St Michael's gain second-half control
Persistence and unnerved concentration were the crucial elements in St Michael's victory over St Mary's at Donnybrook yesterday. Twice they had to come from behind and, by keeping St Mary's scoreless in the second half, they comfortably secured their place in the Leinster Junior Cup final.
Of most significance were the first-half tries from number eight David Carroll and outhalf George Byron. Conor Gilbridge then made the game safe in the second half and ultimately, victory was perhaps more convincing than the seven-point margin suggests.
The lone St Mary's try was well executed by number eight Paul Nash just before the end of the first period, during which they were keeping a firmer handle on the proceedings.
In contrast, St Michael's were a little hesitant in finding their feet, conceding a superbly struck penalty by Michael Finlay after just four minutes. Byron was also called into a succession of clearances as St Mary's maintained their momentum for the first quarter hour.
Captain James McCarthy made the first notable break for St Michael's midway through the half. Well supported by prop Adam Murphy and centre Spencer Mitton, this forced St Mary's to defend in numbers for the first time. Despite blundering some passes, St Michael's were rewarded with a five-yard scrum from which Carroll broke free to score. That was quickly followed by a succession of assaults on the St Mary's line and a clearance kick from another close-range scrum was blocked by Byron. He held on to the bounce and brought the ball straight down for the second St Michael's try.
Now chasing a 10-3 deficit, suddenly St Mary's were under the greater pressure to score. They managed another penalty from Finlay on 23 minutes and three minutes before the break, they were back in front. Conor Lane ran a quick penalty some 10 metres from the line and following passes from Sexton and Stephen Grissing, Nash crashed over. Sexton converted and their lead was 13-10.
But St Michael's started the second half looking more dangerous than ever. With another strong break from Carroll, they were straight into an offensive position and once the ball was fed out to Gilbridge, there was no doubt he would make it over the the line.
Keeping up extensive pressure, St Michael's went further ahead 10 minutes from time when McGrath struck a perfect penalty - and that was enough to set up their meeting with Blackrock in next week's final.
Scoring sequence - 4 mins: Finlay penalty, 03; 15 mins: Carroll try, 5-3; 19 mins: Byron try, 103; 23 mins: Finlay penalty, 10-6; 27 mins: Nash try, Sexton con, 10-13; 32 mins: Gilbridge try, McGrath con, 17-13; 49 mins: McGrath pen, 20-13.
ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE: B Rainey; C Gilbridge, S McGrath, S Mitton, J Buckley-Barnes; G Byron, M Gibbons; A Murphy, A Kelly, N Best, B Dunne, P Foley, H Carroll, J McCarthy (capt), D Carroll. Replacement: R Kenny for Murphy (48 mins).
ST MARY'S COLLEGE: G Roche; M Sheridan, S Grissing, M Finlay, R Casari; J Sexton, C Lane; M Houlihan, O McCormack (capt), D Fallon, B Smith, P Sweeney, J Ryan, A Hutchinson, P Nash. Replacement: B McGovern for Fallon (46 mins).
Referee: D Nelson (Leinster Branch).
Highlights of the Leinster Schools' Senior Cup final will be show on TG4 at 7.0pm on Friday night while highlights of the Munster Schools' Senior Cup final will also be shown on TG4, but deferred to Sunday (7.0).