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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Clongowes take their chances to survive almighty Wesley test

The Kildare school found themselves on the back foot for large periods at Donnybrook, but they struck at key moments to advance.

Clongowes Wood College 20

Wesley College 7

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook

HERE WAS THE ultimate lesson in taking your chances. Clongowes Wood — although conceding large tracts of possession and territory — proved largely impenetrable at one end and at the other, showed a deadly attacking edge. 

The result, and final scoreline, was harsh on Wesley, as it was they who arguably enjoyed the better of an entertaining contest, but their inability to convert sustained periods of attacking dominance into points cost them dearly.

Chris Gilmer and Hugh Lonergan Chris Gilmer and Hugh Lonergan in action. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

In the end, Clongowes — the eight-time winners — had more than enough firepower in attack and defence to withstand an almighty and admirable effort from Wesley to book their place in Friday’s Leinster Senior Schools Cup quarter-final draw.

Fullback John Maher scored a brace of tries either side of Ross MacGoey’s second-half effort, while Wesley’s powerhouse prop, Sam Illo, had given his side hope of staging an upset heading into the final quarter at a bitterly cold Donnybrook.

But Clongowes found a response to pretty much everything that was thrown at them, and through the work of their physical and hard-working pack, led by captain Tom Coghlan, landed knockout blows at key moments to safely advance.

Maher’s smart finish before the break handed them an 8-0 half-time advantage and scrum-half MacGoey extended their lead in the second period, after Clongowes’ defence had come up trumps again to shut the door on Wesley.

Illo’s 68th-minute score gave the Ballinteer school a lifeline but no sooner had they got themselves back into the game, Clongowes emphatically put the result beyond doubt through Maher.

The opening period was tight and scrappy, as possession and attacking momentum shifted between the sides at regular intervals.

Wesley were resilient in defence but lacked a cutting edge with ball in hand, as some loose kicking, and handling errors, often undid the hard work of their forward pack. It was all a little bit forced, but they were also at a striking size disadvantage. 

In a game of half-chances, Clongowes’ ability to turn territory into points proved the difference. They struck first blood on the scoreboard through David Wilkinson’s early penalty, after number eight Coghlan made a powerful midfield surge and Wesley were pinged for not rolling away.

Timothy Elliott scores a try Maher goes over for the game's first try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Clongowes skipper Coghlan, as well as his back row unit of Diarmuid McCormack and Thomas Gilheany, consistently provided front-foot ball for their side, allowing MacGoey to deliver crisp and quality service to the backline. 

After withstanding a brief period of pressure on their line, Clongowes turned the screw. Mark Galvin was fed down the left and although Wesley winger Adam Campion was equal to the task with a try-saving tackle, the Kildare outfit made their added weight count.

Retaining possession and working it in-field, second row Hugh Lonergan — just back on after a blood injury — was again hit by Campion as he surged for the line, but quick ball allowed MacGoey spread it right for Maher to dance back inside and finish.

Wesley were having to get through huge work defensively, but they were not prepared to roll over and allow this first round contest become a foregone conclusion.

Illo, who has played for Leinster schools this season, often stood at first receiver to punch holes in the Clongowes defence, and they carried enough of a threat to keep the opposition on their toes.

The second half came alive when Jamie Metchette, having collected Wilkinson’s loose kick in the backfield, showed a blistering turn of pace to streak around the outside of Luke McDermott and grubber through into space.

Clongowes fullback Maher came across to cover the danger but, under pressure from the chasing Metchette, fumbled on his own line to present Wesley with a prime attacking platform in front of their supporters.  

Off the back of the scrum, Daniel Dooley and Alfred Oropo brought their side within striking distance but Clongowes were obdurate in defence, holding Illo up on the line as Wesley hammered away around the fringes. 

The turnover, clearing kick and penalty which followed were all game-defining moments, as Clongowes forcefully shut the door before finding the knockout blow at the other end.

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It was cruel on Wesley, who had dominated pretty much all of the second period but, if there was one criticism of their performance, they were often too one-dimensional in their approach when close to the line, regularly missing opportunities to create the overlap out wide. 

Sam Illo and Mark Galvin Sam Illo scored Wesley's try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Clongowes didn’t have any such problems. MacGoey linked beautifully with Lonergan on his inside down this short side and after collecting the reverse pass, raced clear for the line for a seven-pointer.

Not to be deterred, Wesley stuck to their guns and eventually found the score their exertions deserved. Another onslaught on the Clongowes line yielded the desired return on this occasion, as Illo used his considerable frame to barrel his way over from close-range.

Campion converted from the 10-metre line and, with a little over 12 minutes left on the clock, it was game on — for all of three minutes. 

Again displaying a penchant to create something out of nothing, Maher ducked and weaved his way through some feeble tackle-attempts for his second try of the afternoon. And that was that.

Clongowes march on, but they were given a fierce working over and will be all the better for it in the next round. 

Clongowes scorers:

Tries: John Maher [2], Ross MacGoey. 
Conversions: David Wilkinson [1 from 3].
Penalties: David Wilkinson [1 from 1].

Wesley scorers:

Tries: Sam Illo.
Conversions: Adam Campion [1 from 1].

CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE: 15. John Maher; 14. Luke McDermott, 13. Joe Carroll, 12. Flyn Kiernan, 11. Mark Galvin; 10. David Wilkinson, 9. Ross MacGoey; 1. Barry Dooley, 2. Ethan Noone, 3. Ryan McMahon, 4. Callum Doyle, 5. Hugh Lonergan, 6. Diarmuid McCormack, 7. Thomas Gilheany, 8. Tom Coghlan (captain).

Replacements: 16. Calum Dowling, 17. Conor Duff, 18. Luke McMahon, 19. Tom Power, 20. Gavin Dowling, 21. Harry Arkwright, 22. Hugo Philips, 23. Tim O’Brien.

WESLEY COLLEGE: 15. Jamie Metchette, 14. Adam Campion, 13. Henry O’Hagan, 12. Timothy Elliott, 11. Luke Fitzpatrick, 10. Jamie Vard, 9. Jack Atkinson; 1. Chris Gilmer, 2. Jamie Kavanagh (captain), 3. Sam Illo, 4. Jake Brownell, 5. Kyle Wallace, 6. Alfred Oropo, 7. Ross Chandler, 8. Daniel Dooley.

Replacements: 16. Daniel Molina, 17. Jack Fish, 18. Idanesi Momoh, 19. Hugh Grant, 20. Stefan van Breda, 21. Zachary McMullin, 22. Adam Galbraith, 23. Leon Sutton.

Referee: Cillian Hogan.


Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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