‘Rock and St Gerard’s book safe passage to quarters
March 3, 2022 6:03 pm Site Editor
St Gerard’s School and Kilkenny College continued the run of one-score matches in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup first round at Thursday’s doubleheader in Energia Park.
However, this was broken when Blackrock College asserted its authority in a competitive encounter with Presentation College Bray.
St Gerard’s School 19 Kilkenny College 17
Cool-headed Colin Whitten kicked St Gerard’s into the quarter-final in the opener at Energia Park.
The latest frantic, one-score contest continued to shine a light on a stellar competition. It was the scrum-halves, who made a fine first impression, St Gerard’s Luke Tanner flying off the base of a scrum and Tadhg Berry nabbing him for a turnover penalty.
There was plenty of spice in this one, Kilkenny centre Ivor Fenton showing his acceleration into space and St Gerard’s defence standing resolute.
A Berry block on out-half Ellian Desmond kept the pressure on and Robert Powell ripped the ball away from Donnacha Naidoo as both schools struggled to put phases together.
Then, Kilkenny captain Fenton turned nothing into everything with three fends that made his burst count on a 50-metre break, Josh Bennett converting in the 12th minute.
St Gerard’s prop David O’Kane-Clarke bounced away from a tackle and momentum forced an error which centre Whitten punished from a penalty.
Tanner’s eye for a gap and insistence on keeping the tempo up turned Kilkenny around to draw another shot at goal for Whitten to reduce the deficit to 7-6 in the 19th minute.
The tide of territory was turning, the Wicklow school gaining in confidence only the scoreboard can give.
Kilkenny wing Terence Case stopped Whitten in his tracks. But, St Gerard’s flanker Charlie Paterson hunted carriers with uncommon intensity and prop O’Kane-Clarke almost got in behind.
In the second-half, St Gerard’s were not able to deal with the restart, coughing up a penalty at the breakdown for Bennett to slot with ease.
This was met with an impressive response, the Bray boys moving through the gears up the right and swinging the ball left, centres Whitten and John Harkin working the space for Callum Dempsey to cross for 11-10 in the 35th minute.
The energy of Paterson, O’Kane-Clarke and Tanner was infectious and Harkin’s decision around when to pass gave wing Dempsey a chance to bag a double and the wing didn’t waste it in the 41st minute.
Kilkenny went straight back onto the front-foot, using the lineout and scrum to set up Fenton for a try that owed everything to his refusal to go to ground in contact, Bennett’s conversion recovering the lead in the 46th minute.
There was no give from either side. Dempsey was closed down on the left. Kilkenny No 8 Robert Powell was corralled around the fringes.
It was going to take something special to make a difference. It came from devastating stepping by full-back Matthew Murray, forcing a penalty which Whitten converted in the 59th minute.
However, the game came down to the final play, a difficult penalty for offside which Bennett pulled slightly left of the target.
Scorers – St Gerard’s School: C Dempsey two tries; C Whitten three pens. Kilkenny College: I Fenton two tries; J Bennett pen, two cons.
St Gerard’s School – Matthew Murray; Ronán Kelly, John Harkin (Arthur Walsh 49), Colin Whitten, Callum Dempsey; Ellian Desmond, Luke Tanner; David O’Kane-Clarke (Ryan McDonagh 54), Donnacha Naidoo, Ryan Moore, Cosmo MacGreevy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Hugo Barry-Keane (Samuel Fennelly 55), Charlie Paterson, Turlough McCracken-Brown (capt).
Kilkenny College – Josh Bennett; Terence Case, Ivor Fenton (capt), Toby Brown, Cian O’Reilly (Charlie Sixsmith 37); Matthew Plant (Aidan Horkan 43), Tadhg Berry; Ben Meredith, Gary O’Rourke (Jason Shirley 41), Paddy Bevan, Charlie Bramley (Luca Ashmore 41), Ryan Bailey, Ben Carter, Gavin Trayer, Robert Powell.
Referee – B Conroy
Blackrock College 43 Presentation College, Bray 10
A hat-trick from Joe Reddan was the half-time cushion Blackrock needed to stay ahead of a resilient Pres Bray.
Pres had to stomach the experience of a slow start before they caused plenty of problems in attack.
Initially, they were solid in putting in their tackles until textbook passing released Johnny O’Sullivan down the left and his inside pass was taken home by Ben Crowley for Paddy Clancy to convert.
The Bray school also lost their openside Billy Mansfield to injury. Flanker Daniel Jordan had to be alert to push Charlie Keogh into touch, following hard-hitting from locks Rory Wrafter and Alex O’Dowd.
The waves of attack were rolling forward, Cian O’Connell hauled down by Ronan O’Boyle. Sami Bishti and Brian Walsh were bashed backwards before Clancy spotted the space for Reddan to claim the second try in the 12th minute.
Once again, wing O’Sullivan made metres on the left to connect with Reddan on his inside for 17-0 in the 15th minute.
Pres hadn’t done too much wrong. Their forwards were competitive, captain Tadhg Treacy and prop Sean Gillespie throwing their weight into the argument, while centre Finn Kelly popped in defence.
They held the ball well, Jordan shooting a gap, requiring Reddan to make a fine tackle.
Sweet handling almost put Liam Mooney outside the grasp of O’Sullivan and Pres were able to apply enough pressure for Daniel Moraghan to slot a penalty in the 28th minute.
A simply stunning miss-one pass off the first phase from Clancy to Reddan produced the hat-trick try for the full-back.
The Pres plan was expanding, wings Mooney and James Brandon getting into the game and the inside backs using their handling skills to get the ball to the edge.
Then, the forwards took up the baton, prop Gillespie tapping and going from a five-metre penalty to crash over for Moraghan to convert in the 39th minute.
Back came Pres, stealing a lineout, peeling to threaten the short-side and prop Harry Graham nearly cracking the cover.
The passing skills of Rock tighthead Bishti were exquisite, their security in defence impressive.
When Pres pushed the ball right, O’Sullivan arrived on cue to force a spill and gather the loose ball, breaking away for a well-deserved try.
They came again through Ruairi Houlihan’s intercept for fellow centre O’Connell to glide over on the right and O’Sullivan sped in for his second late.
Scorers – Blackrock College: J Reddan three tries, con; J O’Sullivan two tries; B Crowley, C O’Connell, try each; P Clancy three cons. Presentation College, Bray: S Gillespie try; D Moraghan pen, con.
Blackrock College – Joe Reddan; Charlie Keogh (Charlie Harty 52), Cian O’Connell, Ruairi Houlihan, Johnny O’Sullivan; Paddy Clancy, Ben Crowley (Harry Phelan 41); Andrew McConn-Walsh (Billy McCarthy 59), Matthew Wyse (Niall McCarthy 59), Sami Bishti (Marcus Cullen 59), Geoff Wall (Artur Smykovskiy 50), Ben O’Halloran, Aaron Daly, Michael Walsh (capt), Brian Walsh (Jack Luff 59).
Presentation College, Bray – Ronan O’Boyle (Eanna Hayes 60); Liam Mooney (Fionn Kavanagh 59), Finn Kelly (Dylan Ryan 59), Adam McDonald (Rob Healy 60), James Brandon (Calum McKenna 59); Daniel Moraghan, Sean McDonald; Sean Gillespie, Marc Lawless (Robbie Owens 46), Harry Graham (Charlie McCarthy 59), Rory Wrafter, Alex O’Dowd, Daniel Jordan, Billy Mansfield (Jamie Cavanagh 5), Tadhg Treacy (capt).
Referee – J Teahan