Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Christian Brothers College (Cork) 17
Presentation Brothers College (Cork) 15
TRADITIONALLY THERE IS plenty of social cross-pollination between students of Cork schools Christians and Pres, and it’s perhaps for this reason the rivalry is so rancorous once they cross the whitewash in Lansdowne, Wilton or Musgrave Park.
The latter venue played host to today’s Munster Senior Schools Cup semi-final between the ‘Super Reds’ of Sidney Hill and ‘Tation’ from down the Mardyke, with both schools locked on 29 titles apiece atop the Munster schools honours list.
It was Christians who came out on top this year in one of the most monumental encounters ever staged between the two sides, recovering from a 15-0 second-half deficit to reach the Senior Cup final with the last play of the game.
With nerves frayed during a ferocious opening quarter, both kickers saw their first efforts on goal drop short, with Pres centre Sean French missing on six minutes from a tight angle and Christians fullback Robert Hedderman following suit just over five minutes later.
On 24 minutes, the deadlock was broken as French edged Pres into a 3-0 lead with a more straightforward kick from the 22, but he was only getting warmed up.
A 2009 semi-final between the sides was decided in the red half’s favour by a breathtaking chip-and-go Darragh Dunne score at Temple Hill, but French’s effort for the first try at ‘Muzzer’ today perhaps exceeded even that: while being tackled by a couple of defenders, French offloaded to PBC’s Jonathan Wren before collecting a tidy inside ball from the experienced fullback. With one defender to beat, French chipped over the top and collected the ball to dot down and move Pres out to an 8-0 lead.
Tired from a mesmerising effort, his conversion was off the mark, but Pres took their two-score lead into the dressing room while Christians trod off kicking themselves.
And half-time plans went up in smoke for the Reds soon after the turnaround as Pres extended their lead through another wonderful solo score.
Four minutes after the restart, winger Mark McLoughlin fielded a garryowen and took off down the right flank, seeing off a couple of would-be tacklers en route to cross for Pres’ second try. French, on this occasion, did the rest, and the Mardyke school led 15-0.
Source: Laszlo Geczo
Christians dusted themselves down, though, and finally got off the mark mere moments later: after superb work from their forwards to gain a foothold inside the Pres 22, CBC went wide and centre Eoghan Barrett burst his way over in the left-hand corner to bring his side back to within 10.
The conversion attempt from the sideline was off-target, but the 2016 champions were on the board.
And it was that man Barrett again who dragged his side to within touching distance of their arch rivals, again going over in the left-hand corner on 57 minutes to move CBC to within a score. Eoin Monahan added the afters on this occasion to set up a mammoth final 12 minutes-plus, with the scoreboard still shaded black and white at 15-12.
Source: Laszlo Geczo
The ending was fittingly titanic as Pres withstood mighty Christians pressure on their own 22, and when Eoin Monahan’s potentially levelling kick collided with the right-hand post and dropped into ‘Tation hands you might have excused the students of Sidney Hill for believing they were destined to come up short this year.
They kept chipping away at the Pres rearguard, however, surviving a gut-wrenching knock-on in the red zone to give it one final lash at the death.
In the last play of a memorable game, which arrived eight minutes into injury time, a sustained attack in Pres’ 22 finally saw Christians and out-half Monahan ship the ball wide left. As an exhausted PBC defence shuffled out to meet the oncoming red tide, Christians manufactured a two-on-one from a break on the outside, and wideman Adam O’Connor wrote his name into school folklore as he crossed in the left-hand corner to absolute bedlam on the Sunday’s Well side of the ground.
No sooner than Monahan’s redundant conversion miss had left the tee, CBC fans took to the pitch in jubilation, while the dismayed young men from across the city were left to ponder what the hell had just happened.
They’ll face plenty of ‘remember whens’ from their friends in red as the years go by, but today’s semi-final will be remembered by most for what it was: a wonderful advertisement for Munster schools rugby.
Source: Laszlo Geczo
Christians advance to face Glenstal in the final at the same ground on Sunday 18 March.
CBC: R Hedderman; J O’Hea, E Barrett, T Downes, A O’Connor; E Monahan, J O’Riordan; M Donnelly, D O’Connor, L Masters; A Ryan, C Hurley; J Willis, R Barry, B Roche.
Replacements: C Rasmussen, D Good, R Loftus, D McAuliffe, S Buckley, D O’Hara, C Coughlan, JD O’Shea.
PBC: L Bruce; M McLoughlin, S French, J Wren, S O’Donovan; J Broderick, D Harrington; T Ormond, B Scannell, D McCarthy; E Burns, E Quilter; A Kendellen, M McCarthy, D Hyland.
Replacements: D Murphy, A Keating, R Duggan, R Foley, M Fitzgibbon, J O’Shaughnessy, N Murphy, S Horgan
Referee: R O’Sullivan (Munster)
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