Newbridge squeezed out by St. Michael’s in Cup semi final
St. Michael’s 21
Newbridge College 17
LEINSTER SCHOOLS SENIOR CUP SEMI-FINAL
A personal tally of 11 points from St Michael’s College out-half Ross Byrne proved decisive at Donnybrook last Tuesday afternoon, as the reigning Champions had four points to spare over a gallant Newbridge College in an absorbing Powerade Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final encounter.
The south Kildare men have embarked on a fine journey in this year’s competition, and at certain points in this penultimate round clash they looked like they might pull off a surprise and reach their first Leinster Senior Cup Final since 1996, but with Byrne and captain Ross Molony leading the charge, the Dublin 4 outfit had enough in the tank to push forward to the March 18th showpiece decider.
Following their victories over King’s Hospital and CBC Monkstown in the previous rounds, Newbridge were always to going to be a difficult proposition for any of their potential opponents, and even though the open-draw did present them with the toughest possible match-up, their nearest rivals, Clongowes Wood College, showed that the Michael’s rearguard weren’t completely impenetrable.
Nevertheless, their Metropolitan counterparts did possess plenty of attacking flair and, following a lively opening from both sides, Michael’s winger Mikey O’Hare touched down for the opening try of the game with just eight minutes gone via some excellent approach play by all-action prop Denis Coulson.
This provided the holders with a dream start to the contest, and with Byrne converting superbly from the right-wing, there were some early ominous signs for Aaron Dundon’s charges. Newbridge’s response to falling behind was impressive, though, and they opened their account 15 minutes in when full-back Chris Healy kicked a 25-metre penalty from a left-hand angle between the posts.
This certainly helped to ease some of the concerns of the Newbridge faithful, and even though they received something of a let-off when an 18th minute place kick by Byrne drifted wide of the mark, a similar missed effort by Healy a couple of minutes later cancelled it out to a certain extent.
In general, Newbridge had reason to feel happy about their overall display up to this point, but Michael’s were starting to exert their influence as the tie wore on, and a long period of pressure towards the opposition line on 27 minutes culminated in a second converted try courtesy of scrum-half Nick McCarthy.
As the mid-way point loomed large on the horizon, Michael’s were threatening to edge clear of Newbridge, but the Brian Hayden-led side were not ready to throw in the towel just yet, and when loosehead Jonathan Phelan drove over the whitewash in the opening minute of stoppage time, it was very much a case of game on once more.
A majestic bonus kick by Healy was also met with rapturous appraisal from the travelling supporters, as the gap was now reduced to four (14-10) in time for the second period. This offered Newbridge a silver lining upon the resumption, but although hooker Conor Doyle brilliantly prevented Byrne from scoring a five-pointer three minutes after the restart, the influential No. 10 was not to be denied from the subsequent attack, as he reached over to the left of the posts.
His efforts also presented him with a relatively easy conversion attempt, which he secured expertly, as the holders restored their 11 point cushion. This left Newbridge with a mountain to climb moving into the final half-hour of action, and although Robbie Mullen, Tom Treacy, Jack Briody and Andrew Shanahan provided them with plenty of energy upon their introduction, Michael’s were starting to close out the game in a professional manner.
However, there was plenty of life left in the Newbridge challenge, and following a lengthy spell of play towards the Michael’s line at the very end of normal time, substitute tighthead prop Ed Wynne burst through for his side’s second try of the contest.
A terrific conversion from fellow replacement Mullen meant that another late try would have given Newbridge a sensational victory, but despite offering plenty of industry in the closing moments, they couldn’t rein in the Michael’s challenge any further.
Having taken the game to an excellent Michael’s team for much of the game, Newbridge will have been disappointed that their efforts came up just short, but overall it has been a very positive campaign for all those involved in the college, with the performances of Healy, Joe Darcy, Phelan, Oisin McKnight and Brian Hayden being amongst the highlights of their journey to the semi-final.
ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: Cian Kelleher; Mikey O’Hare, Adam Leavy, Matthew Gilsenan, Dan Green; Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy; Harry Redmond, Richie Allen, Denis Coulson; Ross Molony, James Ryan; Charlie Cregan, Alex Penny, Josh Murphy.
Replacements: Nick Quane for Redmond (66), Gavin Duffy for O’Hare (66).
NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE: Chris Healy; Niall Delahunt, Jake Howlett, Jack O’Neill, Joe Darcy; Mark Sutton, Jack Coghlan Murray; Jonathan Phelan, Conor Doyle, Hugh O’Donnell; Cormac Nugent, Brian Hayden; Matthew O’Connor, Oisin McKnight, Tom Brady.
Replacements: Richard Dromgoole Maguire for Brady (25-30, blood sub), Robbie Mullen for Coghlan Murray (39-50), Tom Treacy for Brady (50), Jack Briody for Doyle (55), Andrew Shanahan for O’Neill (55), Mullen for Coghlan Murray (56), Ed Wynne for O’Donnell (60), Dromgoole Maguire for O’Connor (66), Patrick Kyne for Healy (67).
Referee: Nigel Correll (Leinster Rugby Referees).