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History for Gonzaga as Godson hat-trick sees off Clongowes in gripping semi-final

Jack Connolly pulled the stings while his pack earned the upper hand in the breakdown to take their first-ever Leinster Senior Cup final berth.

Gonzaga College 22

Clongowes Wood College 19

Sean Farrell reports from Donnybrook

THIS GROUP OF Gonzaga players had already delivered their fair share of enthralling matches and brilliant performances in this Cup run, but they had to dig deep to deliver something special and squeeze beyond Clongowes to reach the Leinster Schools Senior Cup final for the first time in their history.

Loosehead Henry Godson, the powerful carrier-in-chief for the Ranelagh, school delivered on his promise with a muscular hat-trick of tries to tip the balance of a knife-edge contest.

Tom Cullen with Hugh Lonergan during a line-out Tom Cullen challenges Hugh Lonergan for a line-out. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The kicking, from tee and the hands of scrum-half Jack Connolly, was critical too, and he constantly kept his pack delving for more effort, even when the Kildare school looked to be finding a rhythm to pull away.

Clongowes’ last final was in 2014, and their hopes of bridging that gap were built on defence today, be it through Luke McDermott fiercely clattering his opposite wing Brian Barron as Gonzaga went wide early, or Ryan McMahon taking names in the tight exchanges.

However, once the ball hit the deck, Gonzaga — led by the excellent Jack Barry and Jack Coolican — were consistently more accurate at the breakdown and earned their reward through referee Dermot Blake’s whistle.

After being penalised under Gonzaga’s posts on their first attack, Clongowes returned with interest. Mark Galvin showed his searing pace on the left and linked smartly with Hugo Phillips to send the centre over for the opening try.

After 27 minutes, a string of penalties brought the first breach in the Clongowes defence. A line-out set the platform for a set of ‘Zaga pick-and-drives, culminating in Godson barrelling over the try-line. Before the half was out, the loosehead grabbed a second.

Henry Godson celebrates scoring his side's second try Henry Godson celebrates a try with Karl Morgan. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Barron again provided an electric option out wide for the Dublin 6 men, and this time he evaded capture on the gainline. His ankles were snagged 30 metres from the line, but Connolly again showed great ability to read the back-field, chipping towards the try-line where John Maher was hit and driven behind his own line by the relentless lock Liam Tyrell. The five metre scrum was all the invitation ‘Zaga’s pack needed to notch a 12-5 half-time scoreline.

Clongowes emerged from the half-time huddle with a much sharper-looking edge and confidence undoubtedly fuelled by their second-half demolition of CBC Monkstown in the last round. They attacked the gainline with more intent and shifted the point of attack effectively, before forcing a try from Noone.

A brilliant touchline conversion from David Wilkinson made it level pegging at 12-apiece, and the 10 was soon kicking his side seven ahead as Luke McDermott rounded off another incisive attack by cutting inside and planting on the try-line despite Barry’s tackle.

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Ethan Noone and David Wilkinson tackle Ronan Shaw Ronan Shaw carries beyond Ethan Noone and David Wilkinson. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Gonzaga were not ready to be burned off.

Connolly pulled three points back and guided his pack forward in search of a go-ahead score. They found it too, Godson grabbing his hat-trick on the back of an overthrown Clongowes line-out put under intense pressure.

With eight minutes to play, it appeared tailor-made for Connolly to control the end-game as his pack kept the ball in close and aimed to advance inch by inch. But Clongowes made them sweat for their moment of history, forcing one last attacking platform as they turned the tables at the breakdown.

Yet there was to be no dramatic reversal on the scoreboard. Tyrell rose to steal the last roll of the dice and, fittingly, Connolly booted the ball over the Donnybrook roof to sound the final whistle.

They await the winners of St Michael’s and Belvedere in the final, but at this moment in time they don’t really care who else comes along.

Scorers

Gonzaga College

Tries: H Godson (3)
Conversions: J Connolly (2/3)
Penalties: J Connolly (1/1)

Clongowes Wood

Tries: H Phillips, E Noone, L McDermott
Conversions: D Wilkinson (2/3)

Gonzaga College: Conor Hennessy, Fergus O’hOisin, Frank O’Grady, Karl Morgan, Brian Barron, Harry Colbert, Jack Connolly: Henry Godson, Hugo Fitzgerald, Ronan Shaw, Liam Tyrell, Jack Coolican, Colm Kirby O’Briain (Arthur Henry ’21) , Tom Cullen, Jack Barry.

Replacements not used: Luke Hammond, George Kenny, Sean Grimley, Oscar Rogers, Max Colgan, JJ Walsh, Simon Wilson.

Clongowes Wood: John Maher, Luke McDermott (Tim O’Brien ’58), Joe Carroll, Hugo Phillips (Flyn Kiernan ’62) , Mark Galvin, David Wilkinson, Ross MacGoey: Conor Duff (Barry Dooley ’18), Ethan Noone (Calum Dowling ’62), Ryan McMahon, Calum Doyle, Hugh Lonergan (Patrick Dowling ’62), Diarmuid McCormack, Thomas Gilheany, Tom Coghlan.

Replacements not used: Pete Kiernan, Gsvin Dowling, Harry Arkwright.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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