Enniscorthy reach another decider
An heroic defensive effort, allied with clinical finishing when the opportunities arose in the second-half, saw holders St. Mary's C.B.S. burst past Coláiste Bhríde (Carnew) and into the McMullen Cup final.
St. Mary's C.B.S. 19 Col. Bhride (Cawnew) 5
As expected, little quarter was given at Gorey Rugby Club on Thursday in a clash between two evenly-matched sides. For all their classy attacking work, crisp off-loading and penetrative runs, Carnew met their match in the Enniscorthy defence.
The County Wexford school soaked up all the pressure Carnew could throw at them and, almost more impressively, had the energy reserves to score three second-half tries, including two in the last five minutes, to win through to the Donnybrook decider.
The tone for the match was set in the first ten minutes. The Carnew boys set their stalls out, moving through the phases seamlessly, and were soon camped on the Enniscorthy line. They were held up going in to score and were denied soon after by a double-move as their opponents clung to parity.
Enniscorthy started to settle and the powerful John Nolan relieved the pressure with a lung-bursting drive through the Carnew defence, dragging several defenders with him before being stopped on the line. However, the respite didn't last long.
Star man for Carnew, Joe Gardiner, made a superb 40 metres with a defence-fatiguing drive down the right-centre of the field, winning a penalty. Carnew kicked to touch and Andy Kinsella found Gardiner from the line-out, setting up the rolling maul which David Bailey peeled away from to score.
Despite Cian Hadden pushing his tricky conversion attempt wide right, Carnew still took a 5-0 lead into the half-time break. They started the second brightly too with Gardiner, Stanley Hadden and Sam Kennedy all making significant gains in attacking moves.
Yet, as time went by, St. Mary's slowly began to turn the game on its head as Carnew failed to penetrate the gain line when in possession. Then a quick counter saw Andrew Redmond hit Peter Breen with a superb off-load and the speedy centre drove through the middle to score.
Unsurprisingly, Jack Ryan converted from in front of the sticks to give his side a 7-5 lead eleven minutes into the half. A territorial battle ensured with the game bouncing back and forth between the halves until Carnew won a penalty for going over the top of a ruck, however, Cian Hadden narrowly dragged the shot at the posts wide left.
The miss seemed to give St. Mary's even more belief and they drove on to score their second try with five minutes remaining. Peter Breen provided the perfect run from centre to left and off-loaded immaculately to Ronan Gahan who wheeled back inside to score under the posts.
Ryan added the extras to extend the lead to 14-5 and it was fitting that at the end of the second-half, Peter Breen rolled off the back of the game's final maul to score in the corner and set up a McMullen Cup final against either Maynooth Post Primary or St. Conleth's.
St. Mary's: Andrew Redmond, Lee Martin, Robert Cullen, Michael Wall, Lucas Wiacek, Oisín Cullen, John Nolan, Finn Condon, John Nolan, Kevin O'Connor, Jack Ryan, Robert Keating, Jake Murphy, Peter Breen, Brandon O'Connor, Tim Bowler. Replacements - Eddie Mernagh, David Doyle, Jack McAuliffe, Jason O'Gorman, Diarmuid Byrne, Ronan Gahan, James Squance, also Barry Murphy, Mark Kavanagh, Tony Murphy, Liam Stamp, Colm O'Brien, Mick Condon.
Coláiste Bhríde: Mark Hoare, Andy Kinsella, Dylan Sawyer, David Bailey, Keith Fanning, Jim Sharry, Stanley Hadden, Joe Gardiner, Seamus Tomkins, Cian Hadden, Warner Figueras, Daniel Sawyer, Sam Kennedy, Cian Barnes, Robbie Brooks. Replacements - James Rothwell, P.J. Barnes, Jack Brennan, Pádraig Doyle, also William Conroy, Ross Deane, Arvydas Macionis, Mantas Macionis, Ricky Farrell.
Referee: Kevin Bolger.