After what seems like ages, we’ve finally reached the much-anticipated Semi Final stages of the 2019 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup, with two absolutely cracking ties to look forward to over the next two days, with the winners moving forward to the big St. Patrick’s Weekend showcase at the RDS.
PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy has been following the action closely since his St. Mary’s College side got edged out by Terenure College in the opening round and he’s run the rule over the four remaining teams for Fifteen Rugby and our readers to find the likely Final pairing for just under two weeks’ time. Read his preview of the two Semi-Final clashes below.
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Round 1 Results:
St Mary’s College 5-13 Terenure College
(Johne’s Prediction – N/A)
Presentation College Bray 19-25 Blackrock College
(Johne’s Prediction – Blackrock Win)
Kilkenny College 10-52 St Michael’s College
(Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s Win)
Gonzaga College 26-24 Castleknock College
(Johne’s Prediction – Castleknock Win)
Newbridge College 17-11 St Gerard's School
(Johne’s Prediction – Newbridge Win)
Wesley College 7-20 Clongowes Wood College
(Johne’s Prediction – Clongowes Win)
Belvedere College 34-19 Cistercian College, Roscrea
(Johne’s Prediction – Roscrea Win)
Catholic University School 0-55 C.B.C. Monkstown
(Johne’s Prediction – CBC Win)
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Round 2 Results:
Blackrock College 10-16 St Michael’s College
(Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s Win)
Gonzaga College 19-11 Terenure College
(Johne’s Prediction – Terenure Win)
Belvedere College 31-7 Newbridge College
(Johne’s Prediction – Belvo Win)
Clongowes Wood College 38-10 C.B.C. Monkstown
(Johne’s Prediction – Clongowes Win)
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Semi-Final Previews:
Gonzaga College v Clongowes Wood College (Tuesday 5th March 2019, 3 pm, Energia Park, Donnybrook)
First up, it is great to see Gonzaga progress to the Semi-Finals stage. They are a school with a fine, if under-appreciated cup tradition, reaching the Leinster Schools Semi-Finals as recently as 2017. I’m delighted for my old Lansdowne FC coach Declan Fassbender, who has done some incredible work over the last two decades in consistently raising the baseline of performance and achievement at the Ranelagh school. It is great to see that sort of commitment and expertise paying off now.
They were rightly considered dark horses for the Cup with a Senior League title already in the trophy cabinet after their 19-7 win over Castleknock College back in December and they’ve really built their way into the Cup with another, albeit tighter, win over Castleknock in the first round and a fine victory over Terenure College in the Quarter Finals. I was really impressed with how they handled the breakdown pressure that Terenure applied in the last round, something we (St Mary’s College) struggled to cope with in our own first round defeat. They dominated possession against ‘Nure and had the composure and game management to keep banging on the door until they got their third try via prop Henry Godson with only 11 minutes to go. If able to pick from a fully fit squad, they have some real game breakers in their Captain & Leinster U18 star blindside Jack Barry (man of the match against Castleknock in round 1), centre Frank Barry who was very dangerous against Terenure and wing Fergus O’hOisin and prop Henry Godson, both of whom scored tries in both previous rounds.
Clongowes Wood College started the competition as one of the favourites to lift the Cup on St Patrick’s Weekend and if anything, they have added to that impression. Whilst both of their previous wins against Wesley and CBC Monkstown looked comfortable based on the final scorelines, they were made to work hard for both victories. In the Quarter Final, for the first 30 minutes, the underdogs in CBC dominated possession and really tested the Co. Kildare side defensively. It was a crucial try either side of half time that really opened the game up for Clongowes to use their big powerful forwards and strike runners to kill the tie off. Clongowes is a direct, very accurate side, with quality throughout, from outhalf David Wilkinson who played on the provincial title-winning Leinster Schools U18 side to his fellow Leinster U18 players hooker Calum Dowling, prop Barry Dooley, openside Tom Gilleany and full back Tim O’Brien. From a PSA Academies perspective, it is always great to see our Tignes Rugby Academy graduates coming through at this level, so we’ll be watching out for Calum Doyle and Harry Arkwright here, to see if they can emulate fellow Tignes graduate Harry Donnelly from Blackrock College in winning the Cup.
I’m really looking forward to this one and I think it’s going to be a great game if the conditions aren’t too much of a factor (currently the forecast is clear, with a moderate southwesterly breeze). Both sides have the game to take this one, so it’s going to come down to individual battles and taking your chances when you get them. It is hard to overestimate the value of having already claimed silverware in a season, so I’m just about edging with Gonzaga to register an upset and reach their first Senior Cup Final in the 132 years of the competition.
Prediction: Gonzaga to just edge a mighty tussle
Belvedere College v St. Michael’s College (Wednesday 6th March 2019, 3 pm, Energia Park, Donnybrook)
The second Semi-Final is a real meeting of the heavyweights, with last year’s finalists Belvedere College up against the school responsible for driving most of the Leinster Rugby professional player production line, St. Michael’s College. The fact that between them, they supplied an incredible nine of the starters when the Leinster Schools U18s claimed the interprovincial title against Ulster last August really tells you all you need to know about the depth of quality that will be on display come 3 pm on Wednesday.
In terms of progression to the last four stages, Belvo has shown some real power and precision in accounting for both Cistercian College in the first round and the gallant Newbridge College in the Quarters. Their Cup mentality and smarts saw them control the game against Newbridge very well, mixing the game tempo with cleverly worked plays and intelligent offensive kicking. They have shown themselves to be fully capable of building pressure in the right areas of the park and taking the opportunities off the back of this. They may only have three starters from last year’s defeated finalists but the experience of reaching the last four Finals is clear in the clinical performances of players like outhalf Justin Leonard (who kicked a fantastic 5 from 5 from the tee against Newbridge) and a hardened, disciplined pack led by Irish Schools players, flanker Aaron Coleman and backrow Alex Soroka.
As for St. Michael’s, it’s hard not to feel like now that they have finally beaten their nemesis Blackrock College (a first Cup reversal ever), they have every right to feel that they are the team to beat in this year’s final four. In the rescheduled Quarter Final, led by their Leinster & Irish Schools lock Jonathan Fish, they pressured and capitalized on the malfunctioning ‘Rock lineout, to expertly execute their game plan. In a team with star quality throughout, centre Chris Cosgrave was also massively influential in open play and off the tee (kicking 5 from 6). The biggest positive from the game for Emmet McMahon’s squad will be the fact that they were mentally strong enough to withstand the inevitable Blackrock comeback that came despite being 13-0 up, weathering that late storm to get the job done at 16-10. Coming off the back of previous Cup upsets when carrying the outright favourites tag, that should be massive for their belief.
As for what I see happening, I’d expect Belvo to try to use their territorial kicking game to heavy effect early on, seeking to disrupt Michael’s set-piece and rhythm. Belvo’s best chance of winning this game is to turn it into a forward dominated encounter and on the 4G surface at Energia Park, that requires exceptional accuracy and game management, with outhalf Justin Leonard carrying a massive responsibility both as a tactical kicker from hand and placekicker. The reality is that St. Michael’s have the players and game to combat this approach but the million-dollar question is whether they have banked that Blackrock wins to rise to the next level mentality against an opponent that has an unquestioned Cup winning mentality. The answer for me is yes, just.
Prediction: St. Michael just has too much quality to reach the first Final since 2013
Article by: Johne Murphy (http://www.fifteenrugby.com)