THIS one-sided Leinster Schools Senior Cup final ended in a victory for tournament favourites Clongowes Wood College, who retained their title with a scintillating display of power and precision at the RDS yesterday.
Cistercian College Roscrea were unwitting victims having come, arguably, through the easier side of the draw with victories over Castleknock, Terenure and St Gerard’s while Clongowes beat Presentation College Bray, competition specialists Blackrock and St Michael’s, the team they defeated in the final last season.
Despite the bravery shown by Roscrea throughout the second half when the game had long since been settled — with Clongowes leading 24-0 at the interval — there was never a doubt about the outcome.
Led brilliantly by Conor Gilsenan, ably supported by Brian Phelan, Thomas Byrne, Bryan Byrne and Nick McCarthy up front, Clongowes got the better of the forward exchanges, notwithstanding huge efforts from Rory Moloney, Eamonn Quirke and Craig Farrell.
But they also had more class outside, with Conor McQuaid and David Quirke combining brilliantly at half-back to set the scene for much of the good back-line movements on an afternoon that was perfect for running rugby.
True, Bill Duggan and Conor Finn, the Roscrea captain, did show glimpses of huge potential, but generally the losers had to play second fiddle to the more powerful and industrious Kildare side that never looked like losing this one.
Clongowes took a grip early on and it must have been frustrating for Roscrea that their best movements yielded nothing, while everything tended to slip into shape for the winners.
McQuaid was first out of the blocks after eight minutes following a superb passage of play by Clongowes that went through 12 phases before the scrum-half dotted down for a try that Conor Mahony converted.
Mahony, the left winger, went on to have a huge impact on the game with some impeccable goal-kicking, missing just two attempts throughout the match. He kicked his second conversion when Quirke showed a clean pair of heels for the 15th-minute try that set the tone of the afternoon.
Roscrea responded vigorously after that second try but they really didn’t take advantage of territorial gains, turning over possession on two occasions when tries looked possible, and the best chance fell to full-back Philip O’Dwyer with a snap drop goal attempt.
Having applied the pressure, they left with nothing and paid a huge price when Clongowes fought their way back up field and Nick McCarthy — son of former Connacht captain Noel — grabbed the third try, with Mahony tacking on the conversion and then kicking a penalty for a 24-point advantage at the break.
Roscrea were the first to respond with a penalty goal from Duggan a minute into the second half, but it really was an impossible situation for them, especially when Clongowes struck with two tries inside three minutes. Number eight Jordan Coughlan got in from a five-metre scrum with Mahony converting before the winger deservedly got a try of his own to stretch the lead out to 36-3.
From there it could have been a total rout, but Roscrea did save some face with a storming response that finally yielded scores.
Rory Moloney, who battled away all afternoon without much reward, got in for a try midway through the second half and Duggan converted.
Quirke responded brilliantly with his second try to highlight his rich potential and Mahony converted before adding another penalty to make it 46-10. But the losers responded with the last try of an action-packed game, substitute Jack O’Driscoll nipping in for the unconverted score.
CLONGOWES WOOD: H Burns; G Murray, J Glynn, C Joyce, C Mahony; D Quirke, C McQuaid; G Freyne, B Byrne, E Byrne, B Phelan, T Byrne, N Carthy, C Gilsenan (capt), J Coughlan.
Replacements: D O’Byrne for B Byrne (62), T Collis for Glynn (58), P Timmins for Phelan (49), D Kennedy for McCarthy (54), M McFarland for McQuaid (49), S Fromm for Mahony (58), B Grehan for Coughlan (65).
CISTERCIAN ROSCREA: P O’Dwyer; C Brennan, S Layden, C Finn (capt), M Mellotte; B Duggan, G Gallagher; G Fallon, D O’Dwyer, C Farrell, A McGrath, R Moloney, A Henderson, E Quirke.
Replacements: O Heffernan for Fallon (48), S Moran for Farrell (62), J Fitzpatrick for Maloney (61), RE Moony for Quirke (48), A Wheatley for Henderson (68), M Fitzgerald for Brennan (68), J O’Driscoll for Mellotte (66).
Referee: K Beggs (Leinster)
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