John Maher was the hat-trick hero as Clongowes made their way through this thrilling Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook on Wednesday.
The tone was set by a Clongowes scrum on the left from where the ball was moved into the hands of full-back John Maher, who simply blazed away on a 60-metre slalom run for a spectacular try which was converted by fly-half David Wilkinson.
The challenge had been thrown down and Monkstown picked it up through the muscle available in the pack.
They worked in sycnhronisation for second row Niall Scully to get the final touch in the 13th minute.
The Clongowes continuity was effective as flanker Calum Dowling and centre Joe Carroll made the necessary impact to drive CBC back for hooker Hugh Lonergan to squeeze out a try for Wilkinson’s extras to make it 14-5 in the 20th minute.
The return of prop Stephen Mo from a blood injury brought the pack up to eight in order to repel Monkstown’s attacking scrum.
It made little difference as number eight Ethan Ryan burst off the back for lock Liam Forster to touch down and James Reynolds to convert.
CBC were nearly through again when Ryan took off up the left until he was stopped by full-back Maher. It didn’t end there.
They were methodical in moving the ball forward. Reynolds, who was the third in line for a pick-and-go, put Monkstown ahead from no more than a metre out, his conversion making it 19-14 on the break.
The x-factor of Maher took taming and his first opportunity ended with an in-to-out break that outfoxed three defenders for Wilkinson to recover the advantage at 21-19 in the 35th minute.
The breaking ability of Ryan came to the fore again when the numbered eight thundered through the middle to be met by Maher’s textbook tackle, flanker Dowling getting back to force the turnover with a try looking the most likely outcome.
The vigilance of Clongowes at the breakdown was enough to earn two penalties and, from there, out-half Wilkinson used those outside as decoys to hit a gap and veer outside the final defender for 26-19 in the 47th minute.
The Monkstown boys took that setback well. They came hard for Ryan to look like he got in. Referee Stephen Troy was not convinced.
They brushed this off for Ryan to get off the back of the next reset and flanker Tadgh Quinn to crash over in the right corner. Reynolds nailed the conversion to tie it up again in the 50th minute.
There was slightly more structure to what Clongowes were doing with the ball.
Flanker Dowling and Maher put them in the right area without the all-round composure to make it matter as the minutes ticked on.
When it was CBC’s chance to turn the game, they came close through Logan Brady.
However, the right wing ran into Maher, who ripped the ball away and made his way home from 90 metres with the valiant Ryan in hopeless pursuit.
At Donnybrook – CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE 31 (J Maher 3 tries; D Wilkinson try, 3 cons; C Dowling try); CBC MONKSTOWN 26 (J Reynolds try, 3 cons; L Forster, N Scully, T Quinn try each).
CLONGOWES WOOD WOLLEGE 31 CBC MONKSTOWN 26
Clongowes Wood: John Maher; Chris Grimes, Tim O’Brien, Joe Carroll (Capt.), Christopher Martin; David Wilkinson, Mark Galvin; Stephen Mo, Hugh Lonergan, Ryan McMahon, Tom Coghlan, Gavin Dowling, Eddie Boland, Calum Dowling, Barry Dooley.
Replacements: Milo Cruise-O’Brien for G Dowling 10 mins; Calum Doyle for Mo 18 mins – temp & 40 mins; Tom Power for Boland 42 mins; Ethan Noone for Lonergan 52 mins.
CBC Monkstown: Theo Brady; Logan Brady, James Reynolds, Patrick Nolan, Daniel Drummond; Sean Power (capt), Eoghan Healy; Luke Hallam, Eoin Mahon, Jonathan Browne, Liam Forster, Niall Scully, Tadgh Quinn, Ryan Hayes, Ethan Ryan.
Replacements: Killian Lalor for T Brady 43 mins.
Referee: Stephen Troy, Leinster Branch.