Another attractive double-header was on display in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup first round at Energia Park on Thursday. 

Gonzaga College 13 St Mary’s College 12

A 58th-minute penalty by James Verdon enabled Gonzaga to move on to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-final on Thursday afternoon.

St Mary’s brought a strong reputation into this first round and they were first to make good on their pressure in a pulsating contest.

A maul moved extremely well to allow prop Ben Harmon to ground the ball for scrum-half Alexander Crawley to convert in the 14th minute.

Leinster League finalists Gonzaga dusted themselves down and redoubled their efforts.

In a hallmark of the game, they were able to do slightly more with slightly less when left-wing Conor Farrelly crossed for a try.

Better again, they moved in front just before the break when patiently moving the ball over and back, full-back Zach Mulligan making the vital incision ahead of a try by out-half Verdon for 10-7 at the interval.

It didn’t take the Rathmines school long to set the record straight, stretching the defence to the limit for full-back Josh Kelly to touchdown in the 33rd minute.

The binning of Gonzaga wing Jim Devlin placed extra weight on the integrity of their defensive organisation, centre Bobby Cobert nailing Daniel Tourish in the far corner.

The chances were few and far between as the two sets of forwards became embroiled in a battle for supremacy.

In fact, St Mary’s had the edge in territory, hovering between the halfway line and the 22 without ever really looking convincing.

In a breakaway, Gonzaga forced a penalty 30 metres out from the posts and out-half Verdon stepped up to become an instant hero with the decisive points.

Scorers – Gonzaga – J Verdon try, pen; C Farrelly try. St Mary’s – B Harmon, J Kelly try each; A Crawley con.

Gonzaga College – Zach Mulligan (Marcus O’Grady 28); Jim Devlin, Bobby Colbert (Capt), Josh Mulligan, Conor Farrelly (Brian Harney 55); James Verdon, Roddy Cotter; Tadhg McKeone, Jed Hickey, Walter McMahon, Michael Wall (Ronan Crowe 39), Jamie Carr (Peter Dockery 44), Tadhg Noone, Jack Carr (Danny Mackey 49), Bobby McCarthy.

St Mary’s College – Josh Kelly; Donal Manzor, Christopher Maguire, Conor Cantwell (Capt), Daniel Tourish; Paul Neary, Alexander Crawley; Ben Harmon (James Nolan 58), Will Blake, Joseph Christle, Rory Noonan, Max Egan, Michael McGreevy (Sean Thornton 47), Andrew McGauran, Eoghan Brady.

Referee – K Byrne, Leinster Branch.

Cistercian College, Roscrea 17 Clongowes Wood College 13 

Last year’s finalist Roscrea’s name will go into the quarter-final draw after holding off Clongowes Wood in a nerve-jangling ending.   

Roscrea took an early lead when Harry Finlay intercepted and Alex Kinsella-Garcia forced a penalty on the floor for Ronan O’Sullivan to strike.

That was quickly undone when Clongowes marched downfield, spreading the ball right where Brian McCulloch was tackled high for a penalty try in the sixth minute.

In addition, wing Sean Stone was binned to add injury to the concession of points, Roscrea reacting by revving up their driving game.

An athletic lineout take by lock Jacobo Serna prompted a fast-moving maul for hooker Oscar Doody to claim the try, converted by Sullivan for 10-7 in the 14th minute.

The Offaly school were in the mood for more as Pablo Pascaul, Henry Maher and Doody stepped up the carrying.

Then, Spainsh-born centre Pascaul ripped around the outside of the cover from a scrum on the 22 for Sullivan’s extras to make it 17-7 in the 24th minute.

The evasive McCulloch turned defence into attack from behind his own line, the counter leading to scrum-half Tom Walsh’s penalty to narrow the gap to 17-10 at the break.

The even nature of the contest continued as defences were stretched to breaking point by Clongowes’ Michael Sullivan and Roscrea’s Doody.

The persistent work of Clongowes at the ruck drew a penalty which Walsh slotted in the 40th minute.  

The continuity pursued by Roscrea was impressive enough to eat into the clock without ever taking them clear on the scoreboard. 

As the minutes ticked by, Ros’ were able to play on the front-foot and keep the ball away from Clongowes’ ball players.

The alert Pascaul almost ended the uncertainty when an attempted interception slipped away from his grasp.    

It was on a knife-edge from there, Kinsella-Garcia an ankle-tap tackle away from sealing it and Clongowes going right to the end. 

Scorers – Roscrea – O Doody, P Pascaul try each; R O’Sullivan pen, 2 cons. Clongowes Wood – Pen try; T Walsh 2 pens.

Roscrea – William McEntire; Eamon O’Sullivan (Ruairc Fay 58), Pablo Pascaul, Harry Finlay, Sean Stone; Ronan Sullivan; Aaron Maloney; Fionn Hogan, Oscar Doody (Deny O’Hara 48), Henry Maher, James Kennedy (Jack Doris 60), Jacobo Serna, Cullan Kehoe (Ruben Flynn 40), Alejandro Kinsella-Garcia (Capt), James Millar.

Clongowes Wood – Rian Kehoe; Brian McCulloch (Richie Hyland 60), Freddie McGuigan, Joshua Grant, Matthew Colton (Maxim Stasyukaytis 38); Ollie Worth, Tom Walsh (Toby Costello 48); Noah Rooney (Hugo Chiu 57), James Lenehan (Jake Carswell 48), DJ Howley (Hugh Keaney 43), Charlie Ryan, Patrick Jones (Peter Gibbons 48), Turlough Devitt (Dylan Morrissey 34), Charlie Hussey, Michael O’Sullivan (Capt).

Referee – D Williams, Leinster Branch.