Clontarf 38 Trinity 31
Well …. After Saturday the requirement for a liberal distribution of defibrillators around the first pitch has become acute. As an advert for Irish club rugby this was a superb game. It had everything and 10 tries as well. It had a superb performance from the visitors who were within a feathered grasp of a classic romantic victory only to see it swept away by a tidal wave of home aggression in the last 10 minutes of a pulsating game.
For Clontarf, victory gave them the accolade of going 20 games in the AIL without defeat and also the reminder that visitors to Castle Avenue now have an extra motivation to put one over on the champions.
Trinity started well and were accurate and aggressive. They trusted their instincts and defended in swarms, often forcing penalty turnovers against a somewhat hesitant home side. Clontarf, on the other hand, were inaccurate and failed to control the ball at crucial times and in crucial areas of the pitch. A perfect example was the play leading to Trinity’s second try which started on the Trinity line with a home scrum and ended up after some flapping and fussing with the Trinity full back Hogan scoring at the other end.
That pushed the visitors out to 21 points after an earlier penalty try and three penalties to out half Aran Egan. Clontarf slapped themselves into wakefulness enough to score right on half time to add to their early pushover for 12 21 at half time. If the home supporters were expecting relief from a half time reset they were disabused pretty soon after the restart when a Clontarf attack broke down in Keystone Cops style and the kick through caused mayhem in the last line of defence allowing Trinity winger Ronan Quinn to dribble in and score.
Dylan Donellan got one back after quick thinking at a home penalty, but that was cancelled after solid forward work by the visitors on the Tarf line was moved left to Egan who rounded the defence for a 17 33 lead and time ticking on. So 16 points down and 15 to go, the home support we’re warming up their congratulatory hand shakes and sporting cliches which hadn’t been aired since game 5 of last season.
However, as before, the attritional nature of the game and the huge effort that the visitors had made started to take its toll and when Trinity substitute O’Kennedy was yellow carded for a slap down, Matt Darcy rallied his troops with some walloping hits and doubt crept in to the visitors minds.
The comeback started with a rare and beautiful try from Tony Ryan followed by a first for Hugh Cooney on the right after great work by Tadgh Bird and Andrew Smith to keep the ball alive. A superb conversion from the touch line by Con Kelly brought the score to 31 33 and when Darcy offloaded out of the tackle to Ryan up the middle he had Ben Murphy in support on his left to zip in for the winning score …
Joy unconfined for the home support and agony in defeat for the visitors. Trinity will take much from their performance against the champions and will hope for a repeat dose in the new year. Clontarf will breath a sigh of relief that their unbelievable resilience saw them through at the end. Next week we are in Limerick for a visit to Young Munster.