Sligo Grammar School 15
(Jonjo Devine, Matthew Ryan tries, Earl Norris one pen, one con)
Coláiste Iognáid 10
(Ben O’Malley try, Patrick Nash one pen, one con)
Kevin Egan at the Sportsground.
Sligo Grammar School are back on top of the heap in Connacht Schools rugby for the first time in eight years after a late try from replacement Matthew Ryan rounded off a 50-minute long comeback against Coláiste Iognáid (the Jes) at the Sportsground this afternoon.
It was a remarkable afternoon that saw the Galway side make by far the better start, disrupting Sligo Grammar in the set piece and crashing over for the game’s first try through full back Ben O’Malley after just ten minutes. After winning the pool game between the two sides quite comfortably, Coláiste Iognáid went into this game with the mantle of favourites resting ever so gently on their shoulders, and the confident, assured rugby they played, particularly when the ball was moved out to the three quarter line, was hugely impressive.
Jes outhalf Patrick Nash made light of the difficult conditions to slot over a very tough conversion and as conditions deteriorated, nightmarish handling conditions made it difficult for either side to gain any real momentum. The lead was pushed out to ten points when Ambrose Bamber tried to carry the ball out of his own 22 and was whistled for holding on when he was swarmed by Jes tacklers, but after forcing a turnover from the restart, Sligo earned a scrum and made it count.
A quick eight-nine exchange led to Gareth McGinty dinking a low kick past the tryline where Jonjo Devine was on hand to touch down for a momentum-shifting score.
An Earl Norris penalty before half-time reduced the gap further and as the second half continued, handling errors prevented Sligo Grammar from taking the lead for long stretches, even though they were enjoying most of the possession and playing the game in the Jes half of the field.
The Galway school made one huge goal-line stand to eventually win a penalty and clear their lines from just three metres out from their own posts, but by now back row forwards Adam Hunter and Ambrose Bamber were the dominant influences on the field, crossing the gain line with the vast majority of their carries. Defensively they were completely on top, turning over Coláiste Iognáid time and again, and playing the game on their own terms.
Yet getting the better of the opposition was just half the battle, making it count on the scoreboard was another matter. It took a moment of real magic to make that happen, and it came from a combination of Hunter, who was really playing a captain’s part, and winger Seán Gilvarry.
With just three minutes to play, Hunter’s flat pass gave Gilvarry the opening the winger needed to beat two tackles and sprint down the left wing, only getting brought down five metres short of the line. A quick recycle back to the Sligo Grammar captain took three more tacklers out of the game and with the Jes stretched, Matthew Ryan was able to charge through the gap between the pillars and touch down for the game’s deciding score.
Earl Norris curved an immaculate conversion through the uprights to ensure that only a try would deny the school their eleventh Senior Cup victory, but that extra cushion wasn’t needed as the Grammar lads kept Coláiste Iognáid penned back in their own half and easily saw out the win.
Sligo Grammar School: Alex Harte; Jonjo Devine, Gerard Murtagh, Conor Creaven, Seán Gilvarry; Earl Norris, Gareth McGinty; Arann Platt, Max Hunter, Tynan Maxwell; Alistair Hill, Paddy Wright; Orlando Ven der Grijn, Adam Hunter, Ambrose Bamber.
Replacements: Ross Clarke for Hunter (17), Jack Dennison for Harte (half-time), Matthew Ryan for Wright (half-time), Oisín Lawley for Maxwell (48)
Coláiste Iognáid: Ben O’Malley; Hugh Kelly, Adam Madden, Robert McHugh, Conor Toner; Patrick Nash, Andrew Sherlock; Paddy Fahy, Charlie Leonard, Liam Cloherty; Rory Lally, David Kelly; Ryan Kavanagh, Shay McGovern, Jack Quinn.
Replacements: Bobby Power for Kavanagh (51), Jamie Cunningham for Toner (54), Conal Ó Floinn for Lally (61).
Referee: Andrew Fogarty