card for use of the boot in a ruck.
It seemed accidental, but after connecting with a prone player, referee Leo Colgan was left with little choice but to reduce the home side to 14 men for the remaining 70 minutes.
As often happens, the sending-off seemed to spur Terenure into action, with the backs and forwards combining brilliantly to tear Trinity open on a couple of occasions – much to the delight of the vocal home crowd.
Replacement scrum half Thomas Burke won a penalty try for James Blaney's men, as his dive for the line saw a Trinity defender kick the ball out of his hands.
Goal-kicking winger Jake Swaine added the extras, before a sweeping move, starting with ex-Leinster winger Sam Coghlan Murray's excellent kick return, saw centre Conor Kelly deftly offload to put Swaine over in the corner.
A penalty from full-back James O'Donoghue stretched the lead to 15-3, but just before half time, Tony Smeeth's students struck. Breaking down the right through the sidestepping James O'Donovan, they made good ground before hooker Paddy Finlay dotted down from close range to make it 15-10 at the break.
Despite losing prop Andy Keating to the sin-bin, Trinity started the brighter in the second half, and a quick turnover, coupled with a missed tackle from Terenure, saw centre Michael Courtney sprint in from halfway to level matters at 15-all.
From then on, 14-man 'Nure were firmly on the back foot as they struggled to get their hands on the ball. Matters seemed to go from bad to worse as their lineout struggled and injuries to the excellent Kelly and Willie Devane along with Swaine saw the hosts' resources stretched to the limit.
Eventually the pressure told, as Trinity broke the defensive line out wide again to take the lead. Winger Evan Dixon was the scorer of that 55th minute try, having linked neatly with his brother, centre Kyle. The conversion and a further penalty from McDermott – completing his 10-point haul – made it 25-15, but once again, 'Nure dragged themselves back into it.
Although visibly exhausted from the effort of playing with 14 men, the home side came again and again, and although they failed to get over the whitewash, the pressure eventually won them a late penalty which O'Donoghue drove over for a gritty losing bonus point.
Referee: Leo Colgan (IRFU)