As the ref blew the final whistle to confirm that UCD retain the title of Colour’s champions for the fourth year in a row, the image of outside centre Roisin Crowe lying flat out as the celebrations began summed up the feelings of the Collidge squad..relieved, exhausted, but most of all elated. It was an utterly enthralling affair that certainly lived up to the hype and had supporters on the edge of their seats from the start, but the home side dug deep and battled fiercely to emerge victorious.
This was the first time the sides met since last year’s Colours fixture in which UCD were winners on a 39-0 score line in Trinity. This year’s game was always going to be a much tighter encounter, and in the end, the relentless UCD attack proved too much for Trinity. Tries in either half by number 8 Alice O’Dowd and 5 points from the boot of Christine Coffey secured the victory for the home side, playing in the UCD Bowl.
The opening minutes gave Trinity the chance to set their attack in motion, however they were quickly shut down when scrum half Aoife Byrne won a turnover penalty for UCD following a thumping tackle by Christine Coffey, the first of countless big hits the ever impressive inside centre would make during the match.
A combination of tricky weather conditions and swift defensive line speed by UCD forced multiple handling errors from Trinity, one of which led to Collidge’s first attacking chance of the game. The knock on was recovered by Roisin Crowe and a strong carry from flanker Emilie Dumon brought play to the Trinity 22. Blindside flanker Tess Meade ran a sharp line to collect the offload from out half Ali Coleman, but the final pass to winger Ray Lawless didn’t go to hand.
Scrums would play an important part in the game, with the forwards packing down more than 30 times in the 80 minutes. The UCD front row of Alix Cunneen, captain Sarah Glynn and Cara Donovan never faltered, providing a solid platform for the backs to launch their attack. A switch pass from Coleman to Coffey opened up space for Crowe to show her blistering pace, sprinting over the Trinity 22 before being brought down by the fullback.
The first try of the game came near the 15-minute mark when Alice O’Dowd picked from the back of a scrum and powered her way over the try line, three Trinity defenders unable to stop the explosive number 8. The conversion 5 metres in from the touchline was narrowly missed by Coffey, and UCD had a well-deserved 5-0 lead.
The next 20 minutes saw the game ebb and flow between the two 22s, neither team able to make any significant metres. UCD were happy to soak up the Trinity pressure, confident that their defence was rock solid with strong tackles by Glynn, second rows Ev Fenlon and Hannah Woods and prop Cara Donovan. On the rare occasion when Trinity did manage to break the line, cover tackles by winger Sarah Woodmartin and Aoife Byrne averted any real danger.
Again, it was the set piece that allowed UCD’s next meaningful attack to be set in motion. Coleman popped the ball off to fullback Aoife O’Shaughnessy who cut through the Trinity defence before being brought down near the opposition 22. The Collidge girls went in 8-0 leaders at half time- O’Dowd winning the turnover penalty in front of the posts which was slotted over byCoffey.
Neither side let the break halt their momentum, and the frantic pace continued from the restart. With the UCD defence refusing to let the opponents into their half, Trinity opted to kick for territory more often. This tactic wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped due to O’Shaughnessy’s expert fielding at fullback. UCD decided to take full advantage of their strong bench, with Clare Coombes, Meadhbh O’Callaghan, Emma Costello and Ali Norman all being introduced.
Trinity’s best attack of the match came mid-way through the second half, the visitor’s full back exploiting a gap in the UCD defence, making it over the 22 before the cover tackle by Crowe. Trinity let their forwards do the rest of the work, going through multiple phases and inching their way to the try line. UCD appeared to be off the hook when the ball was knocked on, but Trinity were awarded a penalty which was taken quickly and three phases later found themselves in for their first, and only, try of the game.
Now only a point ahead with 20 minutes to go, the Collidge girls stepped it up a gear yet again. They were dealt a blow soon after when Aoife Byrne was forced off, the scrum half having put in a first-class performance for UCD. Byrne’s high quality passing allowed UCD to maintain the intensity and keep Trinity on the back foot, and her cover tackles were crucial in shutting down the opponent’s attack. However, replacement Heather Cullen ensured UCD in no way suffered from Byrne’s departure, slotting seamlessly into the nine position.
UCD fought their way back into the Trinity half thanks to another carry from O’Dowd following a well worked move from Coleman and Lawless. Tess Meade was unlucky not to extend Collidge’s lead when she was held up over the line, but UCD didn’t have to wait long to put more points on the board. The Trinity defence once again found themselves unable to deal with the strength and power of O’Dowd, and the number 8 got her second try of the day. The initial carry off the scrum was made by Coleman, who was inches from scoring herself, beating five defenders in the process. The conversion was vital, as it meant Trinity needed two scores with less than 10 minutes remaining, and sure enough Coffey delivered, leaving it 15-7 to UCD.
The home side emptied the bench soon after, Sinead Gallagher, Anna Potterton and Orla Hanlon all on for the closing minutes. Determined to keep Trinity in their own half, Colemancleverly kicked in behind the defensive line. But the kick is only as good as the chase, and great pressure and tackles from Lawless and Coffey forced the knock on from Trinity, relieving some of the pressure.
The final minutes were all Trinity, the away side looking to have the last word. But the UCD defence stood strong, forced the knock on and Coleman kicked to touch, letting the celebrations begin. Coleman was deservedly chosen as Player of the Match, having put in an outstanding effort in both attack and defence and expertly controlled the game from out half.
It was a mammoth performance by the entire UCD squad, one that the girls and coaches David Dunne, Alice O’Callaghan, Ultan McAdam and Jack O’Dea have been working tirelessly towards all year. Their determination and spirit were evident from the off, making it a fitting farewell for captain Sarah Glynn and Emilie Dumon, both of whom were playing their final game for UCD. And what a game it was!
UCD 1. Alix Cunneen 2. Sarah Glynn (C) 3. Cara Donovan 4.Ev Fenlon 5. Hannah Woods 6. Emilie Dumon 7. Tess Meade 8. Alice O’Dowd 9. Aoife Byrne 10. Ali Coleman 11. Ray Lawless 12. Christine Coffey 13. Roisin Crowe 14. Sarah Woodmartin 15. Aoife O’Shaughnessy 16.Meadhbh O’Callaghan 17. Clare Coombes 18. Sinead Gallagher 19. Emma Costello 20. Orla Hanlon 21. Heather Cullen 22. Ali Norman 23. Anna Potterton