Gonzaga hold off St Mary’s comeback to reach Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-finals

Gonzaga punished early red card with four first half tries at Energia Park

Gonzaga College 32 St Mary’s College 28

St Mary’s almost completed a comeback for the ages in going down to Gonzaga in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final at Energia Park on Tuesday.

Boosted by the return of Ireland Schools tighthead Andrew Sparrow, they never capitulated despite losing Zach Hopkins to a red card early on.

When Paul Wilson broke from the back of a maul, Hopkins was sure in the tackle. But, Wilson was able to get the ball away for Tom Brophy to complete a spectacular finish in the left corner to open the scoring.


Gonzaga had to cope with losing openside Gavin O’Donnell as early as the sixth minute and Hugo McLaughlin came perilously close to following him when landing awkwardly from a challenge by Hopkins, who was red-carded for not having a duty of care towards the player in the air.

They didn’t waste a minute in exacting a toll, using their numerical advantage in flashing on to the front-foot and spreading the ball right for centre Jody Browne to burst over the line. They added a third courtesy of a smart lineout move creating the hole for hooker Luke McLaughlin.

St Mary’s had to bite back and they managed to do so when David Leane grounded for a try, converted by hooker Cillian Jacobs to make it 15-7 in the 17th minute. Amid the non-stop action Gonzaga captain Paul Wilson was yellow-carded for taking out the receiver in the air under a restart.

Then, centre Browne’s deft pass put Mikey Wall away for their fourth unconverted try in the 28th minute.

The St Mary’s maul caused problems and Sparrow bulldozed over from a five metre penalty for Jacobs to land an improbable conversion to make it 20-14 at half-time.

Unsurprisingly, there were fewer fireworks when play resumed as Gonzaga set about exploiting the numerical advantage.

A menacing maul provided convincing evidence for a penalty try. In addition, St Mary’s number eight Aaron O’Brien was binned, taking them down to 13 players.

The turbocharged nature of Gonzaga’s tempo was too much, Wilson twisting to the whitewash for Stephen McMahon to convert for 34-14 in the 49th minute.

St Mary’s never dropped their heads, going hard enough at the ruck to force a yellow card for Adam McVerry before O’Brien smashed in a try, converted by Jacobs on the hour mark.

In a stunning example of character, O’Brien soon took off up the middle for Jack Halpin to crack the cover, Jacobs adding the extras to make it 34-28 in the 65th minute.

The momentum was truly with St Mary’s and they came once again to set up shop inside the five metre line until Morgan Tyrrell executed a crucial turnover on his own line.

Even then, it was not over. There was one last stand to be made by Gonzaga, Tom Wyley clamping down for a vital turnover. And that was that, Gonzaga progress to the semi-finals.

Scorers – Gonzaga: T Brophy, J Browne, L McLaughlin, M Wall, P Wilson try each; Pen try; S McMahon con. St Mary’s: D Leane, A Sparrow, A O’Brien, J Halpin try each; C Jacobs 4 cons.

GONZAGA: H McLaughlin; JP Breslin, A O’Flanagan, J Browne, M Wall; S McMahon (D O’Dwyer 57), T Brophy (J O’Dwyer 45); F O’Neill, L McLaughlin (J Sheil 56), A McVerry, J Kennedy (M Tyrrell 65), T Wyley, G O’Grady (M Tyrrell 45, temp), G O’Donnell (C Kennedy 6), P Wilson (Capt).

ST MARY’S: G Mulvihill; Z Hopkins, T Tourish, E Moynihan, D McNulty; S Ryan, L McGill (J Halpin 45); T O’Shea (J Molloy 50), C Jacobs, A Sparrow (Capt), D Leane (O Reid 45), J Durkan (L Pollicky 65), L Flaherty (G Foley 13), L Jennings (Capt), A O’Brien.

Referee: P Reidy (Leinster)