Daniel Layden and Matthew Cosgrove of Grammar tackle Garbally's Dylan Connolly. James Crombie/INPHO
Schools Rugby

Dramatic Garbally equalising try sends Connacht Senior Cup final to replay

Simon Keller allowed the Ballinasloe school to level in the closing minutes at the Sportsground.

THE CONNACHT SCHOOLS Senior Cup final will go to a replay after Garbally and Sligo Grammar drew 10-10 at the Sportsground this afternoon.

Defence ultimately ruled in Galway as the rivals managed a try apiece.

Garbally opened the scoring after just two minutes when Grammar conceded a penalty underneath their own posts, allowing Simon Keller to make it 3-0. Thereafter, the Sligo defence stepped up a level and prevented Garbally from creating real opportunities.

Ryan Feehily, the exciting Sligo fullback, created the first try of the game, with his neat footwork opening up the space for Daire Byrne to touch down. Matthew Cosgrove, an Ireland Club U18s cap, was off target with the conversion to leave Grammar’s lead at 5-3.

Three minutes later, that advantage was doubled as Cosgrave – a back row at international level but an inside centre for his school – dived over for a second Grammar try. Again, his conversion was unsuccessful.

Half time arrived with Sligo holding onto their 10-3 lead, as Garbally struggled to turn periods of territory inside the Grammar half into points on the scoreboard. There was some concern for Niall Higgins just before the break as he was carried off after a long injury delay.

Joe Conway and Neville Walker tackle Pater Claffey Garbally's Peter Claffey [carrying the ball] was impressive throughout. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The second half brought the welcome news that Higgins was up and moving freely after being substituted, but there was no change in the determined nature of Sligo’s excellent defence, which continued to frustrate Garbally.

The influential Cosgrave was unlucky to hit the right post with a penalty effort in the 38th minute, while his subsequent snap attempt at a long-range drop goal was wide of the mark too. In a closely-fought affair, Cosgrave had to wait until the 57th minute for his next shot at goal, pulling a 40-metre effort just wide to the left.

Two minutes later, more pressure from the Sligo school resulted in Cosgrave dropping into the pocket for another drop goal, but the blustery conditions saw the shot falling short.

Going into the closing minutes, pre-match favourites Garbally finally managed to earn themselves a visit into the Sligo 22, as strong phase play forced Grammar backwards. With the tireless Peter Claffey leading the way, Garbally muscled their way to the Sligo tryline, from where Keller dove over.

The out-half held his nerve to slot the conversion under great pressure, levelling the game at 10-10 with regular time running out. There was time for several nail-biting final phases, but neither side could find a winning score.

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