The Belfast Trojans beat Trinity College Dublin 28-14 to capture their fourth Shamrock Bowl in as many seasons.
The Trojans went the regular season unbeaten and pulled away in the second half at Dalymount Park to cap another perfect year for the boys in green. The Bowl was a rematch of last year’s encounter which the Trojans won 7-0 in horrendous conditions in Tallaght Stadium. The move across Dublin to the home of Bohemians FC didn’t bother the reigning champions and their second half performance in particular was simply textbook.
It was the Students who drew first blood though, the talismanic Rob McDowell breaking a number of would-be tacklers on route to the endzone with a blistering 48-yard touchdown scamper. Other teams would immediately hit the panic button, but the Trojans carried on their business and hit back immediately. Fantastic running by Matt Armstrong brought Belfast into the redzone, where quarterback James McKelvey threw to receiver Dave Colvin for a 13-yard touchdown to level the scores. As predicted the game was tight, reflected by the 7-7 scoreline at halftime.
The second half however the Trojans took over the game. A fourth and ten for Belfast was changed to a fourth and five after an offside which brought the offence back to the field instead of the punt team. A bold call was rewarded when McKelvey hit Colvin again for his second of the day, as he deputised for the suspended Dave Richardson at wideout. TCD fought back and drove the ball into the Belfast redzone, but a fumbled handoff to open the fourth quarter was pivotal as Neil Graham fell on the ball gifting possession back to the champions.
Another fantastic drive was capped by Armstrong’s ten yard touchdown run to put daylight between the two teams for the first time all afternoon. Credit to the Students they didn’t die quietly, Alex Gurney plunging over for the score midway through the fourth quarter to give Trojan supporters a nervy few minutes to watch.
The very next play though was the killer blow. Jonathan Siri looked bottled up on the ensuing kick off return, but such is the strength of the rookie, he shrugged off a number of tacklers before finding a seam up the touchline and taking it all the way to the house sending the Belfast visitors into raptures. Again Trinity wouldn’t lie down and drove to the Trojans redzone again after more fantastic work by McDowell. The Trojans defence stiffened though, producing a goalline stand for the ages.
Runs from McDowell and Gurney brought TCD to the one yard line. Then came the biggest two plays of the game. On third down McDowell rolled right and dumped off to Mick O’Shea. The big fullback had a full head of steam going into the corner of the endzone but was denied by rookie cornerback James Gallagher who met the runner head on bringing him down at the half yard line in a sickening collision. Onto fourth down and the biggest play of the game which brought an equally bigger surprise.
Rather than take it himself, McDowell handed off to Gurney who was held up by a wall of green and eventually slammed backwards as the Trojan defence all but ended the game. McKelvey kneeled out proceedings for the fourth successive year, as Belfast clinched another Shamrock Bowl title, capping their perfect season. That is now 48 wins in 49 competitive games since 2011, with it four consecutive national championships.
The war for four is over.
The strive for five now begins in earnest.