Gonzaga pip St Mary’s to reach Schools Senior Cup semi-final
February 21, 2023 5:10 pm Des Berry
Gonzaga College 34 St Mary’s College 28.
Last year’s finalists Gonzaga survived a monumental recovery from St Mary’s to move on to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final at Energia Park on Tuesday.
The Rathmines school was boosted by the return of Ireland Schools tight-head Andrew Sparrow for a ferocious battle up front.
When Paul Wilson broke from the back of a maul, the sure tackle by Zach Hopkins was taken. and the connection made to Tom Brophy for a Jame Lowe-like spectacular finish in the left corner.
St Mary’s was almost back on terms when Hopkins hounded Brophy for a block down that bobbled beyond the dead-ball line.
Gonzaga had to cope with losing openside Gavin O’Donnell as early as the sixth minute. St. Mary’s were reduced to 14 men as Zach Hopkins was red carded for an awkward challenge on Hugo McLaughlin.
Gonzaga didn’t waste a minute in exacting a tool, flashing onto the front-foot and spreading the ball right for centre Jody Browne to burst over the line.
The crowd had barely drawn a breath by the time ‘Zaga added a third courtesy of a smart lineout move creating the hole for hooker Luke McLaughlin for a third unconverted try.
St Mary’s had to bite back and they managed to do so by forcing a penalty at the ruck and using Lucca Jennings at the lineout.
It generated quick ball which St Mary’s used to pound out the hard yards, David Leane grounding for a try converted by hooker Cillian Jacobs to make it 15-7 in the 17th minute.
It was non-stop action. Gonzaga captain Paul Wilson was yellow-carded for taking the receiver of the restart in the air.
A picture-perfect poach of the ball by Brophy prevented St Mary’s from building on one end and Browne’s deft pass put Mikey Wall away for a superb try at the other end in the 28th minute.
The ruck work of St Mary’s produced another penalty. The maul caused problems and Sparrow bulldozed over from a 5-metre penalty for Jacobs to land an improbable conversion for 20-14 at half-time.
Unsurprisingly, there were fewer fireworks when play resumed as Gonzaga set about exploiting the numerical advantage.
A menacing maul provided convincing evidence for a penalty try. In addition, St Mary’s number eight Aaron O’Brien was binned, taking them down to 13 players.
The turbo-charged nature of Gonzaga’s tempo was too much, Wilson twisting to the whitewash for Stephen McMahon to convert for 34-14 in the 49th minute.
St Mary’s never dropped the heads. Soon enough, O’Brien smashed through for a try, converted by Jacobs on the hour mark.
In a stunning example of character, O’Brien soon took off up the middle to give St Mary’s valuable go-forward for Jack Halpin to crack the cover, Jacobs adding the extras to make it 34-28 in the 65th minute.
The momentum was truly with St Mary’s and they came once again to set up shop inside the 5-metre line until Morgan Tyrrell spoiled the possibility of a remarkable comeback with a marvel of a turnover on his own line.
Even then, it was not over. There was one last stand to be made by Gonzaga. Second-row Tom Wyley clamped down for a vital turnover.
And that was that.
Scorers – Gonzaga: T Brophy, J Browne, L McLaughlin, M Wall, P Wilson try each; Pen try; S McMahon con. St Mary’s: D Leane, A Sparrow, A O’Brien, J Halpin try each; C Jacobs 4 cons.
Gonzaga – Hugo McLaughlin; JP Breslin, Aidan O’Flanagan, Jody Browne, Mikey Wall; Stephen McMahon (Daragh O’Dwyer 57), Tom Brophy (James O’Dwyer 45); Finn O’Neill, Luke McLaughlin (Jamie Sheil 56), Adam McVerry, Jamie Kennedy (Morgan Tyrrell 65), Tom Wyley, Gavin O’Grady (Morgan Tyrrell 45, temp), Gavin O’Donnell (Charlie Kennedy 6), Paul Wilson (Capt).
St Mary’s College – Gavin Mulvihill; Zach Hopkins, Thomas Tourish, Evan Moynihan, Daniel McNulty; Sam Ryan, Luke McGill (Jack Halpin 45); Tiernan O’Shea (James Molloy 50), Cillian Jacobs, Andrew Sparrow (Capt), David Leane (Oran Reid 45), Joseph Durkan (Luke Pollicky 65), Liam Flaherty (Gavin Foley 13), Lucca Jennings (Capt), Aaron O’Brien.
Referee – P Reidy, Leinster Branch.