Sean French fires PBC past Glenstal Abbey for 29th crown

PBC 11 Glenstal Abbey 3: Not even the torrential rain and the strong, cold and swirling wind at Thomond Park yesterday could dampen the delight of Presentation Brothers Cork as they defeated Glenstal Abbey by 11-3 to capture the Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup for the 29th time.

In doing so, they joined Cork neighbours CBC at the top of the honours list and bridged a seven-year gap since the trophy graced the Western Road sideboard.

It was a great pity the weather ruined the game as a spectacle because the teams came to play an expansive game having both looked fully capable of doing so successfully in the previous rounds.

Of the two, Pres adjusted the better to the conditions. In the first half, their handling of the football was amazingly good and having worked themselves into a narrow 8-3 lead in what was inevitably going to be a low-scoring affair, they then pegged the Limerick side back in their own territory for almost all of the second half.

High-quality backs like Sean French, scorer of all their 11 points, full-back Jonathan Wren and half-backs Peter Sylvester and Gary Bradley ensured that the great work of inspirational skipper and number 8 Jack O’Sullivan, his first cousin and hooker Billy Scannell and the pack was used to the fullest effect.

It left Glenstal, chasing their first Munster trophy, with a virtually insurmountable task. The performance of forwards Rory Clarke, Mark Fleming and hooker George Downing was exceptional but they were always fighting a losing battle against a superior force. This meant a speedy back line well generalled by out-half Ben Healy had little opportunity to show off the class they had shown en route to this, the school’s second final.

Pres met with stern resistance from a resolute Glenstal defence throughout the first half but eventually their relentless pressure was rewarded. On 15 minutes Sylvester, Brian O’Connor and O’Sullivan were all prominent in the build-up to a penalty award close to the posts that French converted. However, Glenstal were quickly level when Ben Healy drilled over a fine kick from close on 40 metres. Pres weren’t ruffled, however, and on 20 minutes the increasingly influential O’Sullivan broke off the back of a scrum on the Glenstal 22 before passing to French who took a great line and weaved his way through for a smashing try. The ball blew over as French ran up for the conversion and he tried for a drop kick instead and was off target.

Glenstal earned full marks for endeavour whatever about their tactical savvy in that opening half when they tried to play too much rugby in their own territory instead of using the boot to put Pres on the backfoot. It was the kind of trap that Pres were never going to fall into on the turnover as they expertly pinned “Glen” deep in their own half.

The line-out became a rich source of possession for Pres as Mark McCarthy and company took advantage of a collapse in the opposition system meaning that they could dictate where the action took place. And that was deep in “Glen” territory with the game seemingly petering out to its inevitable conclusion. That was until the Glenstal number six Conor Booth suddenly and dramatically emerged from a ruck close to his own line and raced downfield with the Pres defence caught unawares. To their credit, the back three readjusted quickly and Tom Fitzgerald put in a crucial tackle and as the others gathered round, Booth was pinged for holding on. Pres were quickly back in familiar territory and removed any further doubt when setting up a penalty opportunity that French gratefully accepted to complete a memorable day for a jubilant Presentation College.

PBC:

J Wren; P Buckley, S French, J Broderick, T Fitzgerald; P Sylvester, G Bradley; C Burke, B Scannell, B O’Connor, A McAulifffe, M McCarthy, C Fitzgerald, D Hyland, J O’Sullivan capt.

Replacements:

E Burns for McAuliffe 52; D Harrington for Bradley 65.

GLENSTAL:

J O’Mahony; T Molony, J Mawhinney, L Fitzgerald, R Quinn; B Healy, T McCoole; S Scanlon-Garry, G Downing, E Bergin, C O’Sullivan, S Downes, C Booth, M Fleming, R Clarke capt.

Replacements:

A Hogan for Molony 55; H Downing for Bergin 6; D Floyd for Mawhinney 67; M Walsh for Downes 71.

Referee:

Ken Imbusch (MAR).

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