Blackrock and St Michael’s advance to Junior Cup semi-finals
February 28, 2023 5:12 pm Des Berry
The 2023 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-finals began with a double-header at Energia Park on Tuesday afternoon.
St Michael’s College 24 St Vincent’s Castleknock College 19
Holders St Michael’s became the first into the semi-final in a rip-roaring tie with Castleknock.
Coach Charlie Cregan’s charges were quickly into their phase play, sharp passing bringing runners onto the ball with centres Matthew Haugh and Scott Barron particularly prominent.
When they got within striking range, they shifted down a gear for captain Myles Berman to drive over, Harrison McMahon converting.
The Leinster League winners were staying afloat through a well-organised counter-rucking strategy and the relief provided by out-half Cory O’Connor.
An electric burst by full-back Brian Caffery brought them into the game and O’Connor was just wide with a penalty from distance.
A block by prop Conor Canniffe handed St Michael’s the territory they were hunting and lock Hadyn Gallagher slid in at the posts for McMahon to double the lead in the 18th minute.
They were looking to add to their total when ‘Knock centre Matthew Brennan stepped into an interception to provide the try and the conversion in the 20th minute.
A strong carry by Ben O’Toole and a long delivery from O’Connor took Castleknock out of danger.
Then, on half-time, the Aylesbury Road school lost Haugh to the sin-bin, an opportunity Castleknock had to take.
A ground-eating carry by captain O’Toole set the table for the pack to have a go, insisting on the trenches when left-wing Jaydon Carroll was all alone in splendid isolation.
The carrying of O’Toole was omnipresent and centre Brennan’s footwork neatly did the trick, St Michael’s forced to keep their try-line intact.
Castleknock looked to have struck back only for O’Connor’s pass to Carroll to be seen as forward out of the hand.
Replacement Evan Sload snatched a vital turnover to maintain the pressure, O’Toole coming up trumps from close range for 14-12 in the 51st minute.
St Michael’s were finally able to break out of their half, putting together a coherent attack which culminated in a try by prop Conor Canniffe, converted by McMahon for 21-12 in the 53rd minute.
They even had the composure to thunder upfield again, McMahon knocking over a penalty before the outstanding O’Toole crashed over for Brennan to convert in the last play of the game.
Scorers – St Michael’s: M Berman, H Gallagher, C Canniffe try each; H McMahon pen, 3 cons. Castleknock: B O’Toole 2 tries; M Brennan try, 2 cons.
St Michael’s College: Sean King; Josh Divilly, Matthew Haugh, Scott Barron (James McMahon 52), Eoin Loo; Harrison McMahon, Oliver de Vreeze (Andrew Norse 37); Conor Canniffe, Joe Kennedy, Matthew Dredge (Dan O’Donohoe 37), Haydn Gallagher, Tom Reynolds, Setanta McLaughlin, Owen Twomey, Myles Berman (Capt).
Castleknock College: Brian Caffery; John McKenna, Finn Watt, Matthew Brennan, Jaydon Carroll (Tom Breheny 58); Cory O Connor (Tom O’Ceallaigh 58), Hugh Reilly (Cathal Byrne 52); Alex Babin (Ken Pieri 58), PJ Matthews (Evan Sload 26), Brian Fallon, James Mangan (Matthew Lee 53), Rian McEntaggart (Ben Keogh 58), Johnny Ginnety, Jack O Loughlin, Ben O’Toole (Capt)
Referee – J Teehan, Leinster Branch.
Blackrock College 38 St Gerard’s School 7
Blackrock joined their neighbours in the final four with a comfortable five tries-to-one quarter-final win.
St Gerard’s positive approach went unrewarded when running out of defence, a knock-on giving Blackrock a prime attacking scrum which was turned into Bernard White reaching out for a try, converted by Luke Coffey.
Flanker Matthew Fitzpatrick’s groundwork paved the way for St Gerard’s to move forward where an inability to find touch hurt their momentum.
A flat pass by Coffey enticed Oisin Daly into a gap and the centre had the footwork to round two defenders for Coffey’s second conversion in the 10th minute.
The Bray school showed enterprise in swinging the ball around, Finn Rankin carrying hard and centre Ronan Kelly releasing Charlie Geelon up the right.
The passes started to stick, forwards and backs combining, before Kelly was able to power through a tackle for a well-devised try, converted by Joseph Orr in the 21st minute.
For the second time, Blackrock left-wing Rhys Keogh threatened along the touchline in the lead-up to number eight Geoffrey Wall blasting over from the base of a scrum, Coffey adding the extras again for 21-7 at the break
St Gerard’s could not profit from a 5-metre lineout and Charlie Geelon spilt the ball under pressure from Cael McCloskey.
It was in the details that they were losing out, earning field position and chances without the clinical edge to make it pay, despite the stellar work of Peter Galligan and Jack McGovern in the front row.
The Williamstown school calmly marched forward and forced a penalty for Coffey to make it 24-7 in the 42nd minute.
‘Rock were undermined by a yellow card for prop Louis Magee, again handing their opponents a way back into the game.
The trusty boot of McMahon placed Blackrock in the ruth area. Cente Daly was on the verge of his second were it not for the scavenging skills of openside Fitzpatrick.
A slip in concentration was all Keogh needed to skat through the tiring cover for Coffey to convert again.
There was still plenty of fight left in St Gerard’s, their bench bringing energy and aggression to counter the superior power of the winners.
However, the willingness of Daly to support the ball carrier got the centre on the end of the final try, converted by the flawless Coffey.
Scorers – Blackrock: O Daly 2 tries; B White, G Wall, R Keogh try each; L Coffey pen, 5 cons. St Gerard’s: R Kelly try; J Orr con.
Blackrock College: Cael McCloskey (David Byrne 55); Gavin Laing (James Browne 55), Oisin Daly, Bernard White, Rhys Keogh; Luke Coffey, Charlie Martin (Jack O’Brien 42); Louis Magee (Luka Kelly 51), Matthew Wyse (Capt), Ben Guerin (Lorcan Golden 51), George Eggers, Conall Power (JJ Hamilton 55), Tom Keaveney (Paddy Agenw 54), Tom McAleese (Hugo Carroll 49, temp), Geoffrey Wall.
St Gerard’s: Joseph Orr (Malachy Kenny ht); Charlie Geelon, Luca Clopin (Daniel Hogan 54), Ronán Kelly, Shane Kyne; Kyle Harte, Ruairí Philips (Ciaran O’Brien 41); Peter Galligan (Joshua Morley 54), Jack McGovern (Max Moroney 55), Samuel Fennelly (Ciarán Harrington ht), Patrick Lawlor (Capt), Patrick Hanley (Harry Dunne 55), Seán Costigan, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Joshua Byrne 54), Finn Rankin.
Referee – M Enderby, Leinster Branch.