Fireworks fail to materialise as St Michael's continue remarkable rise
St Michael's Cian Kelleher takes a spectacular tumble in yesterday's Leinster Schools Senior Cup game at Donnybrook. photograph: donall farmer/inpho
LEINSTER SCHOOLS SENIOR CUP QUARTER-FINAL St Michael's 21 Clongowes 13:In the end this repeat of last year’s thrilling final proved anti-climatic.
Same victors though, as St Michael’s continue their remarkable climb up the ranks of Leinster schools rugby, joining Blackrock, Roscrea and Newbridge in tonight’s semi-final draw.
That takes place on the RDS pitch, the final venue come March 18th, at half-time in the Leinster versus Scarlets game.
They will want to avoid Blackrock and hardly be overjoyed by the sight of Roscrea’s massive pack of forwards. Newbridge are a decent outfit, but they would be the preferred option.
Yesterday their legion of representative players ensured the early scare from Clongowes, running in two tries in the opening 21 minutes, would not lead to a psychological meltdown.
Outhalf Ross Byrne was calmness personified in the crucial third quarter, finishing with a tidy four from six shots at goal, including three penalties as he reeled in the early Clongowes lead.
Byrne, however, profited from the excellent work of the St Michael’s pack, where openside Alex Penny and captain Ross Molony came up with some inspirational plays in both attack and defence.
It did look very worrying for the defending champions.
Byrne put them ahead on six minutes but they seemed shell-shocked by the subsequent wave upon wave of Clongowes attacks that came crashing down upon their try line.
Clongowes left wing Alan Jeffers was cruelly denied a try in the ninth minute when clearly grounding the ball near the corner flag. At least the referee’s error wasn’t an issue in the contest as from the resulting five-metre scrum, Cian O’Donoghue sprinted over in the right corner.
Clongowes impressive fullback Cillian Burke was unable to land the difficult conversion. Burke also miscued the conversion of Stephen Keelan’s well taken try but at 10-3 Clongowes had their dream start.
Molony’s side responded admirably with their own barrage of pressure on Clongowes’ defence and Byrne was presented two penalties, both for offside, to reduce arrears.
He nailed one, the other striking the upright, to leave it 10-6 at the turn.
Early in the second half, Byrne’s fourth penalty reduced the deficit to the minimum but Burke instantly responded to make it 13-9.
As a contest, a gripping one anyway, that was it. St Michael’s immediately upped the tempo and physicality, eventually taking the lead in the 48th minute after a brilliant offload by Penny allowed loosehead Harry Redmond charge over the line.
The game’s decisive score came with nine minutes of normal time remaining with St Michael’s tighthead Denis Coulson benefiting from another brilliant offload in contact, this time by Molony.
The genesis of that try was a turnover, engineered by Adam Leavy, some excellent continuity work by Penny, Nick McCarthy and James Ryan before Molony’s determined carry and skilful pass.
The whole passage of play neatly summed up what St Michael’s are about.
Clearly, they will not relinquish their crown without a vicious struggle.