Champions, St Munchin’s, had to withstand a magnificent late rally from Castletroy to edge home 21-15 in the opening Clayton Hotels Munster Schools’ Junior Cup semi-final at Thomond Park yesterday.
While the victors dominated primarily due to a bigger forward pack in which number eight Konrad Jezierski and second-row Stephen Hayes were outstanding, they could never shake off a resolute Castletroy side in which flankers Rhys Whyte and Reece Kelly were constantly to the fore.
St Munchin’s took the lead after eight minutes when prop Gus Harrington muscled his way over at the posts with Cillian O’Connor converting. Courageous Castletroy defending 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 fine penalty.
St Munchin’s regained the initiative approaching half-time when Stephen Hayes crashed over and O’Connor converted to make it 14-3 at the interval. Eleven minutes int the second half 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 to make it 21-3.
But brave Castletroy never gave up the fight. Outstanding wing-forward Reece Kelly dived over at a ruck close to the line midway through the half and Oliver then added the points. The game was back in the melting pot on 55 minutes and when replacement Harry Lynch went over to leave six points between 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 the final whistle sounded.
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.
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.