Gonzaga power home in second half to make Leinster semi-finals

Wesley College had battled hard in the first half to trail by just seven points at the break

Gonzaga College 32 Wesley College 7

Gonzaga College produced a strong second-half performance at Energia Park on Monday to book their place in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-finals.

Runners-up at this grade in 2019, the Ranelagh side – who included All-Ireland winning Meath minor footballer Paul Wilson among their ranks – were just 7-0 in front at the interval. However, they subsequently turned on the style with 25 unanswered points comfortably ensuring their passage into the penultimate round.

Whereas Gonzaga held off a spirited showing from Clongowes Wood College to earn a 34-26 triumph, Wesley had all of 20 points (30-10) to spare over Cistercian College Roscrea in the competition’s opening round.

This raised hopes that a high-scoring encounter was going to ensue, but a succession of errors robbed both sides of attacking momentum in the opening period. Stephen McMahon was off target from a Gonzaga penalty in the sixth-minute and while they displayed plenty of intent in possession, strong opposition defence was keeping them at bay.

The deadlock looked set to remain unbroken for the entirety of the first half until Michael Sullivan picked out Jody Browne from a close-range scrum and the inside centre powered over for a try that was converted by McMahon.

Declan Fassbender's men were expected to push on after the break and so it proved. Following excellent build-up play from George Morris and Hugo McLaughlin, Hugh Goddard unleashed a superb pass out wide for Hugo Neville to dot down for an unconverted five-pointer in the right corner.

After McLaughlin – taking over place-kicking duties from McMahon – added a penalty in the 47th minute, tries courtesy of replacements Oisín Murray and Tomás Noone underlined Gonzaga’s credentials.

While Wesley were rewarded for their undoubted industry with a stoppage-time score from number eight Oran Handley, it was a mere consolation for the Ballinteer school as their opponents convincingly joined Blackrock College in the next phase.

SCORERS – Gonzaga College: J Browne, H Neville, O Murray, T Noone try each; H McLaughlin 2 pens, 2 cons; S McMahon con. Wesley College: O Handley try, J Cazzini con.

GONZAGA COLLEGE: H McLaughlin; H Neville, H Goddard, J Browne, O O'Neill; S McMahon, M Sullivan; T Hammond, T Cotter, G Morris; T Murphy, L O'Callaghan; N Maguire, G O'Donnell, P Wilson.

Replacements: O Murray for Sullivan (53 mins), A McVerry for O'Donnell, T Noone for Morris (both 63), A O'Flanagan for O'Neill (65), L McLaughlin for Hammond, T Wyley for Murphy, M Wall for Neville (all 68), M Tyrell for Wilson (70).

WESLEY COLLEGE: M Golden; F Nolan, T Durham, J Fish, J Crooks; J Cazzini, K Moran; S Foulds, R Jones, A Lowry; H Hjelseth, J Walsh; L O'Neill, T Geoghegan, O Handley.

Replacements: C Collins for Walsh (40 mins), C Mitchell Doyle for Golden (53), R Handley for Lowry, R Cockrell for Nolan, S Pedlow for Foulds, L Clinton for Moran (all 63), H Girardi for Fish, M Campbell for O'Neill (both 67).

Referee: D Blake (Leinster).

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