'We got lucky': Pres pull off smash-and-grab victory to set up final with Christians

Bandon Grammar’s Harry Wall with Daniel Squires of PBC. Pic: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

PBC 19 Bandon Grammar 18

History will be made on St Patrick’s Day as the two joint-leaders at the top of the Munster Senior Schools Cup roll of honour face off in the 2019 decider.

With 29 titles apiece, Presentation Brothers College and Christian Brothers College will meet on Sunday week in the showpiece event of school’s rugby in the province.

While CBC were comprehensive winners in their semi-final against Ardscoil Ris, the same can’t be said for Pres against Bandon Grammar.

“Plain and simple, it just luck today, absolute luck,” admitted PBC coach Brian McMahon after the dramatic one-point win.

“For the vast bulk of that game, Bandon were the better team. We just got lucky at the end, that’s it.”

Trailing by six points with 68 minutes gone, Pres were fighting for their lives. After kicking a penalty into the corner they won the line-out and gave an almighty push to try to get to the line. After Bandon held out for two phases, No 8 Alex Kendellen touched down to reduce the gap to one.

Then, up stepped Louis Bruce with the conversion. The team captain made no mistake and slotted over to give his side the late lead.

“In fairness to him (Bruce), he took that pressure on his shoulders. He dealt with that massive pressure, everyone on his back, I’m super proud of Louis – he led like a captain today,” said McMahon.

“We said if we could just maintain possession, we might get the rub of the green and that was the case today.

“You have to say maybe the better team didn’t win today.

Pres trailed by a point, 8-7, at the break but looked good early on, opening the scoring after seven minutes after Peter Cunningham finished off a fine team move.

Bruce broke the line before putting Mark McLoughlin in space. The full-back had a two-on-one where he laid off to Cunningham for the finish. Captain Bruce converted to give the 29-time champions a 7-0 advantage.

However, this Bandon team have proven their resilience over the course of the competition. Jack Crowley got them on the board with a well-struck penalty to reduce the gap by the quarter-hour mark.

Approaching the interval, on the back of retaining possession, full-back Soren Minihane broke the line and ran home from inside his own half to give Bandon their first lead of this semi-final.

Neither side could create much in the third quarter as both defences stood firm. Mistakes were creeping in from both sides. Bandon had the better territory but weren’t able to get a significant number of phases together.

They were finally able to win a penalty well within kicking range which Crowley made no mistake in slotting between the posts to increase the lead to four points.

Just as Bandon were looking the better team, Pres hit a sucker punch. Capitalising from a Grammar player dropping a pass, Michael Hand picked up the loose ball and ran it back untouched to give his side the lead.

But the lead didn’t last long. After losing a scrum in their own ’22 Pres were on the back-foot. From here, the Bandon pack were able to push over the line for a crucial score, prop Conor Heaney touching down.

The conversion gave them an 18-12 lead with less than five minutes to play.

But there was another twist in the tale as the late Kendellen try, and Bruce conversion stole victory from the jaws of defeat and set up the mouth-watering final.

“They’re hands down the favourites plain and simple,” admitted McMahon.

“The reality is we have to take stock. That simply won’t do in a final.

“We’re really going to have to up our game, that performance won’t be good enough.”

PBC: M McLoughlin, D Squires, SM Squires, P Cunningham, D French, L Bruce, J O’Leary; R Duggan, D Murphy, D McSweeney, D McCarthy, E Quilter, J Kelleher, J Forde, A Kendellen.

Replacements: J O’Shaughnessy, M Hand, M Fitzgibbon,

BANDON GRAMMAR: S Minihane, T Beare, J D’Alton, B Matthews, H Hall, J Crowley, C Roberts; D Ogden, M Archer, C Heaney, M Lynn, J Brady, J Connolly, J Beamish, N Beamish.

Replacements: A O’Connor, N Greene, R Palmer

REFEREE: Eoghan Cross.

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