Supermacs Connacht Schools Junior Cup final
By Rob Murphy (www.knockon.ie)
Rice College 26
Calasanctius Oranmore 18

Rice College Scorers: Rory Ludden 1try; Dwayne Corcoran 1 try, 4 pens, 2 cons.
Oranmore Scorers: Patrick Griffin and Craign Hansberry 1 try each, Eoin Stenson 2 pens, 1 con.

In a final that will take a permanent place in the annals of Westport and Mayo rugby folklore, Rice College delivered their best display of a truly superb cup run when they really needed it here. Caption: The Riice College side celebrate. Pic: Conor McKeown.

Twice this hugely talented Mayo side came from behind and during the course of the contest they scored two throughly memorable tries to crown this first ever victory for a Mayo school in Connacht Schools Junior or Senior rugby in some style.

Last year Calasanctius Oranmore were far too much for Rice College in the decider. The Westport side has caused a huge upset against St Joseph’s College in the semi final but found the going tough in the final.

Lessons were learned and with a large chunk of that side returning for another bash this time around and delivering with the kind of composure that you’d expect from a side who had a cabinet of silverware back in their college.

Oranmore’s three in a row bid fell short then but they had their moments in this contest and twice must have been dreaming of another title. First of all when Patrick Griffin showed his immense talent to finish off a score in the corner beating two tackles and powering over.

That gave them an 8-3 lead at the midway point of the first half, Dwayne Corcoran had kicked an early penalty but Eoin Stenson had notched on for Oranmore. As the half drew to a close however Rice College found their feet converting two vital penalties to edge back in front.

Corcoran was kicking well but that was only the beginning of his good game, he played a key role in their scintillating first try which came from an attacking moved around half way and was sparked by the electric Jake O’Shea who made great yards before linking with Corcoran on his shoulder.

The outside centre drew the cover and had Rory Ludden darting down the wing to finish off    from 20 metres. He had work to do but had the electric pace to do it. It’s a testament to the brilliant brand of rugby this Rice College side play that you had a winger-outside centre- inside centre combination as they went wide. Players switching at will and capable of doing so.

That gave the Mayo men a 16-8 half time lead and at that point it was hard to see a way back for Oranmore but to their immense credit they found one, first through the boot of a Stenson penalty and then from hard pressure which led to Craig Hansberry scoring. Stenson’s conversion was magnificent and Oranmore were on their toes.

They held firm for ten minutes but as the game drifted into the third quarter Corcoran grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. He kicked a penalty from 32 metres with the ball bouncing off the cross bar before edging over. He had earned the luck.

Then a brilliant Westport attack that began with a Corcoran and replacement Zach O’Toole making a fine break, finished with the former driving over from close range off the side of the ruck, in the style of the Irish captain who wears the same jersey.

Rice College had it all on the day from a powerful front row with Niall McCarthy to the fore to a fine back row performance with Michael O’Grady on top of his game along with Ciaran Coughlan and Eoin Long.

In truth there was no one player on this side that didn’t excel and with a list of scalps that includes Garbally College and the Bish they are very worthy champions, Mayo’s first, and you get the feeling it’s only the beginning for rugby in Rice College.

Rice College: Niall Feehan; Jake O’Shea, Dwayne Corcoran, Rory Ludden, Ruairi Keating, Sean Tobin, Stephen Cawley;  Cormac Groden, Niall McCarthy, Conor Burke; Eddie Dunning, Joe O’Hare; Ciaran Coughlan, Eoin Long, Michael O’Grady.

Replacements: Zach O’Toole and Tom McHale.

Calasanctius Oranmore: Eoin Stenson; Patrick Griffin, Daniel Trayers, Darren Fitzpattrick, Daniel O’Connor; Mark Coyle, Darren Hennessy; Paul Maher, Owen Holland, Roberty Lloyd; Craig Hansberry, Thomas O’Reilly; Samuel Carroll, Liam Keaveney, Darren O’Brien.

Replacements Used: Mikey Donohue, Stephen Flanagan and Diarmuid Joyce.

Referee: Tom McNicholas.

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