Late DCU comeback secures losing bonus point against reigning champions Carlow

Shane Brennan

Well-drilled IT Carlow walked away with a 20-14 victory from a floodlit DCU astro but the home side will be pleased that they ended the game with a strong final 15 minutes to secure a bonus point

The blistering pace of the game was set from the start with IT Carlow’s Niall Finnegan using great speed to carry the ball into the DCU 22 after the kickoff. Carlow’s inside centre Isacc Mansfield-Daly missed an early penalty opportunity.

In the early phases DCU planned to use their speed to break through the notoriously strong Carlow defence, opting to kick and run rather than try to plough through and break tackles.

What turned out to be a crucial difference in the game were the lineouts, DCU starting a bad trend with their first of the game not being straight.

As the game continued its high tempo DCU showed their power in the scrum, completely driving Carlow’s forwards in almost every scrum of the first half in an impressive display.

As the teams traded possessions Carlow’s offence was halted from getting an early try by some key plays, notably an ankle grab by flyhalf Evan Palmer and an intercepted crossfield kick by winger Ciarán Fennesy.

The excellent defensive plays did not last forever though, a DCU lineout went straight into the hands of Carlow number eight Jake Martin, who’s sweet handoff 2 metres from the tryline set up flanker Jamie Kavanagh for the games’ first try, the conversion attempt missed by Mansfield-Daly

“A bit of cohesion and this group will be way better than last year”

IT Carlow pressed on and showed and displayed impressive play from the lineout, the well formulated side communicating well, winning the ball and moving it openside with ease and great speed. This didn’t deter DCU however, who still applied pressure and forced a turnover a few times from these plays.

DCU lost another lineout, and IT Carlow used the possession to force play into the opposition 22. A few phases later they forced another turnover, which ended in a try for Mansfield-Daly with a great burst of speed to put Carlow 10 ahead, he then proceeded to miss his third kick of the night.

After some attrition play the visitors executed another perfect lineout, Carlow hooker Ben Devlin found space and broke though DCU’s line after the ball moved from openside back to the right wing where the lineout was taken, his handoff to second row Conor Murphy led to Carlow’s third try of the night, the kick missed this time by fullback Sam Dunne.

An uphill battle for DCU as they went into the Second Half 15-0 behind, and within 2 minutes of the restart the deficit was extended to 20 points with a quickfire try by Jake Martin, the kick missed this time by centre Cormac Murray.

Throughout the rest of the half DCU had plenty of chances to get themselves on the scoreboard, prop Michael Power coming agonisingly close to providing the immediate response DCU needed.

In the second half DCU’s scrum wasn’t as dominant as it was in the first half, however their lineouts improved and turned into some chances which should have been profitable. DCU just couldn’t seem to get over the line in the game’s third quarter, despite being within 5 metres four times.

IT Carlow still had their chances, but some last minute defending saved DCU from going even further behind, a try for Carlow would almost certainly derail DCU’s momentum as they rallied for a losing bonus point.

Great bursts from DCU number eight Ruadhán Byron kept the drive for a comeback going, especially when picking the ball up out of scrums that IT Carlow looked strong in. The pressure culminated in a DCU scrum with less than 10 minutes of play left, a crossfield kick from fullback Nathan Bourgeois controlled by Fennesy to get DCU to within m metres, the following plays eventually led a try by replacement forward Aidan O’Kane, the conversion by Bourgeois successful without using a tee.

As the clock turned red DCU added a second try to close the gap and secure the bonus point, a counter attack after IT Carlow pushed them back as far as their own 5 led to a last gasp try, the conversion by Bourgeois closed the gap to 6 but it was too little to late for DCU’s chance of winning the game.

Afterwards DCU coach Brian Fitzpatrick said “compared to last year we lost this game 50-odd to 15 … we’re stronger as a club this year considering we’ve only had one training session this year … A bit of cohesion and this group will be way better than last year”.

Shane Brennan

Image Credit: Ruairí Carberry