Sligo Grammar School 15 Coláiste Iognáid 10
Sligo Grammar School are back on top of the heap in Connacht Schools rugby for the first time in eight years after a late try from replacement Matthew Ryan rounded off a 50-minute long comeback against Coláiste Iognáid (the Jes) at the Sportsground yesterday afternoon.
The Sligo side were the better team for the latter part of the first half and they controlled the ball and played most of the game in the Coláiste Iognáid half after the interval. But it wasn’t until Seán Gilvarry got his first real chance to run at the Galway school’s defence that they created the decisive opening with just three minutes remaining.
It was a remarkable turnaround in a game that saw Coláiste Iognáid make by far the better start, disrupting Sligo Grammar in the set piece and crashing over for the game’s first try through fullback Ben O’Malley after just ten minutes.
The Jes had been the comfortable winners when these two sides met in the group stages and, while Sligo’s impressive semi-final win over Marist College suggested that they had made significant improvements since then, it looked like they were in for a tough afternoon as they fell ten points behind after 20 minutes.
Jes outhalf Patrick Nash made light of the difficult conditions to slot over a very tough conversion to O’Malley’s try and as conditions deteriorated, nightmarish handling conditions made it difficult for either side to gain any real momentum.
Sligo Grammar’s lineout badly misfired, they lost seven of their own throws in succession at one stage, and that forced them into carrying the ball when the space wasn’t there – one such instance led to Ambrose Bamber getting swallowed up by Jes tacklers, leading to a holding-on penalty from which Nash scored.
Sligo needed something to ignite their challenge and they got it when a quick eight-nine exchange led to Gareth McGinty dinking a low kick past the tryline. Winger Jonjo Devine was able to outpace his opposite number to get there first and touch down for a momentum-shifting score.
An Earl Norris penalty before half-time reduced the gap further and as the second half continued, handling errors prevented Sligo Grammar from taking the lead for long stretches, even though the possession and territory stats were all on their terms.
The Galway school made one huge goalline stand to clear their lines from just three metres out from their own posts, but more pressure was to come. Defensively Sligo Grammar were completely on top, turning over Coláiste Iognáid time and again, and playing the game on their own terms.
Beating the clock was also crucial however, and it took a moment of real magic to make that happen,
With just three minutes to play, Adam Hunter’s flat pass gave Seán Gilvarry a sliver of light on the left wing and he took full advantage, beating two tackles and sprinting for 30 metres to be dragged down just short of the line. With the Jes stretched, two more solid phases opened the door for Matthew Ryan to pick from the base of the ruck and drive over.
Earl Norris’s conversion ensured that only a try would deny the school their 11th Senior Cup victory, but that extra cushion wasn’t needed as the Grammar lads kept Coláiste Iognáid penned back in their own half to see out the win.
Scorers: Sligo Grammar School: Tries: J Devine 21 mins, M Ryan 67 mins; Pen: E Norris 29 mins; Con; E Norris 68 mins.
Coláiste Iognáid: Try: B O'Malley 10 mins; Pen: P Nash 18 mins; Con: P Nash 11 mins.
SLIGO GRAMMAR SCHOOL: A Harte; J Devine, G Murtagh, C Creaven, S Gilvarry; E Norris, G McGinty; A Platt, M Hunter, T Maxwell; A Hill, P Wright; O Ven der Grijn, A Hunter, A Bamber. Replacements: Ross Clarke for Hunter (17), Jack Dennison for Harte (half-time), Matthew Ryan for Wright (half-time), Oisín Lawley for Maxwell (48).
COLÁISTE IOGNÁID: B O'Malley; H Kelly, A Madden, R McHugh, C Toner; P Nash, A Sherlock; P Fahy, C Leonard, L Cloherty; R Lally, D Kelly; R Kavanagh, S McGovern, J Quinn. Replacements: Bobby Power for Kavanagh (51), Jamie Cunningham for Toner (54), Conal Ó Floinn for Lally (61)
Referee: Andrew Fogarty