Elvery’s Connacht Schools Senior Development Cup Final

HRC Mountbellew 12-8 Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin

HRC Mountbellew ultimately came out on top of this tense contest that had spectators on edge right up until the final whistle. The two developing rugby schools started this game at a frentic pace, with HRC fullback Neil Conway showing up well early on displaying his dazzling array of footwork creating space for those around him. It was Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin though, playing as the first Irish speaking school to play in a Connacht schools final, that had the early momentum. Some territory in the 22, and a series of pick and drives saw them go close, before some excellent linespeed in defense from HRC prevented any chance of a try.

After ten minutes, two penalties to HRC in quick succession gave them some terroritory, and after a quick tap from no.8 Jack O’Brien brought them close to the line, an overlap on the blindside gave them a chance, and Conway’s quick feet and step just about got him to the line. 5-0 HRC lead with the kick missed from outhalf Ciarán Mannion.

Credit to Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin, they didn’t let this unsettle them and Colm de Buitléar was able to respond with a penalty moments later. Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin continued to push, having the vast majority of possession. Overlaps and chances were being created from both sides, but handling errors and misplace passes started to disrupt the flow of the game. HRC’s Jack O’Brien was carrying dangerously from the base of scrums, and when HRC had a scrum in a good position, only some brilliant defending from Cillín Ó Gríofa and Aonghus Ó Domhnaill prevented a try.

If Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin had all the possession before halftime, the same can not be said of the first period in the second half. HRC Mountbellew were on the offensive putting a lot of pressure on the Irish school’s defense. First Finbarr Hughes went close, and then the impressive Conway beat some would-be tacklers before a lovely offload kept more pressure on the Cheathru Rua school’s line. The pressure eventually told with the second try of the game, this one to Cathal Laheen. The score was now HRC 12-3 in the lead.

Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin never gave up however, and began to pressurise the Mountbellew defense in an attempt to get a score that would bring them back into the game. The Mountbellew discipline wasn’t the best, and the penalties against them started to rise giving more hope to Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin. Colm de Buitléar, now playing from scrumhalf, increased the tempo with a number of quick tap penalties. Kickable points would be turned down in favour of searching for a try, and eventually, a break from Seán Óg Ó Loideán set up Martin Ó Súilleabháinn for a vital score. de Buitléar was unsuccessful with the conversion from wide out, but Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin were back within 4 points.

They continued to pound the Mountbellew line, continuing with their tactics of quick taps, but the Mountbellew defense held firm and kept them out. It was a tense finish, but ultimately HRC Mountbellew held on to win the trophy.

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