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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Last-gasp Ardscoil deny dogged St. Munchin's in Senior Cup thriller

Last year’s beaten finalists advance into the quarter-finals.

Ardscoil Rís 18

St. Munchin’s College 15

IF EVER THERE was an advert for the Munster Schools Senior Cup, this was it.

Beaten finalists in this competition on the previous two occasions, Ardscoil Rís advanced into this year’s quarter-finals after a dramatic 18-15 win, while Munchin’s face a second round tie against Bandon Grammar.

Conor Fitzgerald Out-half Conor Fitzgerald is back for Ardscoil after starring last year. [file photo] Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In a game played in ideal conditions at Greenfields in Limerick, Munchin’s had the aid of a slight breeze in the first half. Ardscoil looked to get their dangerous backline into the game from the off, spreading the ball to the wide channels at will.

Well-organised linespeed and incredible commitment to the cause saw Munchin’s stifle their Limerick rivals on several occasions, and when Ardscoil were penalised at scrum time in their own 22, outstanding out-half Jason Kiely put Munchin’s in the lead from the resulting penalty.

This appeared to spur on Ardscoil and the impressive Conor Fitzgerald pinned Munchin’s back with a clinical display of tactical kicking. Fullback for the Corbally college, Brian Bennett gave as good as he got with some fine kicks of his own, and looked a real threat with ball hand.

With 12 minutes on the clock, referee Joy Neville pinged Munchin’s for side entry at ruck time on their own ten-metre line, and Fitzgerald booted them level with a lovely strike. There was a lengthy stoppage in play soon after when winger Marcus Browne was substituted with what looked like a nasty shoulder injury.

When play resumed, Ardscoil pinched a lineout in the Munchin’s 22, and after a series of carries from the pack, scrum-half Craig Casey sniped past the pillar, and with quick ruck ball, simple hands from the backline put Evan Cusack over in the corner.

Fitzgerald couldn’t add the extras from out wide and Ardscoil led 8-3 after 25 minutes.

Off the resulting kick off Ardscoil chose to play in their half rather than exit, and with Munchin’s attacking the ruck at every opportunity, referee Neville again adjudged Ardscoil to be holding on. Kiely kicked the penalty and the deficit was reduced to two points.

Ardscoil’s inside centre Matthew Lyons was lucky not to go the bin for taking Bennett out in the air, and this gave the teams a better opportunity to acquaint themselves with an old fashioned shemozzle in front of opposition fans, who were now in full voice.

Both packs lost a player to the bin, and Kiely landed his third penalty of the afternoon giving Munchin’s a 9-8 lead going into 11 minutes of first-half stoppage time.

Ardscoil captain Ronan Coffey left the pitch before the interval with an ankle injury to be replaced by Conor Cannon, and Fitzgerald and Kiely traded penalties leaving it 12-11 to Munchin’s at the break.

The second half started at a much more frantic pace, with Fitzgerald running the show for Ardscoil, and Kiely directing his charges diligently. Ardscoil front rower Michael Scallon was sent to the bin for a preventing a quick tap, but Kiely’s perfect record was blemished when he narrowly missed the penalty from long range.

Both teams then began to go for it from deep inside their own halves, but the lack of a killer pass or under-resourced rucks led to turnovers galore. The Munchin’s defence was holding firm with openside flanker James Burke dominant in the tackle and at the breakdown, winning several penalties.

When Ardscoil brought down the dominant Munchin’s maul wide on the right in their own half, Kiely added his fifth penalty of the afternoon and gave Munchin’s a 15-11 lead going into the final quarter.

There caused wasn’t helped when scrum-half Aaron Rice was sent to the bin for killing the ball after Fitzgerald cut through the Munchin’s defence to make a 30-yard break. Trailing by four points with 10minutes remaining they went for the corner, but Munchin’s held up the Ardscoil maul five metres from their own line to rapturous applause.

There were tired bodies on the pitch and the final five minutes was heart-stopping stuff. Ardscoil went through phase after phase, and when Evan Cusack showed magical footwork to beat the Munchin’s defense his perfect pass was somehow dropped by wing Darren Galvin with the line at his mercy.

From the resulting scrum, Munchin’s were done for an early engagement, and after a quick-tap from the free kick, the ball went through several phases, eventually finding Pa Cusack who scored in the corner to win it for Ardscoil.

Fitzgerald added the extras from the touchline to make it 18-15. Munchin’s flag will fly for another day at least when they face Bandon, but Ardscoil are safely through to the quarter-finals.

Ardscoil scorers:

Tries: Pa Cusack, Evan Slattery

Conversion: Conor Fitzgerald (1)

Penalties: Conor Fitzgerald (2)

St. Munchin’s scorers:

Penalties: Jason Kiely (5)

Ardscoil Rís: Evan Cusack; Nathan Randles, Pa Ryan, Peadar Collins, Marcus McMenamy; Conor Fitzgerald, Craig Casey; Michael Scallon, Colin Slater, James McCarthy; Darragh O’Grady, Ronan Coffey (captain); Oisin Bernard, Ian Brown, Odhran Ring.

Replacements: Shane Redmond, Matthew Gaule, Conor Cannon, Jim Ryan, Luke Clohessy, Colin Madden, Darren Galvin, Darragh O’Gorman.

St. Munchin’s College: Brian Bennett; James O’Halloran, Evan O’Connor, Matthew Lyons, Marcus Browne; Jason Kiely, Aaron Rice; Kealan McMahon, Adam Moloney (captain), Emmet O’Callaghan; Connor Radcliffe, Shane Kelly; Shane Corbett, James Burke, Charlie Carmody.

Replacements: Darren Radcliffe, Gary McCoy, Mark O’Driscoll, Sean Hayes, Jake Murphy, Evan Maher, Darragh Gibbons, Luke Costello.

Referee: Joy Neville (MAR).

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About the author:

Daragh Frawley

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