Holders Belvedere became the first to qualify for the Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Schools Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook yesterday.

Gonzaga received the kick-off for their forwards to get into the game around the fringes before the champions adopted a similar strategy for scrum-half Ted Walsh to launch a high ball.

This was dropped forward by his opposite number Jack Connolly. The error was compounded by ‘Zaga playing the ball in an offside position.  Belvo’ centre David Hawkshaw’s shot at goal slipped right and wide.

A quick drop-off and chase forced field position for the boys in green.  From there, the maul was activated, tempting Belvedere into a take-down for Connolly to slot three in the seventh minute.

When tight head Simon Clear’s side-entry into a ruck was spotted, Hawkshaw played for the corner rather than the posts where they were promptly turned over at the lineout.

Then, the ploy of going through the middle looked good for reward until Gonzaga captain Robbie Kidney poached a penalty.  The exchanges were peppered with close quarter action, Belvedere finally spreading it right for centre Jamie O’Grady to get on the outside before losing control of the ball.

The signs of Belvedere getting their act together were there in Walsh’s half break and open side Aaron Coleman’s support line for the opening try and the lead in the 26th minute.   The gift of a ball kicked directly into touch from outside the 22 allowed Gonzaga a foothold which their maul translated into a penalty, Connolly narrowly missing the kick.

The last thing Belvedere could afford was the loss of their captain Hawkshaw to what looked like a serious arm injury.  This precipitated a loss of focus from them; as they coughed up penalties and a 10-metre add-on for talking back to the referee.

Gonzaga couldn’t seize on this, with out-half Eoin Barr overcooking his kick and their lineout misfiring as the half came to a close.

The second half saw the breeze behind Belvedere and prop James Gleeson gave them instant energy from a 30-metre carry, Connolly standing firm in defence.

A bout of kicking was crying out for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck.  Belvedere full-back David Lacey began that process. Lock Alekseiy Soroka added to that with a burst and centre O’Grady ducked and dived.  When the ball was slipped inside by Walsh, a hand slapped it down and saw a penalty by Lacey,  just to the right of the posts, made it 8-3 in the 50th minute.

It was still there for Gonzaga, centre Brian O’Donnell nearly got outside O’Grady and captain Kidney’s block on Walsh bounded beyond the dead-ball line.   A break from Connolly and two quick offloads put the Sandford Road school on the verge, only for wing Matthew Grogan to defuse the situation.

Increasingly, Gonzaga owned the territory without adding to the scoreboard.  On a rare breakout, an illegal tackle resulted in Lacey arrowing a penalty from 42 metres to make it a two-score game in the 64th minute.

Straight away, scrum-half Connolly sniped another break to find Kidney on his inside shoulder for a stunning response, Connolly’s extras narrowing it to one point.

Belvedere opted for offence as the best form of defence only to concede three penalties when hot on attack.   It didn’t matter as it was there the game ended, with Belvedere in possession and Gonzaga deep in defence, too far away to complete their comeback, with the time up on the clock. Leaving the opening game of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Schools Cup, with a final score of Belvedere College 11 Gonzaga College 10.

Belvedere College: David Lacey; Matthew Grogan, Jamie O’Grady, David Hawkshaw (capt), Alistair Loughrey; Justin Leonard, Ted Walsh; James Gleeson, Luke Harmon, Conor Cagney, Alekseiy Soroka, Neil Howard Gerard Hill, Aaron Coleman, Ruadhan Byron.

Replacements: Paul Twomey for Harmon 10 mins; John Meagher for Hawkshaw 30 mins; Patrick Lysaght for Leonard, Joseph Haughey for Howard, Jonathan Bell for Cagney all 58 mins; Alex O’Grady for Loughrey 60 mins.

Gonzaga College: Frank O’Grady; Fergus O hOisin, Brian O’Donnell, Arthur Henry, Daniel Inglis; Eoin Barr, Jack Connolly; Henry Godson, Hugh Fitzgerald, Simon Clear, Eoin Buggy, Caoilim Fassbender, Ian O’Grady, Jack Barry, Robbie Kidney (capt).

Replacements: Mike Holly for Fassbender 50 mins; Matt Meagher for Fitzgerald 52 mins; Jack Coolican for O’Grady 62 mins; Karl Morgan for O hOisin 68 mins.

The second game in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Schools Cup takes place in Donnybrook Stadium today, with Terenure College taking on St Michaels College at 3pm.