Clongowes Wood College 16: Presentation College, Bray 11
The sweetest of victories always seem to come about the hard way. As the full-time whistle finally shrilled at Wanderers Rugby Club on Thursday, bodies on both JCT sides crashed to the floor. It had been a ferocious contest that belied the ages of those taking part. But such is the nature of Leinster Schools’ rugby that one of these game sides would be crashing out of the competition.
With just ten minutes left on the clock, Pres. Bray were in the ascendant. Throughout the afternoon Clongowes had been the louder on the sideline, but suddenly the Wicklow supporters began to find their voice. When they brought the game level through an Elliot Ryan penalty in front of the posts, their fans implored them to go back for more. With the penalty count mounting heavily in favour of the underdogs, the Clongowes faithful winced their way through what seemed like the final moments of the encounter.
Nobody had envisaged such a scenario when Sean McCrohan’s fine offload allowed Reinis Lemess in for the opening points of the game after just five minutes. For the majority of those in purple and white it was their first taste of cup rugby and all its trappings – an early score was precisely the tonic to appease any lingering anxieties. Yet within moments, Pres. Bray had disconcerted their opponents by profiting from a swift counter-attack down the Clongowes right-wing.
One Pres. Bray attack aside (miraculously denied by scrum-half Joe Murphy), neither team imposed upon themselves upon the fixture to the extent that a result was theirs for the taking. Instead a physical tussle ensued all over the field with individuals such as Sean McMahon and Matthew Martin coming to the fore.
Ultimately, quality told in the end – in the form of Clongowes captain, Sean McCrohan. Struggling to venture into Pres. Bray territory for much of the second period, it was McCrohan who instigated the Clongowes resurgence as onlookers began to anticipate a replay. Taking the ball on the right-hand side of a ruck deep inside his own half, McCrohan opted for a meandering route down the left, swatting away defenders at will before eventually being hauled down by several members of the Pres. Bray pack now in retreat. Almost immediately the mindsets of both teams were altered.
With panic stations being manned, Clongowes sensed an opportunity. Space began to open and Liam El-Sibai headed for the corner only to be shunted ashore at the last moment. By now the game was deep into stoppage time yet Clongowes kept their heads, reluctant to resign themselves to another day. Steadily, their tiresome forwards edged their way towards the line once again. Urged on by ‘Oh Clongowes College’, they managed to find inches that nobody else seemed to see. Then McCrohan pounced from close quarters for the crucial score.
Somehow though, the clock also found some extra minutes. Straight from the kick-off, Pres. Bray returned to the Clongowes 22, just to the left of the posts – a converted try would have seen them home. Yet the much vaunted survival instinct of a Clongowes cup team shonethrough. When Patrick Celebi managed to get a portion of
his anatomy underneath the ball to prevent a near certain try, when it seemed easier to score, luck had finally swung in favour of the trainers, Messrs O’Hara, Condron and Bowen on the sideline.
With Blackrock and St. Michael’s registering big wins on the same day, little will be mentioned of this fine Clongowes side. However, it is doubtful that any other outfit will have quite the character that McCrohan’s men displayed here in abundance.
Mr Richard McElwee
The draw has yet to be made for the next round of the Junior Cup, but the match will be played between Monday 24th and Thursday 27th, February. Meanwhile the Senior Cup Team will be in action again next Sunday (9th February) when they take on sister school Belvedere. They (and a supporter from the Antipodes pictured here) will be hoping for a repeat of the result in their first SCT victory over the same opposition in 1926…