Connacht Schools Senior Cup from Thursday
With the Elverys Connacht Schools Senior Cup in full flow, Garbally College travelled to Westport RFC to face Rice College in both team's second game of the competition.
Garbally started the stronger, with their pack giving them dominance for what would be the entire game. It was only the intelligent kicking from Rice College's outhalf Tom McHale that kept the game pinned in Garbally's half. The game started out as a scrappy affair, with both teams taking some time to adapt to the referee's interpretation, with Garbally conceding penalties due to backchat towards the ref.
Connacht Under 18 McHale was kicking into space at every opportunity, and the Rice wingers were putting a lot of pressure on the Garbally back three. McHale had an opportunity to open the scoring, but the ball fell off the tee on his run-up and he was forced into a snap dropkick. Garbally attempted to throw the ball around, mixing forwards in with the backs nicely, yet handling errors often proved their downfall.
Seven minutes in however, they finally broke through, with the dangerous Stephen Tierney going over in the corner. Keller was unable to add the extras. From this point it seemed that Garbally would kick on and start to overpower their opposition, yet McHale never panicked and got Rice off the mark with a penalty a few minutes later. Garbally were exterting a lot of pressure on Rice, especially at scrumtime, but McHale was using the wind well. A further penalty for McHale followed bringing Rice to within a point.
From there, Garbally opened up. A series of counterattacks, led in particular by their exciting full back Tierney, brought play into the Rice college half. Tighthead prop Conor Kenny carried through a number of defenders before the ball was spun out to Irish under 19 Peter Claffey to go over in the right corner. Again Keller was unable to add the conversion, and the score at halftime was 10-6 to Garbally.
With the wind advantage now taken from them, Rice opted not to kick anymore, and the power of Garbally's team started to tell. The Garbally back row started breaking through tackles, gaining yards and it was only a matter of time before lock Sam Holland powered his way over under the posts. Keller duly dispatched the kick and the floodgates opened. Garbally were after the bonus point try now, and managed to force a penalty after Rice pulled down a dangerous maul that gained 20 metres. A kick to the corner followed, and after a series of drives, hooker Niall Higgins went over in the corner, with Keller's kick a beauty, sailing through the posts.
It was only to get worse for Rice. From the restart, Dylan Connolly caught the kick and made a linebreak, before offloading to Keller and then Kenny. Garbally kept it alive and Connolly was able to run in under the posts to add to the extending lead.
Peter Claffey was able to add another try, before scrumhalf Donnachadh Reilly was able to show impressive speed going over in the corner. Keller ended the day with 4 from 7 from the boot, with the majority of those from tough angles in tricky conditions.
Tom McHale and Conor Kenny were the standouts of the day, with Kenny dominating in the tight, with a good work rate to get in support of linebreaks, while McHale did what he could to keep Rice in it behind a retreating pack.
For Garbally, a semi final place is in sight, and bigger challenges await. It will be interesting to see if a team could punish some of their handling errors but the signs look good for the school from Ballinasloe.
Rice College: 15. Stephen Staunton, 14. Philip O'Malley, 13. Diarmiud McGrea, 12. Cillian Browne, 11. Ciaran Harrington, 10. Tom McHale, 9. Steven Cawley, 1. Brendan McLoughlin, 2. Sean Southgate, 3. Richard Duffy, 4. Edward Dunning, 5. Jack Cashman, 6. Colm Mannion, 7. Robert Fabby, 8. Michael Bradley; 16. Peter Speilman.
Garbally College: 15. Stephen Tierney, 14. Peter Flannery, 13. Sean Horan, 12. Ian Duffy, 11. Cian Dooley, 10. Simon Keller, 9. Donnachadh Reilly; 1. Darren O'Hara, 2. Niall Higgans, 3. Conor Kenny, 4. Sam Holland, 5. Peter Claffey, 6. Conor Barrett, 7. Dylan Connolly, 8. Jack Codyre; 16. Anthony Curley, 17. Kevin Flynn, 18. Brian Glenavon, 19. Liam Murray, 20. Frankie Hopkins, 21. Robbie Kelly, 22. Frank Donohue.