Cistercian College Roscrea 24Gonzaga College 41
– Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook
THIS COMPETITION NEVER ceases to amaze, as once again on a perfect afternoon at Donnybrook, we were treated to an enthralling game of rugby which brilliantly encapsulated everything good about schools rugby.
In a week of thrilling quarter-final drama in the Leinster Senior Schools Cup, Cistercian College Roscrea and Gonzaga College delivered the tie of the round as they exchanged blows before the latter surged clear with a barely believable second-half display.
It’s a pity there had to be a loser but, in the end, Roscrea — the 2015 champions and last year’s beaten finalists — had no answer to the Ranelagh school’s explosive running game which saw them score seven tries; each one as good as the next.
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‘We’re going to win the Cup, and nobody’s going to believe us,’ the group of ex-pupils in green sang on the far side as the clock struck red. After this performance, you’d nearly believe them.
Declan Fassbender’s men came flying out of the traps, scoring twice in the opening six minutes, and although Roscrea hit back to lead by two points at the break, there was no denying Gonzaga.
Their reward for today’s victory is a semi-final clash with 68-time winners Blackrock College while holders Belvedere will face Clongowes Wood in the other last four tie.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Before Roscrea could even settle into the occasion, they had gathered under their own posts twice inside the early exchanges.
Michael O’Kennedy’s penalty launched ‘Zaga deep into opposition territory and it was from that platform which they struck. Roscrea briefly kept them at bay but the pressure eventually told as Eoin Buggy drove his way over from close range for the first of his brace.
O’Kennedy was unable to convert from this near touchline but, four minutes later, his looping pass left sent Hugh Twomey through for fullback David Lynch to race home and extend the Gonzaga lead.
Twomey was a live wire on the left wing throughout and posed problems for the Roscrea defence every time he got ball in hand, before he was forced off through injury on the hour mark.
Roscrea came storming back and did damage of their own from a powerful rolling maul after Conor Kelly brilliantly found the corner with a penalty from hand. After inching towards the whitewash, it was left to lock Neal Moylett to fall over the line.
Not to be deterred, Gonzaga went down the other end and hit back almost instantly — and it was that man Buggy again as he started and finished a sweeping move to give his side a 10-point buffer.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
It was, literally, end-to-end at this stage as both sides took every opportunity to throw it wide and Roscrea swung the momentum back in their favour shortly before the half hour mark through centre Philip O’Shea.
Kelly’s conversion made it a three-point game and when Michael Milne dotted down for a try made and scored by the pack, Roscrea suddenly found themselves in the lead for the first time.
Pieter Swanepoel’s charges took that lead into the break but if the first period belonged to Roscrea by way of the scoreboard, the second was all Gonzaga.