SCHOOLS RUGBY: LEINSTER SENIOR CUP FIRST ROUND
College reach last eight
ST GERARD’S, BRAY………………………………..11
By Daire Walsh
NEWBRIDGE College delivered a strong second-half performance at Templeville Road last Wednesday afternoon to get the better of St Gerard’s, Bray in the opening round of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup.
Trailing 6-5 at the break, the Kildare men responded with tries from Jordan Nolan and replacement back-row Donough Lawlor to book a quarter-final date with Belvedere College for a second year in succession.
After their near neighbours – Presentation College Bray – exited the competition at the end of a gallant effort against defending champions Blackrock College on Monday, Gerard’s were hoping to keep Wicklow interest alive.
It proved to be a near-perfect opening to the contest for the Garden County outfit – just two minutes were gone on the clock when they broke the deadlock. From a distance of 30 metres, Ben Watson split the posts to offer Gerard’s early daylight over Niall Smullen’s side.
Eager for a swift response to this early set-back, Newbridge subsequently created territory inside the opposition half. This eventually led to a fifth-minute penalty inside the ’22, but the resulting strike by Jack Doyle drifted past the target.
While the vocal Gerard’s faithful breathed a sigh of relief, they re-discovered their voice in time for Watson to double their advantage on 12 minutes. James Kennedy’s initial drive developed forward momentum, only for the retreating Marcus Kiely to halt his charge towards the line.
Nevertheless, Gerard’s persistence up front ensured that Watson was presented with an ideal opportunity to bolster his own personal haul. Shooting at a tricky right-hand angle, the dependable inside centre found the range in spectacular fashion.
Following a productive Leinster Senior League Division 1A campaign – where they suffered a narrow semi-final loss to Gonzaga College – Newbridge were struggling to impose their attacking game on the proceedings.
They came under increased pressure as the action progressed, a Gerard’s knock-on sparing their blushes as Craig Kenny was ready to pounce for a second-quarter try. The two-time champions maintained a potent threat in possession, however, and this finally came to fruition on the half-hour mark.
A sweeping move across the Gerard’s line was heralded by Kiely’s neat pass out towards Sam Cahill. He released Donal Conroy for a run at the whitewash, and the winger squeezed over in the right-corner to finally get Newbridge up and running.
Doyle’s touchline bonus kick was agonisingly wide, meaning Gerard’s held onto their slender cushion. Although they had a chance to extend this lead in stoppage-time, Watson’s long-distance penalty dropped short of the Newbridge uprights.
Having found themselves adrift for almost the entirety of the opening period, Newbridge dramatically moved into the ascendancy on the resumption. Rather than opt for another shot at goal, Doyle kicked their latest penalty to touch.
This was a shrewd decision on the half-back’s part, as it led to an eventual try on the left-wing. Capitalising on Doyle’s sublime pass out of an ensuing ruck, flanker Nolan broke through for a magnificent five-point finish.
Doyle supplied the extras to give Newbridge a 12-6 buffer on 37 minutes. The gauntlet was thrown down to Gerard’s for the first time and they needed to regain control of the ball to stop their opponents pulling away into the distance.
They managed to do just that, and while Newbridge appeared to have weathered a significant storm, their line was breached in clinical style on 49 minutes. The towering Kennedy was offered space to manoeuvre on the left and he took full advantage with a stunning individual try.
After Conroy was hauled down just shy of the Gerard’s line 13 minutes from time, Lawlor was on hand to dot down. Even though Doyle’s unsuccessful conversion kept their determined counterparts in the reckoning, Newbridge held their nerve in the closing stages to secure their progression to a last-eight clash against Belvo – which takes place on Wednesday, February 13 at Donnybrook.
NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE: Sam Cahill; Donal Conroy, Marcus Kiely, Thomas Sheedy, David Higgins; Jack Hannon, Jack Doyle; Robert Scully, Geoff McNelis, Luke Rigney; Diarmuid Mangan, Oisin Halpin; Jordan Nolan, Conor McGroary, Muiris Cleary.
Replacements: David O’Sullivan for Cahill, John Shanahan for Sheedy, Cormac Stopes for McNelis, Donough Lawlor for McGroary (all 51), Patrick O’Flaherty for Halpin, Mark Moynihan for Nolan (both 66).
ST GERARD’S, BRAY: Jeremy O’Donovan; Craig Kenny, Harry Begley, Ben Watson, James Kennedy; Stephen Morris, Luke O’Reilly; David Carroll, Robert Byrne, Jack Dempsey; Marc Finn, Thomas O’Connor; Thomas Cahill-Hannigan, Charles Byrne, Rory Wilson.
Replacements: Aaron Baker for O’Reilly (42), Niall Dooley for Carroll (46), Fred Happonen for Byrne, Luke Colcannon for Dempsey (both 55), Oliver Newsome for O’Donovan (56), Jacob Brodeur for O’Connor (63), Joshua Watson for Kenny (66).
Referee: John Carvill (Leinster Rugby Referees).