Gonzaga see off second half Clongowes fightback to progress

North Kildare school threatened to overturn 22-point deficit before Gonzaga pulled away

Gonzaga College 34 Clongowes Wood College 26

Gonzaga College held off a powerful fightback from Clongowes Wood College at Energia Park in Donnybrook on Tuesday to book their place in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-finals.

22-0 in front just past the half-hour mark, the 2019 finalists were rocked by the concession of three converted tries either side of the interval. Yet, this was as close as their north Kildare counterparts came to forcing the issue.

Rory Finlay and replacement Oscar O’Neill registered five-pointers late on - in advance of a consolation effort by Dan Daly for Clongowes - to secure their spot in the draw for the last-eight.

Joint-winners of this competition along with Newbridge College in 2020 - their proposed final meeting was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic - Clongowes endured a difficult start to the action and fell 10 points behind with as many minutes on the clock.

Supplementing outhalf Stephen McMahon’s fourth-minute penalty, Hugh Goddard released his centre partner Jody Browne for a supremely executed converted finish on the left flank.

Clongowes dug deep in defence for large spells, before being breached once again in the 25th-minute when McMahon released lock Thomas Murphy for a simple try at the end of a lung-bursting run.

It looked to be a rout for the south Dubliners when fullback Hugo McLaughlin grabbed an additional five-pointer, but Clongowes finally opened their account when flanker Blayze Molloy charged down an attempted clearance and proceeded to dot down under the posts.

Although Shane MacNulty’s bonus strike still left them 15 points adrift at the break (22-7), Clongowes were a rejuvenated force and came out firing on all cylinders after the restart.

Within five minutes of the action resuming, Matthew Wright’s charges had reduced their deficit to the bare minimum. Supplementing Oscar O’Brien’s clinical dive over the line, MacNulty conjured a spectacular seven point salvo that consequently turned up the heat on Gonzaga.

However, Declan Fassbender’s Metropolitans remained calm and reinforced their authority with a 47th-minute try courtesy of winger Finlay - who latched onto a McMahon pass out wide to touch down in the left-corner.

Clongowes continued to give themselves a fighting chance of success by winning several defensive penalties in the dying moments of a pulsating affair. That was until O’Neill intercepted a stray pass with three minutes left and crossed unopposed for a game-clinching score.

There was enough time for replacement backrow for Daly to claim a final Clongowes try, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the Gonzaga party.

Scorers: Gonzaga College: J Browne, T Murphy, H McLaughlin, R Finlay, O O'Neill try each, S McMahon pen, 3 cons. Clongowes Wood College: S MacNulty try, 3 cons, B Molloy, O O'Brien, D Daly try each.

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

Replacements: T Wyley for O'Donnell, O Murray for Sullivan (both 56 mins), O O'Neill for Finlay (62 mins).

Clongowes Wood College: P Spillane; S Noone, S MacNulty, H Roche, Nagle, O O'Brien; T Murtagh, H MacGoey; F Macari, L Dowling, J Wyse; J Ruddy, A Kelly; B Molloy, D O'Brien, L Burke.

Replacements: M Roche Nagle for Kelly (half-time), T Hennebry for MacGoey, (48 mins), D Daly for Burke, H Mallon for H Roche Nagle (both 58 mins), H Coveney for MacNulty (70 mins).

Referee: J Carvill (LRR).

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