Saturday 16 December 2017

Byrne accuracy seals showdown with 'Rock

St Michael's 21 Newbridge 17 Leinster Schools Senior Cup

Newbridge College’s Niall Delahunt is tackled by St Michael's Dan Green during their Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final
Newbridge College’s Niall Delahunt is tackled by St Michael's Dan Green during their Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final
Tony Ward

By Tony Ward

Holders St Michael's qualified for their third final in four years through an efficient rather than spectacular performance at Donnybrook.

At the end, just four points separated the Ailesbury Road school from a hugely committed, though physically smaller Newbridge team that never gave up the hunt.

It took the Saints just eight minutes to create and finish a spectacular team try. Full-back Cian Kelleher provided the initial burst and from the ensuing ruck the impressive Richie Allen, Alex Penny and Denis Coulson all played a part in setting right-wing Mikey O'Hare racing to the corner for the opening score. Ross Byrne was deadly accurate from close to the touchline.

Newbridge registered their first score six minutes later when full-back Chris Healy, the most impressive individual on the field, landed a penalty to narrow the gap to four.

But within minutes of the restart, first Josh Murphy and then Kelleher, made the hard yards in taking play up to the Newbridge line for ace poacher Nick McCarthy to pounce next to the posts. Byrne again added the conversion for a 14-3 lead.

With confidence soaring, Michael's began to produce a highly impressive off-loading game.

Outstanding

However, Newbridge – inspired by the outstanding Healy, Mark Sutton, Jake Howlett, Tom Brady and wing-forward scavenger Oisin McKnight – fought back for a crucial score before the break.

Deep in injury-time Howlett and Brady took play into the Michael's '22' before Jonathan Phelan took Jack Coghlan Murray's delicate pass to crash over at the corner. Healy's conversion was every bit as impressive as Byrne's earlier effort, leaving it 14-10 at the break.

The defending champions got the perfect start just after the interval, when, Byrne and Charlie Cregan combined for the former to be held up from scoring over the Newbridge line. From the play that followed, Allen took play close to the Newbridge posts before Leinster representative halves McCarthy and Byrne combined for the out-half to make the grounding.

Byrne made it 21-10 and, despite a 45th-minute scare when Newbridge's Matthew O'Connor almost got in at the corner, Michael's held control until the final minute, when powerful prop replacement Ed Wynne barged over next to the posts for replacement scrum-half Robbie Mullen to convert.

It was too little too late, however, as the better team on the day set up the mouth-watering St Michael's/Blackrock all-Holy Ghost (Spiritan) final. Some showdown now awaits at the RDS on March 18.

St Michael's – C Kelleher; M O'Hare (G Duffy 65), A Leavy, M Gilsenan, D Green; R Byrne, N McCarthy; H Redmond (N Quane 65), R Allen, D Coulson; R Molony (Captain), J Ryan; C Cregan, A Penny, J Murphy.

Newbridge – C Healy (P Kyne 65); N Delahunt, J Howlett, J O'Neill (A Shanahan 54), J D'Arcy; M Sutton, J Coghlan-Murray (R Mullen 39); J Phelan (R Dromgoole-Maguire 65), C Doyle (J Briody 54), H O'Donnell (E Wynne 60); C Nugent, B Hayden (Captain); M O'Connor, O McKnight, T Brady (T Treacy 50).

Ref – N Correll (LRR).

Irish Independent

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