International referee Andrew Brace goes into Six Nations action in ten days time when he handles the clash of Wales and Italy but after handling his first Clayton Hotels Munster Senior Schools Cup tie at Thomond Park readily admitted that he could hardly enjoy such an auspicious occasion any more than he did this clash of Limerick rivals St Munchins and Ardscoil Rís.
Munchins survived a tremendous battle by a single point, 13-12, but were a mighty relieved side at the finish even if on the balance of play, they just about deserved to claim a place in the quarter-finals against Castletroy.
Their head coach Ger Slattery was full of praise for Ardscoil while warning his own players and supporters that they will have to step up on this performance if they are to make an impression at the business end of the competition.
“We need to be smarter and now our boys realise there is a lot to learn in this game”, he stated.
“This was typical cup rugby, just one point in at the end, and no matter who we’re playing that’s the way it is going to be from now on. We got into Ardscoil’s 22 on six occasions and left without a score every time. That is not good enough”.
As if to emphasise the accuracy of Slattery’s comments, his side were outscored two tries to one by Ardscoil who also missed a close range penalty in the opening minutes of the game. Their head coach Robbie Bourke struggled to disguise his disappointment at losing by the narrowest of margins while stressing with every good reason how proud he was of his side and of how well they had performed throughout the 70 minutes.
Both sides scored tries of a very high quality in a fiercely contested opening half. Munchins added to an earlier penalty by Alex Wood on ten minutes when they produced a powerful maul down the right wing before letting the backs loose and opening the way for centre Seamus McCarthy-Burbage to spot a gap and sprint over at the posts with Wood adding the points.
Munchins remained on top for a spell after this during which Ardscoil had to demonstrate their defensive qualities in commendable fashion. They then fought their way into Munchins territory on the way to engineering a splendid try.
Hooker James White, number 8 Jack Ward Murphy and full-back Cian Casey all contributed handsomely to a cracking move that ended with centre Killian Dineen displaying delightful footwork to jink his way through. Alex O’Halloran converted to leave thee points between the sides, the scoreline remaining 10-7 in Munchins favour to the half time whistle.
A superb try saving tackle on St Munchins left wing James O’Brien by Eoghan Collins got the second half off to an electrifying start for Ardscoil and even when Wood stretched his side’s lead to six points with a fine kick from close on forty metres, the outcome remained as open as ever.
Munchins had outstanding forwards in Evan Hickey and Louis McCormack and a fine pair of halves in Donnacadh O’Callaghan and Alex Wood while Ardscoil had backs in Killian Dineen and Ian Leonard who also packed a punch along withan outstanding number eight in Jack Ward Murphy.
Battle was really joined with seven minutes on the clock when Ardscoil out-half and captain John Moloney placed a cross kick perfectly for left wing Lochlainn O’Keeffe to win the ball in the air and score in the corner to leave a single point between the sides. To their credit, though, Munchins confined play mainly to Ardscoil territory for the remainder of a gripping contest.
D McDermott; C O'Shaughnessy, S McCarthy- Burbage, D Long, J O'Brien; A Wood, D O'Callaghan; K Sheehy, J Devanny, K Ryan; G Kirwan, L McCormack; J Clohessy, E Hickey, L Neilan. Replacements – C Finn for McCormack; N Walsh for Sheehy
C Casey; E Collins, K Dineen, A O'Halloran, L O'Keeffe; J Moloney, I Leonard; A Long, J White, F Barry, C O'Reilly, J Hourigan, D O’Loughlin, B McEnery, J Ward Murphy. Replacements – C O’Brien for Barry; D Dineen for O’Reilly; O O’Reilly for O’Loughlin; E Ryan for Leonard.
A Brace (Munster).