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Summerhill cling on to pip Grammar and seal spot in decider

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Summerhill College and Sligo Grammar scum down in their Connacht Schools Senior Cup clash

Summerhill College and Sligo Grammar scum down in their Connacht Schools Senior Cup clash

Summerhill College and Sligo Grammar scum down in their Connacht Schools Senior Cup clash

In a historic meeting, Summerhill College, Sligo faced Sligo Grammar in the final round of pool fixtures in the Top Oil Schools Senior Cup.

The stakes couldn't have been higher in what was effectively a winner-takes-all clash between the local rivals. A win for either side would see them join Garbally College in the Top Oil final on March 18 in the Sportsground.

The game was played at a frenetic pace in the opening stages with both sides applying early pressure to no avail.

Superb

Summerhill looked dangerous with ball in hand and were able to string a number of phases together, bringing them deep into the Grammar 22; however, superb breakdown work resulted in a penalty which allowed TJ Forde to clear the lines.

Grammar gradually played their way into the game using the wind advantage to great effect, with Paul Kilcoyne and Ryan Feehily keeping Summerhill pinned back.

A fantastic counterattack from right winger Ronan Molloy enabled Grammar to build momentum inside the Summerhill 22 and a perceptive chip kick from out-half Kilcoyne put the Summerhill back three under huge pressure, allowing Feehily to touch down in the right-hand corner for the game's opening try. Forde nailed the touchline conversion.

With the breeze at their backs Grammar would have expected to kick on but it was Summerhill who upped their intensity and following a series of committed close-in drives using their impressive pack, Cillian Gallagher touched down for an important score, which Jack Keegan converted to level the game at half-time.

With the wind now firmly at their backs Summerhill started the second half with renewed impetus.

Their lineout excellence and ability to string together numerous penalties was again evident as they forced Grammar into conceding at the breakdown.

Keegan was narrowly wide with the resultant penalty but Summerhill maintained the pressure and Keegan calmly slotted another opportunity a few minutes later to put Summerhill into a deserved lead for the first time in the game.

The ebb and flow of the game continued and Grammar came back into it, forcing Summerhill into conceding a penalty at ruck time which Forde was unlucky to see drift wide from 40 metres out.

The momentum, however, was very much with Grammar and their potent backline made inroads into Summerhill territory time and again. The screw was turning and Grammar's aggressive defensive pressure forced Summerhill into conceding a five-metre scrum.

With a dominant scrum, the Mall-based school attacked right and some threatening footwork and a well - timed pass from Feehily put Daire Byrne in at the corner. Forde again landed a superb touchline conversion again to leave the score at 14-10 to Grammar.

There looked to be no way back for Summerhill, but to their immense credit, they clawed back some field position and turned to their pack again who surged at the Grammar line for phase after phase only to be denied by resolute defending.

However, they were denied illegally and Summerhill decided to tap and go. That brave decision proved crucial to the eventual outcome of the game as Ciaran Cassidy crashed over after a series of forward drives. Keegan narrowly failed with the conversion to leave the minimum between the teams (15-14) with only minutes remaining.

There was yet more drama as Grammar managed to force a last-minute penalty following some great defensive work form their pack at the breakdown.

Unfortunately for Grammar, Forde narrowly missed the shot at goal and Summerhill successfully defended for the remaining minute of play, booking a place in the final.

League table for Top Oil

Senior Schools Cup

PWLDPFPABPPts

Summerhill 43108049113

Garbally College 42118734212

Sligo Grammar 42116342212

Marist College 42206166210

Colaiste Iognaid 40403613600

Irish Independent