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Rugby: Gonzaga brush past brave 'park

Gonzaga took whatever Newpark -- and the weather -- had to throw at them to clinch a place in the Vinnie Murray Cup final at Anglesea Road on Tuesday.

They scored tries in the first five minutes and in injury time, but in between they were forced to work for their impressive winning scoreline against a dogged Newpark side who never gave them an inch of room to work in.

Their architect-in-chief was inside-centre Stephen Murphy who, despite the wintry conditions, carried well and tackled brilliantly alongside partner Daniel Diviney.

Led by captain Mark McGroarty the pack fought well and on a number of occasions they denied Newpark attacking opportunities with an impressive defensive maul, scrum and a destructive lineout.

It was the Ranelagh boys who struck first after they moved the ball through the hands allowing blindside Patrick Lavelle to straighten the line and set winger Sean Murphy up to score under the posts after just four minutes.

Having been carved open with such ease there was a feeling that Newpark were in for a rough afternoon but, to the Blackrock boys' credit, they took control for much of the half.

Discipline let Gonzaga down, but opting not to kick in difficult positions meant that Newpark were reliant on winning their lineout ball, and with Cathal O'Leary and Hugo Mays in flying form in the air they couldn't hold the ball for long.

And when Rafe Garland and Nils Sundermann were able to secure the ball, the centres could get no change from the onrushing Murphy and Diviney who tackled ferociously and forced a number of turnovers.

Any time the ball went over the top from Newpark's half-backs Evan Thornley and Michael Halpin, Gonzaga's full-back Jack Fitzpatrick returned it with interest and made good yardage for his side. They were unlucky not to get a second try when Richard Lenehan beat Eoin Black to the ball on the right wing, kicked ahead and was unlucky when he knocked the ball on as he tried to touch down.

The conditions didn't help matters, forcing a number of handling errors and players off their feet at rucks as half-time saw the score at 7-0 in this tight affair.

And although Newpark battled gamely, it was Gonzaga who struck again after a period of concerted pressure in the Blackrock side's 22 midway through the second half.

Stephen Murphy made an impressive 30-metre break up the left and off-loaded to Sean Murphy who was tackled short of the line. He had Donagh Seaver O'Leary on his shoulder but Sam Crowe brilliantly intercepted his pass and kicked to safety.

Still deep in the 22, Gonzaga mauled the ball up and then attempted a number of avenues to goal, only to be repelled by the brave Newpark defence. After a penalty, a scrum and a number of rucks the Ranelagh side set up a maul for prop Ceithrean Murray to peel off and crash his way over.

Murphy added the conversion and, with the result sewn up, substitute scrum-half Andrew McEvoy put a gloss on the scoreline in injury time, taking Seaver O'Leary's pass and beating Halpin to the line to score. Hugh Byrne added the conversion to complete a job well done and book a place in the final against CBC Monkstown.

Scorers -- Gonzaga: Sean Murphy, Ceithreann Murray, Andrew McEvoy 1 try each, Stephen Murphy 2 cons, Hugh Byrne 1 con.

Gonzaga: Jack Fitzpatrick; Richard Lenehan, Daniel Diviney, Stephen Murphy, Sean Murphy; Mark McPhillips, Hugh Byrne; Ceithreann Murray, Cillian McDowell, Kevin Hargaden; Cathal O'Leary, Hugo Mays; Patrick Lavelle, Mark McGroarty (capt), Donagh Seaver O'Leary. Replacements: Oisín O'Cleirigh for Mays 40, Michael Fitzpatrick for Lenehan 57, John McDowell for Hargaden 60, Andrew McEvoy for Murphy 63, Conall ó Brolchain for Diviney 66.

Newpark: Sam Crowe; Odhran Dwyer , Eoin O'Connor, Fergus Halpin, Eoin Black; Michael Halpin, Evan Thornley; Aubrey Marshall, James Sheehan, Sean Reynolds; Rafe Garland, Nils Sundermann; Joe Wheatley, Zac Jurgmann, Luke Hanratty. Replacements: Ronan Heffernan for Sheehan h-t, Harry Connor for Hanratty 44, Brendan Wheatley for Clarke 55, Fergal Hawley for Halpin 70, Peter Collins for Thornley 70.

Referee: Wayne Sheridan (ARLB).


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