St Michael's set to defend their crown

St Michael's Nick McCarthy scores his side's second try against Newbridge College. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

St Michael's Nick McCarthy scores his side's second try against Newbridge College. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho


St Michael's College 21 Newbridge College 17:Defending champions St Michael’s marched into their third final in four years, setting up a mouth-watering repeat of the 2006 decider, when Luke Fitzgerald’s Blackrock edged a thriller, 14-12, at Lansdowne Road.

The latest instalment of the Rock Road rivalry takes place on Bank Holiday Monday, March 18th at the RDS.

This St Michael’s team covers ground like a thoroughbred from Aidan O’Brien’s yard, gliding away in the opening strides of this game, their class immediately evident. They looked unstoppable in attack as outhalf Ross Byrne directed matters with the authority of a veteran.

Mikey O’Hare galloped away for the opening try on seven minutes but Byrne’s fingerprints were all over the build-up. A flowing attack ended with tighthead prop Denis Coulson flipping a pass out the side passage for his right winger.

Byrne landed the conversion, and while Newbridge fullback Chris Healy hit back with a penalty, Byrne nonchalantly rolled St Michael’s back into Newbridge’s 22.

The Irish schools number 10 Byrne directs traffic relentlessly forward, making this well-oiled machine motor so well.

There isn’t an average player in their ranks, but the secondrows are a little special. Captain Ross Molony has been around a few seasons, but remember the name of under-16 6ft 5in lighthouse James Ryan. Think an energetic Mal O’Kelly. Their second try came on 26 minutes, scrumhalf Nick McCarthy feinted to go wide before leaping over near the ruck.

Newbridge have been an enjoyable side to follow; littered with skilful, albeit lightweight, footballers. Centre Jake Howlett’s electric, dancing 50 -metre break before half-time kept them in the game.

They went to their maul, understandably well-drilled by Aaron Dundon, and prop Jonathan Phelan eventually flopped over in the left corner. Healy got the touchline conversion to make it 14-10.

But the anvil fell three minutes into the second half as Byrne stepped over for the third try. Ed Wynne’s late try, after Matthew Gilsenan was sin-binned, and Robbie Mullen’s conversion gave respectability to the final scoreline. But St Michael’s had done enough.

ST MICHAEL’S: C Kelleher; M O’Hare, A Leavy, M Gilsenan, D Green; R Byrne, N McCarthy; H Redmond, R Allen, D Coulson, R Molony (capt), J Ryan, C Cregan, A Penny, J Murphy. Replacements: N Quane for H Redmond, G Duffy for M O’Hare (both 66).

NEWBRIDGE: C Healy; N Delahunt, J Howlett, J O’Neill, J Darcy; M Sutton, J Coghlan-Murray; J Phelan, C Doyle, H O’Donnell, C Nugent, B Hayden (capt), M O’Connor, O McKnight, T Brady. Replacements: R Dromgoole Maguire for T Brady (24-29 mins), R Mullen for J Coghlan Murray (39 mins), J Coghlan Murray for R Mullen (49-55 mins), T Treacy for T Brady (50 mins), A Shanahan for J O’Neill, J Briody for C Doyle (both 54 mins), E Wynne for H O’Donnell (59 mins), R Drumgoole Maguire C Doyle (66 mins) P Kyne for N Delahunt (67). Referee: N Correll (LRR).

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