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Gonzaga pip Belvedere at the death to keep senior cup title defence alive

Aidan O’Flanagan crosses in added time before Darragh O’Dwyer sealed the win from the tee at Energia Park

Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final: Gonzaga College 34 Belvedere College 33

Gonzaga showed the mettle of champions in a classic Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final at Energia Park on Tuesday afternoon.

They had to recover from the sucker punch of going behind for the first time in the game to Cillian McCann’s try and Andre Ryan’s late conversion.

It would have been enough to crumble lesser young men. Not this bunch.

Backs and forwards combined in rhythm to cut and paste their way to the line where Aidan O’Flanagan was waiting to break Belvedere hearts. Or, at least, turn it from a miracle to a maybe which Daragh O’Dwyer made a certainty with his conversion at the whistle.

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Earlier, the holders immediately looked to play at pace, Noah Byrne countering and O’Flanagan cutting a fine line.

Belvedere’s trademark physicality was their way into the game, forcing a knock-on and a scrum penalty. O’Dwyer completed a charge-down and collection of the ball for a comfortable spin to the posts, topped up by his conversion.

Belvo’s movements may not have had the same fluidity. But, they were more interested in effectiveness. A nice, simple misdirection from a five-metre tap-and-go allowed Harry Goslin to get over for Ryan to level the game.

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Then, Patrick Masterson sped in between defenders for the recycle to allow O’Dwyer to feed JP Breslin for the finish. O’Dwyer converted.

A Belvedere lineout grab by Ryan McCann set the maul in motion, leading to a penalty which Goslin turned into a try, Ryan converting for 14-all. Gordon Barr saw yellow when it could so easily have been a penalty try for getting one hand to a pass meant for Breslin on half-time.

Gonzaga fullback Byrne blasted into space to have the defence in scramble mode before hooker McLaughlin burrowed over for O’Dwyer to make the conversion in the 39th minute.

Belvo escaped a period of pressure with the loss of three points to O’Dwyer’s left boot for 22-12 in the 53rd minute. Fitzgerald’s sudden acceleration had Gonzaga backpedalling and Eoin McDermott put the foot down from a ruck for Ryan to convert.

Still, O’Flanagan exploited a gap and McLaughlin was unstoppable from close range for a vital two-score lead.

There was a sting in the tail, Cillian McCann scoring off the back of a lineout for Ryan to convert to give Belvedere nothing more than a hope.

From the restart, they came hurtling out of their 22 to catch Gonzaga out of position. A queue of four players was not enough to get the job done. Instead, it took McCann’s ballast to complete the task, Ryan smashing a conversion from the left touchline.

Remarkably, the gap was still six points with just enough time for one last attack.

It was all Gonzaga needed.

SCORERS: Gonzaga: D O’Dwyer try, pen, 3 cons; L McLaughlin two tries; JP Breslin, A O’Flanagan try each.Belvedere: H Goslin, C McCann two tries each; E McDermott try; A Ryan four cons.

GONZAGA: N Byrne; JP Breslin, A O’Flanagan, P Masterson, B Colbert; D O’Dwyer, T Brophy; S Heneghan, L McLaughlin, J Sheil; M Kennedy, M Bruton; J Mulligan, C Kennedy, M Tyrrell.

Replacements: M Doherty for Bruton (32 mins), Z Mulligan for Colbert (57 mins), J Brophy for McLaughlin (70 mins).

BELVEDERE: T Byrne; H Ennis, D Lord, A Ryan, G Barr; H Fitzgerald, M Doyle; E McDermott, M McCarthy, B Merry; C McCann, R McCann (capt); C McLoughlin, A Clarke, H Goslin.

Replacements: S Barry for Ennis (19 mins), P McGrath for McCarthy, C Quinn for Merry, C McKinley for McLoughlin, C Fitzgerald for Clarke (all 44 mins), C Lyons for Barry (63 mins).

Referee: P Haycock (Leinster)

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