One of the fancies for the title before the competition began, Christians were very glad to avail of the newly introduced “back door” system after their defeat by St Munchin’s. But that result meant they had to travel to Limerick to take on Castletroy, the team that had beaten them in last year’s final and, coincidentally, on the same ground.
Having overcome a slow and slightly nervy start, Christians settled down quickly to dominate the rest of the first half at the end of which their overall supremacy sent them into a decisive 17-0 lead. During the interval, the heavens opened and a vicious hail storm lashed down and while the elements relented a little subsequently, the rain never stopped from there to the finish and ruled open rugby totally out of the question.
Castletroy enjoyed the benefit of the elements in the second half and duly reduced their deficit through a well-struck penalty by centre Darren Moroney. To their credit, they battled gamely to the end but there was never any great likelihood that Christians might relax their firm grip on the proceedings.
They enjoyed an appreciable physical advantage up front where it was little surprise that skipper Brian Hayes, a member of the Irish schools side last year, and his second-row partner Simon Hanbidge were outstanding throughout.
Chris Corkery, Kieran Stokes and Ronan Barry were also prominent in a pack that performed well as a unit, and which is showing the dividends of the coaching advice of Brian Hickey, the former Munster forward supremo.
Darragh Dunne and Brian Slater performed their half-back duties sensibly in the difficult circumstances with Joe Holland also playing a key role in midfield. In all, it was a reassuring performance for head coach Peter Melia, after the shock reverse against St Munchin’s.
“This was a big improvement on the Munchin’s game,” he agreed. “We got a lesson in cup rugby that day. They’re a good side who played very well and took their chances. We had to look at why we failed and re-examine our game plan.
“Not everything today was to our satisfaction but it was good to get the result.” The last five days have proved a little sobering for Castletroy. They have lost their hold on the senior and junior Cups, both of which they won last year, but still demonstrated yesterday that a lot more will be heard from them in the future.
They gave the game their best shot with captain Darragh Hannan, James Rael and David O’Brien always to the fore up front and half-backs Peter Murray and Neil Cronin making up for their diminutive statures with displays of pluck and no little skill.
Holland kicked Christians into the lead with a fine penalty on twelve minutes and not long afterwards they had taken complete control of the game. With Brian Hayes very much to the fore, the forwards made serious inroads up the right flank and then recycled quick ruck ball for slick passing to pave the way for a smashing try by Graham Mackesy in the left corner.
Holland converted with a great kick from the touchline and the issue was more or less decided after 33 minutes when Christians centre Brian O’Leary intercepted a Castletroy pass 50 metres out and galloped unopposed to the posts.
Holland added the points and the only further score was Darren Moroney’s penalty for Castletroy, four minutes after the restart.
CBC: R Clune; E O’Donnell, B O’Leary, J Holland, G Mackesy; D Dunne, B Slater; C Corkery, K Stokes, D Attridge; B Hayes (capt), S Hanbidge,;E Doyle, R Barry, W Ryan.
Replacements: Y Browne for Barry, S Barry for O’Leary, C Quinn for Mackesy, M O’Mahoney for Corkery, J Moloney for Holland, R Martin for Attridge.
CASTLETROY COLLEGE: P O’Connor; P Quinn, D Moroney, R O’Neill, A Carey; P Murray, N Cronin; H Moran, J Rael, S Murphy; M O’Dwyer, D O’Brien; K Doyle, I Moloney, D Hannan (cap).t
Replacements: M Dooley for Moloney, D Foley for Cronin, K Murphy for O’Brien.
Referee: L Colgan (Munster)