Despite a spirited effort towards the end of the contest, Newbridge College ultimately came off second best in the showpiece decider of the Leinster Junior Cup in Donnybrook last Sunday afternoon, against a St Michael’s College side who finally reached the promised land after five years of heartache at this stage of the competition, writes Daire Walsh.
St Michael’s College: 10
Newbridge College: 5
This was a special occasion for Newbridge, as it marked the first time that they competed in the Junior Cup Final since the class of 1998 (who included Jamie Heaslip in their side) but, despite an opening half try from winger Gavin Burke, they couldn’t spoil the party for the south Dublin school, who completed an historic junior and senior cup double for 2012.
However, despite gaining good possession during the opening few minutes from Michael’s, it was actually Newbridge who were the more threatening side the during the opening quarter and, following good pressure in the Michael’s half ten minutes in, Burke was presented with a chance to open the scoring with a 30-metre penalty positioned to the right of the posts.
It was at a very manageable angle for the Newbridge No. 14, but his right-footed effort drifted just past the post on this occasion. This came as something of a let-off to the Dublin 4 men, and they responded by forcing Newbridge under sustained pressure for the first time in the game.
Indeed, 17 minutes in they looked like they were about to cross the Newbridge line for the opening try of the game when they moved the ball enterprisingly towards the left-hand side of the field. However, a wayward final pass by Michael’s was intercepted by Burke at a crucial moment, and he ran the full length of the pitch before touching down underneath the posts for a tremendous individual score.
He would then step up for what looked like a routine conversion, but he was once again off target with his kick, meaning that the Newbridge lead was five rather than seven at this point. Michael’s started to get on top towards the end of the half, though and, following a strong spell of possession in the Newbridge half on 27 minutes, prop Rory Mulvihill drove over for a well-taken try.
Flanker Barry Fitzpatrick was on hand to coolly add the bonuses, which gave the Metropolitan outfit (who defeated Newbridge’s fellow Kildare school, Clongowes Wood, at the semi-final stage) a 7-5 advantage heading into the second period. Michael’s did suffer a set-back soon after the re-start when full-back Maximus O’Shea had to depart the scenes through injury, but they rallied strongly, and Fitzpatrick increased their cushion to five with a close-in penalty after 40 minutes.
Moving into the final 20 minutes of action, Newbridge needed to build momentum in the Michael’s half, and though they started to do that to a degree as the minutes progressed, they still had to be on their toes whenever Michael’s got the ball in their hands.
Yet, as the closing stages beckoned, Newbridge did put on a massive push for the try that would bring them roaring into the encounter, and they certainly looked a good bet to score when they were awarded a five-metre scrum with six minutes of normal time remaining, but Michael’s managed to turn the ball back in their favour when push came to shove.
This would prove to be the closest the south Kildare school came to forcing their way back into the reckoning, because even though they enjoyed plenty of territorial during the final moments of the tie, Michael’s managed to hold firm for a hard-earned victory.
Having defeated the likes of St Mary’s College and Terenure College en route to the final, Newbridge will undoubtedly be disappointed that they fell just short of winning the Junior Cup for a second-ever time but, in the form of Burke, Jake Howlett, captain Jimmy O’Brien, Tom O’Neill and Ciaran Callan, Dave Brew and his management team certainly have plenty to positive about as they look towards the future of rugby in the college.
Ruairi Cleary; Gavin Burke, Jake Howlett, Rob Buckley, James Healy; Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Delaney; Mike Doyle, Tom O’Neill, Oisin Larkin; Paul Condon, Patrick Morrin; Oisin Kelly, Luke Menton, Ciaran Callan. Replacement: Donal Delahunt for Condon (30-30+5 & 45).
ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE:
Maximus O’Shea; Jack Kelly, Oisin O’Meara, Max Deegan, Adam Brennan; Robin Cosgrave, Dave Duggan; Rory Mulvihill, Gavin Barrett, Ronan Kelleher; Evan O’Nuaillain, Joe Browne; Barry Fitzpatrick, Gavin Croke, James Ryan. Replacement: Kevin Browne for O’Shea (35).
Arthur Lynch (Leinster Rugby).