After the relative disappointment of Ireland’s opening 6 Nations defeat to a resurgent England (who fully deserved their bonus point win), it is probably easy to forget what an exciting first round of Leinster Schools Senior Cup action we had that that preceded it.
School life certainly moves on apace but for those still in the competition, a real excitement will be building for the fully televised Quarter Finals round upcoming from this weekend.
Sadly, for the St Mary’s SCT squad that I’m involved in coaching, our first-round defeat by Terenure College has left us on the outside looking in this time around. To be fair, Terenure are a fine side who starved us of quality possession and space by dominating the contact area. It is difficult at any level to produce your best on the big day, especially against talented and well drilled opponents but as a coaching team, we were really proud of how our squad battled right to the end. The boys had been on the go since May, had worked really hard all season and deserve a lot of credit for how they have developed through the season.
Anyway, back to the business at hand and what we can expect from some fascinating and well-balanced knockout games to come in this round. After going five from seven on my round one predictions, hopefully I can better that this time!
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Round 1 Results:
St Mary’s College 5-13 Terenure College
Presentation College Bray 19-25 Blackrock College
Kilkenny College 10-52 St Michael’s College
Gonzaga College 26-24 Castleknock College
Newbridge College 17-11 St Gerards School
Wesley College 7-20 Clongowes Wood College
Belvedere College 34-19 Cistercian College, Roscrea
Catholic University School 0-55 C.B.C. Monkstown
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Round 2 Previews:
Blackrock College v St Michael’s College (Postponed)
What a titanic game to start with, the clash of two heavyweights in reigning cup holders ‘Rock (69 time winners!) versus the Leinster Rugby Academy’s main feeder school ‘Michaels.
The first-round form is an interesting subtext here, with Blackrock struggling to hit full throttle against a possibly underrated Pres Bray side, only winning 25-19 in the end. Having said that, Rock had raced into a 15-0 lead, with their halfbacks Matthew Cullen and David Fitzgibbon doing a good job pulling the strings behind a dominant pack led by captain Sean O’Brien (yes, another one!). I’m sure the Blackrock coaching team led by Justin Vanstone will have ironed out the issues that let Pres back into the game, mindful that such a lapse could be fatal for their chances later in the tournament.
For their part, St Michael’s were very impressive in their first-round match, putting 7 tries on a gutsy but ultimately outclassed Kilkenny College side. Prop Jack Boyle was the star of the show with two tries, although outhalf Christopher Cosgrave’s smart game management meant he ran him close for the man of the match honours.
Looking at Sunday’s game, this is going to be a step up for both sides in cold but dry conditions on Donnybrook’s 4G pitch. If Michaels can cope with Rock’s forward power and set piece play, they have the playmakers and strike runners out wide to do real damage. Rock will have improved from the first round and if they can get through this one, it’s really on for a proper title defence but that’s a big ask.
Prediction: It’s going to go right to the wire but St Michael’s to just scrape through
Gonzaga College v Terenure College (Tuesday 12th February, 3pm, Donnybrook)
Another absolute corker is in store here with two very evenly matched Cup dark horses in Gonzaga College and Terenure College facing off. Gonzaga were match hardened after a fine League campaign but still were put right to the pin of their collar in only just edging Castleknock College 26-24 in round one. Their Leinster Schools captain and blindside Jack Barry delivered big time in that match, covering every blade of grass in Clontarf and even grabbing a late try to cap a man of the match display. Scrum half Jack Connolly also had a telling contribution from the tee with three successful penalties from three attempts, helping to ride out a sin binning that saw Castleknock force themselves back into the game.
As mentioned above, Terenure had too much game for my own St Mary’s College side in first round tie. They just had the edge on us in the tight and really suffocated us, forcing too many enforced errors and penalties from us with their pressure defence to really build our rhythm. They’ll be anxious to show their attacking abilities in this one and have some really good players in out half George Morgan, second centre Matthew McGettrick and fullback Patsakorn Kidd, who scored their only try against us.
I’m expecting a real tactical battle between two teams with good game intelligence. ‘Zaga like to play what’s in front of them and if they can get some inroads against the Terenure breakdown work, it might just be enough to swing it their way BUT I feel that ‘Nure might just have too many smarts for them in the end.
Prediction: Terenure to just win through in a nail biter
Belvedere College v Newbridge College (Wednesday 13th February, 3pm, Donnybrook)
The third match of the round and another that looks competitive.
Last year’s defeated finalists Belvedere College showed the value of three years of quality Cup experience in easily outpointing fancied underdogs Cistercian College Roscrea in round one. Belvo just had too much control and power for the 2015 winners, with outhalf Justin Leonard (who played 12 in the Leinster U18s Schools side that claimed the Interprovincial title last Autumn) really marshalling his dominant pack smartly to build a lead that Roscrea could never get to grips with. Ironically, despite their recent Cup successes, Belvo were arguably underrated going into the competition and they’ll be happy that they’ve put down a real marker.
As for my alma mater Newbridge, they got over a rocky enough start when trailing 6-5 at half time to win out 17-11 against a decent St Gerard’s team. They are a young squad this year but after only narrowly losing out to Gonzaga in the Semi Final of the League in December, they have a building momentum that shouldn’t be discounted. They have a balanced squad, with centre Marcus Kiely and full back Sam Cahill probably catching the eye most in round one.
In terms of the this one, a lot rides on whether a fresh and mobile Newbridge side can cope with the power of Belvo. Based on the first-round performances, you’d have to side with Belvo to get the job down but you just never know in Schools rugby!
Prediction: Belvo too strong for a Newbridge team for the future
Clongowes Wood College v C.B.C. Monkstown (Thursday 14th February, 3pm, Donnybrook)
On paper, this might be written off as the one possible mismatch of the round but that would be very unfair to CBC Monkstown.
I had a good chance to run the rule over CBC at the Rugby Rising Festival last year and they really impressed me then. They’ve battled their way into the Cup draw proper and comfortably outpointed CUS 55-0 in the first round. It was a great team effort but with three tries and four conversions, captain and centre James Reynolds was the standout star for them in that one.
As for Clongowes, they were one of only two regular season defeats for my own St Mary’s side so I wasn’t the only one who knew that they were shaping well this year but they had a proper test from a really smart Wesley College side in the opening round. The Co. Kildare team, who number PSA Academies’ Tignes graduates Calum Doyle and Harry Arkwright within their squad, got the job done really professionally in the 20-7 win over Wesley but they’ll know that more is needed in terms of both possession and territory to really show their Cup credentials.
I’ve got a gut feeling that this one could be a lot closer than the experts might predict and that it might only be late on where the tie is settled. Hopefully it will offer a fitting end to this stage of a fine competition.
Prediction: Clongowes to make their quality show in final 10 mins to pip it
2018 – Blackrock College
2017 – Belvedere College
2016 – Belvedere College
2015 – Cisterian College, Roscrea
2014 – Blackrock College
2013 – Blackrock College
2012 – St Michael’s College
2011 – Clongowes Wood College
2010 – Clongowes Wood College
2009 – Blackrock College
The 2019 PSA Rugby Academies are now live for booking at www.psaacademies.com. Book your place on one of the fantastic high performance programmes in the UK, Ireland or France and get up to 10% off when quoting ‘15RUGBYOFFER’. Maximize your young players rugby potential this Summer!