Newbridge College 31 St Gerard’s, Bray 12
A clinical edge in attack helped Newbridge College to overcome a spirited challenge from St Gerard's, Bray in the opening round of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup at Energia Park in Donnybrook on Wednesday.
Joint-winners of this competition in 2020 along with fellow Kildare school Clongowes Wood College – their proposed final meeting was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic – Newbridge were seeking to set out their stall against the north Wicklow outfit. While they had to withstand pressure for large stretches of the contest, a five-try haul, including one apiece for wingers Todd Lawlor and Ciarán Mangan, ensured they progressed to the last-eight with 19 points to spare.
Coached by former Munster and Leicester Tigers back Johne Murphy, Newbridge stormed in front from virtually their first attack of the game. Following excellent approach work by John Collins and Calum Bolton, Lawlor crossed for a converted try in the seventh minute.
Facing into a tricky breeze, Newbridge were pinned inside their own half for long spells. But they were always a danger when in possession and after the ball broke into his path on 23 minutes, Mangan touched down in consummate fashion.
Gerard's persevered with their challenge, however, and No 8 Luke Long finally opened their account with a try just past the half-hour mark.
Newbridge briefly lost skipper Kieran Kelly to a blood injury, but replacement Sam Watson made a telling impact in his absence. Following a prolonged period inside the opposition '22', the reserve flanker dotted down for a try that was comfortably converted by Paddy Taylor – who along with Lawlor won a Leinster Schools Junior Cup as recently as last October.
This scoring burst left Newbridge 19-7 in front at the interval. Much like the opening period, Gerard’s developed some encouraging phases in the third quarter but they struggled to pierce a committed Newbridge defence.
The sin-binning of Ronan Byrne was a further blow for the Bray side and, during his time on the sidelines, Newbridge put the outcome beyond doubt. Restored to the back-row on the resumption, Kelly produced a superb one-handed finish over the line.
St Gerard’s continued to battle and grabbed a second try through tighthead prop Fionán Denver with five minutes remaining. However, Shane Treacy’s stoppage-time effort ensured that a ruthless Newbridge had the final say.
Scorers – Newbridge College: T Lawlor, C Mangan, S Watson, K Kelly, S Treacy try each, P Taylor 3 cons. St Gerard's, Bray: L Long, F Denver try each, J Younger con.
NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE: C Bolton; C Mangan, J Collins, T Waters, T Lawlor; P Taylor, D Enright; F Mahon, M Masterson, P Stapleton; M Barry, S Treacy; K Kelly, R McGroary, S Fitzgibbon.
Replacements: S Watson for Kelly, 34 mins-half-time; C Corcoran for Collins, 37 mins; O Udell for Masterson, 44 mins; B Bohan for Stapleton, T Bohan for Enright, 46 mins; Watson for McGroary, 52 mins; A Larkin Smithers for Lawlor, 54 mins; R Byrne for Kelly, 62 mins; R Healy for Mahon, 65 mins.
ST GERARD'S, BRAY: C Foley; B Crowe, C O'Reilly, S O'Keefe, H O'Reilly; R O'Connoll, J Younger; J Butler, R Byrne, F Denver; T McGovern, P Harrington; M Von Teichman, T Wilkinson, L Long.
Replacements: S Keogh for Crowe, 8 mins; J Wyse for O'Connoll, 44 mins; C Riordan for Harrington, 58 mins; C Geraghty for Von Teichman, S Dalton for O'Keefe, both 62 mins; J Holland for Younger, G Carson for Denver, both 70 mins.
Referee: R Jenkinson (LRR).