Eighteen points ahead with less than a half-hour to play, holders St Munchins had to withstand a magnificent late rally by Castletroy to edge home by 21-15 yesterday’s first semi-final of the Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Junior Cup at Thomond Park.
While St Munchins enjoyed the better of matters, for the most part, thanks to a bigger pack of forwards in which number eight Konrad Jezierski and second-row Stephen Hayes were outstanding, they could never shake off a commendably resolute Castletroy side in which flankers Rhys Whyte and Reece Kelly were constantly to the fore.
Munchins were quickly into their stride and threw away one gilt-edged scoring opportunity before deservedly taking the lead on eight minutes when prop Gus Harrington muscled his way over at the posts for Cillian O’Connor to tap over the conversion. Courageous, well disciplined Castletroy defence prevented any addition to the scoring until play switched to the other end of the pitch where scrum-half Jack Oliver narrowed the gap with a well struck penalty.
Munchins regained the initiative coming up to half time and took a strong grip on the proceedings when Stephen Hayes crashed over and O’Connor converted to make it 14-3 at the interval. It looked all over a comfortable Munchins victory when eleven minutes after the restart, the hugely influential Hayes began a move on halfway which ended with left winger Ryan Naughton racing over for a fine try that O’Connor converted from wide out to make it 21-3.
However, to their great credit, Castletroy never gave up the fight. Outstanding wing-forward Reece Kelly dived over at a ruck close to the Munchins line midway through the half and Oliver added the points. The game was really back in the melting pot on 55 minutes when substitute Harry Lynch finished off a flowing passing movement to leave six points separating the sides Castletroy’s spirits were clearly on a high and they were quickly back on the attack. Lynch went close once again in the left corner before Munchins greeted the final whistle with visible relief.
Castletroy – S Kiely; L Morgan, C O’Farrell, A Walters, A Cummins; G Rowsome, J Oliver; A Sands, D Aylward, N McLoughlin, E O’Connell, O O’Shea, R Whyte, R Kelly, L Burke. Replacements – C Davies-Molloy, A Clinton, O Toland, L Bennett, J Roche, N Clancy, L Heuston, H Lynch, G Ryan, R Collins.
St Munchins – J O’Brien; O Pepper, J Costello, L Angermann, R Naughton; C O’Connor, K Tracey; M Imbierowski, H Bennis, G Harrington, S Hannan, S Hayes, S Griffin, K Rea, K Jezierski. Replacements – C O’Brien, R Costello, B Dillon, R Kelly, D McNamara, E Moore, G Wood, J Madden, J Fitzgerald, N McCarthy.
Referee – Paudie Sheahan.