Baird puts mighty Michael's on way to last-four showdown
St Michael's 22-13 Clongowes Wood
St Michael's were drawn to play defending champions Belvedere in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-finals after getting the better of Clongowes in splendid sunshine at Donnybrook.
Clongowes got out of the blocks nice and early through front-foot defence and centre Ben O’Shea fired them ahead by converting a penalty on six minutes after St Michael’s were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck.
St Michael’s took time to get their engines warmed up, left wing Andrew Smith giving them a spike in standards from a bewildering run which was the beginning of a smooth move for Ryan Baird to show real speed to the right corner for 5-3 in the tenth minute.
The impression was of a quarter-final superior to the three that preceded it, further emphasised by a smashing second try from St Michael’s.
Lock Baird began it with a bone-shaking tackle which was quickly translated into a counter in which a varied attack ended with hooker Lee Barron crashing home for centre David Ryan to convert for 12-3 in the 21st minute.
Clongowes just stuck to the game plan and came hard for O’Shea to strike his second penalty in the 25th minute.
From there, Baird’s athletic take at a lineout was spoiled by exemplary maul defence.
Clongowes half-back Conrad Daly broke the first line of defence and the handling was good enough to cause concern until prop Jack Boyle stooped to conquer a ruck.
St Michael’s were ruthless on the restart, Ryan, full-back Chris Cosgrave and Smith flowing down the left to set up camp deep inside the 22 where Dan O’Donovan dived over for Ryan to convert in the 38th minute.
A lung-bursting 40-metre gallop from lock Matthew Healy was foundation for Ryan to kick three more points in the 42nd minute.
Clongowes had to react immediately and they almost did when O’Shea was spotted moving ahead of the kicker David Wilkinson for what would have been their first try.
They weren’t disheartened and came in lightning fashion for O’Shea’s inside ball to put John Maher through a hole and for No 8 Matthew Martin to finish the move, O’Shea’s conversion reducing it to 22-13 in the 56th minute.
However, after that the comeback never really looked likely and Michael’s marched on to the last four.
St Michael’s – C Cosgrave; M O’Brien, D Ryan (capt), J Barron, A Smith; D Moran, R Gilsenan (D McCarthy 67); J Boyle, L Barron, C Hennessy (F Finlay 42), M Healy (J Fish 65), R Baird, J Booth, S Penny, D O’Donovan.
Clongowes Wood – C Gallen (S Donovan 65); J Maher, J Carroll, B O’Shea, C Kennelly; D Wilkinson (M Dowling 62), C Daly; C Duff (R O’Kane 23), B Sheehan (C Dowling 65), R McMahon, D Beggs (G Dowling 51), T Coghlan (M Colivet 67), A Ryan (capt), J Durkan, M Martin.
Ref – N Correll (Leinster Branch)