Holders Roscrea flex their muscles to surge into another decider
Roscrea 24 Clongowes 18 Leinster Schools Senior Cup
For the sixth time in the school's history Cistercian College will contest the Leinster Schools Senior Cup final but they will do so as reigning champions and on this impressive forward evidence it is going to take some effort to dethrone them.
With ten of last year's successful squad back in situ for this semi-final and six in the pack, this is a Roscrea unit well capable of going the whole way.
Clongowes gave it their best shot and in the final minutes pounded the holders' line in search of a winner at the death but in the final analysis the side with the greater composure, calm and confident whenever under pressure, weathered the storm as champion sides do.
But there is another very salient factor and it comes in the shape of the tight five. Once Aaron Browne was declared fit to resume his partnership with Fineen Wycherley (and Aaron Murphy is no slouch) it ensured that the most impressive front-row in the competition to date had the heavy artillery on board to wreak the type of havoc that Michael Milne, Eoghan Maher and Dylan Murphy do as a matter of course.
By contrast, without the services of Sean McCrohan, Clongowes felt his absence where it mattered most. That said, they hit the ground running with Ben O'Shea landing a penalty just three minutes in. They continued to look the more likely with Michael Sylvester, Joseph Martin and Daniel Sheehan all picking holes in the Roscrea defence through soft handling and clever lines of running.
It reaped the reward it deserved in the 19th minute when full-back Sylvester crossed for O'Shea to add the extras and with it a well earned ten point lead. That Sylvester try proved a double-edged sword as immediately upon the restart the Roscrea challenge took off. For the next ten minutes they pummelled the Clongowes line and despite some extraordinary defending, Murphy crossed for a richly-deserved try on the half hour mark.
O'Shea then completed the scoring by way of second successive penalty and a 13-5 lead at the break was probably reflective of play to that point.
The Clane school again started the more likely in the second half but just 13 minutes in hooker Maher produced a dynamic run of which Sean Cronin would have been proud with the 20-metre pass off his left hand to right wing Daniel Keane something else again.
Alan Tynan, Simon Meagher, Sylvester, Wycherley and Keith Kavanagh all handled before the dynamic duo of Milne and Murphy traded passes for the former to score next to the post. The impressive Tynan added the extras and the gap was now down to one (13-12).
But back came Clongowes with Fiachra Lynch finishing a sweeping move to stretch the lead to six. However, coming up to the hour mark two tries in two minutes from Milne again and Brian Diffley, the second converted from the touchline by Conor Kelly, made it a mountain to climb. The mountain on this occasion proving much too high. With this forward unit and this lethal maul, they are going to take some stopping.
Cistercian College - C Kelly; D Keane, P O'Shea (B Hyland 35), S Hastings, J Murphy; A Tynan, K Kavanagh; M Milne, E Maher, D Murphy; F Wycherley, A Murphy (A Browne 41); B Diffley, J Canning (J Culligan 47), S Meagher (capt).
Clongowes - M Silvester; F Lynch, M O'Connor, B O'Shea, R Lemess; T Monaghan (B Maher 65), J Murphy; J Martin (G Graham65), D Sheehan (T Dooley 65), E Carroll; J Moore (Captain), F McCarthy; P Nulty, S McMahon, D Jeffares (A Kelly 42).
Ref - P Haycock (Leinster Referees Association).