With the benefit of a 3-0 lead established with an Alan Dempsey penalty in the 10th minute, Ard Scoil were certainly never found wanting as they set about providing a tough challenge to the reigning champions.
The Limerick side dominated the first-half line outs and they were never afraid to move possession wide by using the skill of full back Rory Collins to give speedy winger Kevin Phelan space out wide.
But after bossing the Pres pack for much of that opening half, they appeared to run out of steam. The threat from second row Paul O’Sullivan became less noticeable because the message clearly went out (to Pres) to play the game anywhere but along the touch lines.
As Pres captain Ryan Murphy became more influential, the home pack also secured cleaner set piece possession for scrum half Matthew Kelleher and the tide slowly turned.
They were boosted by a penalty from out half Eamon Mills and the injury-time try from Michael O’Leary was a huge blow to the Limerick side. O’Leary took possession from a standing start 25 metres out, but had the guile to notice space on the outside to get in for a dramatic try to give his side an 8-3 lead at the break.
It got better five minutes into the second half. Awarded a penalty close to the line on the right hand side of the pitch, Pres opted to go for broke — a cross-field kick by Chris Bannon was picked up by Murphy at the corner. Perfectly positioned, the captain had only to flop over to secure the extra five points.
With Seamus Glynn excellent and the Pres back row of Murphy, Adam Hudson and Ross Caplice playing off out half Mills, the champions never looked like losing the initiative.
Sure, there was a hint of offside in the build up to a block down that eventually led to a neatly-created third try, but the ability of centre Rory Cullinane to slice through the defence was a worthy reward for a quality performance alongside Bannon. Mills converted and then kicked a penalty to push the lead out to 23-3 before Ard Scoil Rís hit back strongly in the closing stages.
Eventually, and deservedly, second row Peter McGann crashed over for Ard Scoil.
S. Glynn, M. O’Leary, R. Cullinane, C. Bannon, B. O’Sullivan, E. Mills, M. Kelleher, B. Scott, D. Malone, S. Randles, J. O’Callaghan, D. Harnett, R. Murphy (captain), A. Hudson, R. Caplice.
D. Horgan for Scott, E. Power for Malone, F. Dineen for Power (blood), M. Russell for Kelleher, B. Fitzgerald for Harnett, L. O’Brien for Murphy, S. Dinan for Bannon.
R. Collins, C. Ryan, M. Leonard, A. McNamara, K. Phelan, A. Dempsey, C. McLoughlin, D. Canny, S. Keane, G. Healan, P. McGann, P. O’Sullivan, B. O’Connor, K. Walsh, M. Hennagan.
G. Doherty for Canny, L. McGrath for O’Connor, B. Masterson for Walsh, S. Noonan for McLoughlin, E. McCabe for Phelan, E. O’Farrell for Dempsey (injured).
T. Collins (MAR).