Saturday was a day of high drama, and ultimately twin celebrations, as the 1st XV completed their remarkable comeback to avoid relegation, and the ageless 6th XV took home the Guilfoyle-James Cup for the first time since 1989.
With both games running consecutively, the day was set for a wonderful afternoon of rugby, and with the sun obliging for once, a large crowd packed into College Park to watch a thrilling game between the 1sts and Trinity. With both sides knowing that a Garryowen win would push the loser of this game into the playoff, the intensity was extreme from the start. Both sides ploughed into tackles and hit rucks with abandon, meaning the ball changed hands several times. Allied to a rock hard pitch, this meant for a frenetic pace in a game for the neutrals.
DUFC hit the front with a penalty, before Nure hit their straps with a fine try. An excellent break through the middle led to the ball going through several sets of hands, before Kev O’Neill sniped off the side of a ruck, offloading for Robert Duke to crash over. O’Neill was forced off injured, with wing Robbie Murphy ably deputising at 9 – surely a neat summary of our season! The sides then traded penalties, leaving Terenure 10-6 up, before Trinity took the lead with a spectacular try showcasing the pace of their outside backs. Right on the stroke of half time, Nure retook the lead, with a wonderful solo try from Stephen O’Neill, bursting through midfield before chipping the full back to gather and score to leave Nure 17-13 up at the break.
The second half continued at the same pace, with Nure’s pack driving over from almost 20m out, and Swaine kicking a penalty to go 25-13 up. However, Trinity were controlling possession, and eventually the pressure told, with Cathal Deans sent to the naughty step for a ruck infringement. The subsequent penalty was kicked to the corner and driven over to make it a one score game – 25-20. Incredible Nure defence held strong, with a superb Duke turnover seeming to give us the opportunity to see the game out. A savage tackle on the excellent Eoin Joyce led to a turnover, however, and again the dangerous DUFC back line showed their speed, rounding the defence to score under the posts. The winning conversion was the last play – but thankfully the narrow defeat was tempered with the knowledge that Lansdowne had soundly beaten Garryowen, leaving the Limerick side in the playoff, and Nure having a party!
The crowd, enjoying the sunshine in the Pav, soon migrated to Donnybrook to watch Les Devlin’s 6th XV take on a fine Bective side in the Guilfoyle James Cup final. Bective started the brighter, taking a 10-0 lead, but the vast experience in the Nure pack (Devlin, Aaron O’Grady, Mark Long, David Fox among others) meant the lads kept their heads and grew into the match. A try for Cian put us only three points behind at the break, and Mooney put us ahead with a fine try in the corner. Eoghan Fitzmaurice casually stroked over the touchline conversion to make it 14-10. Nure held strong in the closing stages to take the cup home, and start party #2!
On Tuesday night, the 4th XV’s brave season came to an end as they were beaten in the semi final of the Winters Cup. Despite a good performance, Old Belvedere were too strong on the night, running out 33-13 winners. The lads’ commitment is to be lauded after a long, hard season that saw them battle their way out of the relegation spots with a late surge. Well done lads – until next year!