Moloney's decisive try helps spirited Roscrea complete compelling comeback
Rory Moloney of Cistercian College Roscrea on the attack against Terenure during yesterday's quarter-final at Tallaght Stadium. photograph: donall farmer/inpho
Roscrea 13 Terenure 10:The seed of this victory was planted 12 months ago. Roscrea were poised to knock out the eventual 2012 champions only for St Michael’s to scrape a draw after 17 minutes of injury time. They narrowly lost the replay as their giant-killing aspirations became a mere footnote in schools cup folklore.
Yesterday several returning players, including heroic captain, Seán O’Brien, refused to let history repeat itself. It was a progressive day for Leinster rugby, this being the first schools cup match staged at Tallaght Stadium, along with the first female touch judge Aoife McCarthy, but this quarter-final will be remembered regardless of such external trappings.
For all the hype about Terenure’s thrilling backline – captain Stephen O’Neill, All Black offspring Harrison Brewer and the brilliant Billy Dardis – the old adage ran true here.
The Roscrea forwards bludgeoned their school past the pre-tournament favourites and into the semi-finals. Their maul won the day, in the face of ferocious opposition from Terenure, especially excellent openside flanker Paddy Thornton as well as locks Robert Lalor and Robert Somerville.
They can also thank the experience of referee Alain Rolland who crawled through a mass of bodies before awarding Rory Moloney’s decisive 68th minute try. Rolland also correctly rewarded the brilliant rucking power of O’Brien and Oisín Heffernan at crucial moments.
Roscrea had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but only banked three measly points from a Tim Foley penalty after five minutes. Terenure were making unforced handling errors as Foley’s polished kicking game made use of the low-lying sun and the breeze.
Then came a cracking counter punch. Isolated when rushing out of his own 22, Roscrea’s big lock Daniel Trayers was turned over. Terenure scrumhalf Gary Clarkin attacked the short side as Niall O’Sullivan and Dardis shovelled the ball to Jake Swaine and the outhalf dived over in the corner.
Roscrea piled forward but Terenure’s defence refused to break, ensuring a 5-3 lead at the turn. The next hammer blow came early in the second half. From a preplanned attack in midfield, Brewer’s soft hands found Dardis at pace. The fullback skinned the first man, handing off a second before freeing Matthew Madigan.
Dardis missed his second conversion attempt but at 10-3, Terenure had a commanding lead.
That was only the beginning of this story. Roscrea’s pack refused to let up, Foley sending them down the tram line and the lineout maul eventually paying off when Jacob Walshe crashed over on 50 minutes.
Foley missed the conversion and another penalty five minutes later, prompting the introduction of Ciaran Gaffney, last year’s fly-half, who had been injured all season.
But, again, that wasn’t the decisive factor. It was the immense power of O’Brien and others to steal back possession on the ground which ignited their last foray into their opponents 22. And still, Terenure almost stole it. Dardis broke the line and fed Madigan but a repeat of their earlier try was denied by Rob Wharton’s last gasp tackle. Terenure pressed and pressed before Rolland rightly judged that Heffernan had got his massive frame over the ball. It was this fabulous game’s last play.