St Mary’s College 33 Wesley College 28
Not even a Rian Handley hat-trick could deny St Mary’s a place in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final in another cracking encounter at Energia Park in Donnybrook on Thursday.
Right from the start, Wesley were not inclined to take a wait-and-see approach, their forwards gaining ground for Handley to burrow over and Charlie Hempenstall converting in the ninth minute.
St Mary’s were back on terms when the forwards did their duty and scrumhalf Luke McGill rifled a flat pass for Evan Moynihan to unhinge the defence, Cillian Jacobs converting to square it in the 12th minute.
Wesley were unfortunate not to reclaim the lead when Jack Roberts’s try-scoring pass to Evan Pearson was ruled out by the officials.
Fullback Finn Nolan’s punt and Paddy Collins’s takedown of Gavin Foley were emblematic of Wesley’s willingness to chase lost causes.
The secret to success for St Mary’s looked to be in the maul, rolling forward to create enough pressure for Sam Ryan and Moynihan to expose holes and for captain Luca Jennings to claim a try, Jacobs converting for 14-7 in the 27th minute.
Then Jennings rose to take Jacobs’s throw, Aaron O’Brien making good metres for prop Tiernan O’Shea to pick up the try, Jacobs adding the extras in the 31st minute.
St Mary’s exit strategy was compromised by playing the ball out on the full, inviting Wesley to use the blunt force of their forwards to get hooker Handley over for his second, Hempenstall’s conversion making it 21-14 at the break.
The Ballinteer school’s ace in the pack was Handley, the hooker hammering home his hat-trick in double-quick time for Hempenstall to make it 21-21.
They were cool in their execution from a lineout, flanker Milo Campbell pumping his legs to make the line, Hempenstall adding the conversion in the 45th minute.
St Mary’s needed more go-forward and they were given it when Gavin Mulvihill forced a penalty on the floor.
The same play that produced their first try did the trick for their fourth, this time Mulvihill finding the unstoppable Moynihan to narrow the gap to two points in the 54th minute.
The next time they went to their most reliable weapon of the maul, and Wesley were seen to have pulled it down for the harshest punishment available – a penalty try.
SCORERS – St Mary’s College: E Moynihan 2 tries; L Jennings, T O’Shea try each; penalty try; C Jacobs 3 cons. Wesley College: R Handley 3 tries; M Campbell try; C Hempenstall 4 cons.
ST MARY’S COLLEGE: G Foley; J Halpin, E Moynihan, T Tourish, D McNulty; S Ryan, L McGill; T O’Shea, C Jacobs, R Smyth; D Leane, L Policky; J Durkan, L Jennings (capt), A O’Brien.
Replacements: G Mulvihill for L McGill (38 mins), L Flaherty for L Policky (40), F Devereaux for T O’Shea (58).
WESLEY COLLEGE: F Nolan; E Pearson, P Collins, J Cazzini, J Roberts; C Hempenstall, J Freyne; S Pedlow, R Handley, R McNeill; F O’Neill, C Collins; M Campbell, A Bennet-Murphy, O Handley (capt).
Replacements: D Gilmore for C Collins (62 mins), R Price for Handley (68).
Referee: C Roche (Leinster Branch).