St Michael’s see off game Terenure challenge

Number eight Max Deegan’s try proves the crucial difference

St Michael's 17 Terenure College 13

The proficiency of St Michael's lineout guided them out of trouble yesterday. That and the choke tackle, so in vogue with Irish forwards in recent times, set up a repeat of last year's final against Blackrock College next Tuesday. But they so nearly lost a game they should have won pulling up.

With the final seconds ticking away and Terenure attacking the end where Joe Schmidt – whose son Tim was Terenure scrumhalf – lingered behind the goalposts with a raft of other Leinster coaches, November's All Black recovery flickered into the mind.

That is until the last attack was snuffed out by Charlie Cregan’s belligerent St Michael’s pack. Still, a trait visible in nearly all schools matches between marginally uneven sides was on show here.

St Michael's, undoubtedly the superior outfit, edged into an early lead, which they coughed up because of one moment of poor judgement, before regaining the seven-point advantage as half-time and the heavy rains descended.

Upped intensity
Someone arriving for the second half would struggled to believe they were the better team. They simply stopped playing, resting on a 17-10 advantage rather than dictating a tempo they had set over the previous 35 minutes.


Terenure, sensing a real opportunity to upset the odds, upped their intensity. Cup rugby in its purest form then. Just how they like it round these parts.

To the details.

With five minutes clocked, St Michael’s hooker Ronan Kelleher muscled over for the opening try. The highly efficient Matthew Gilsenan – a tall, rangy outhalf not unlike the Racing Metro 92 flyhalf who once plied his trade on this pitch – added the extras.

Jack Ward and Gilsenan swapped penalties before a moment of carelessness by St Michael’s fullback Gavin Duffy gifted opposite number Matthew Byrne a try.

The chance was sparked by quick hands from the Terenure backline out to left wing Sam O’Shea, who chipped over only to be bodychecked. Byrne took up the chase as Duffy hesitated, willing the ball to bobble over the try line so he could secure a 22-metre drop out.

At that very moment, the opportunistic Byrne flung his body over it. Try. Ward’s conversion made it 10-10. No better lesson will Duffy ever learn on a rugby field. The same may be said of the entire St Michael’s team.

Unruffled, they responded through number eight Max Deegan carrying three defenders over the line off a five-metre scrum.

Gilsenan should've added another penalty to his second conversion but it glanced off the upright. Fifth year lock James Ryan, arguably the game's best player, pounced on the loose ball but Terenure survived.

Wonderful opportunity
During the interval their wily coach Dermot Blaney surely reinvigorated them with news of the wonderful opportunity lying at their feet. Terenure's primary attacking cogs were scrumhalf Tim Schmidt – the Ireland coach's eldest son – and initially the close-in carrying of the biggest teenager on show, Robert Lalor.

And that’s saying something considering the presence of Ryan. A towering yet mobile secondrow, presuming he can stay largely injury-free there is no limit to what Ryan can achieve.

Unsurprisingly, Schmidt invariably took the right option, be it a decent flat pass or left -footed box kick to force the action into St Michael’s territory.

In response, the cerebral backrow trio of Deegan, Cregan and Alex Penny stymied the flow and got the job done. Notably, neither Schmidt nor Lalor finished the game.

In the end it was a pair of lineout steals and the ability to hold up some desperate Terenure charges that secured passage into the last eight, where the lessons of this outing will presumably be learned.

ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE: G Duffy; P O'Connor, A Leavy, O O'Meara, J Kelly; M Gilsenan, D Duggan; R Mulvihill, R Kelleher, H Redmond; O Dowling, J Ryan; C Cregan (capt), A Penny, M Deegan. Replacements: E O'Neill for R Mulvihill (49 mins), I McGrath for R Mulvihill, R Cosgrave for P O'Connor (both 51 mins), J O'Connell for D Duggan (67 mins).
TERENURE COLLEGE: M Byrne; T O'Donoghue, J Ward, G O'Reilly, S O'Shea; F O'Brien, T Schmidt; O Wigglesworth, A Roche, C Madden; R Lalor, R Murray; R Sweeney, C Seery, M Melia (capt). Replacements: K O'Brien for O Wigglesworth, L O'Dea for R Sweeney, E Rowan for G O'Reilly (all 52 mins), J McCormack for R Lalor (55 mins), T Burke for T Schmidt, C Croke for T O'Donoghue (both 68 mins).
Referee: G Glennon (LRR).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent