Garbally College, Ballinasloe 31
CBS Roscommon 6
The aristocrats of Connacht Schools Rugby prevailed over the Roscommon rookies in a new pairing in this year’s Top Oil Schools Senior Rugby Cup at the Sportsgound.
Roscommon, having beaten Marist Athlone, Sligo Grammar and Colaiste Iognaid, came into their first Connacht final as overwhelming underdogs, but they proved a gritty and tough team for Garbally to break down in the opening 40 minutes. It was not until the second half that Garbally’s class and experience prevailed, halting any hopes of a fairytale end for the newbies from Roscommon.
In the opening half they revelled in the physicality, forcing Garbally into conceding a string of penalties, while content to ride tackles in attack. However they were not helped by a misfunctioning line-out which hampered their go-forward ball, and their lack of experience forced them to scramble their defence against the wind.
As a result it took 26 minutes to break the deadlock, when from a turnover in their own half, Garbally spread the ball wide through Stephen Mannion and Shane Jennings before left wing Sean Horkan had the legs to sprint away from a chasing defence, running in from the 10 metre line for the opening try. Mannion added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
It gave the champions the momentum, and with Mannion using the wind to put them in position, CBS found themselves on the back foot. Mannion, son of Connacht legend Noel Mannion, delivered the right touches on the ball, and was helped by influential fullback Shane Jennings, the Galway minor hurler, who provided right wing Shea Hennessy to finish for their second try, Mannion once again added the extras for a 14-0 half-time lead.
CBS were quickly on the scoreboard after the break, opting for a long-range penalty kick, and centre Mark Purcell struck it perfectly between the posts to get the newbies up and running. Although they struggled to get possession, they were rewarded with a second penalty. It resulted in a yellow card for Garbally scrumhalf Matthew Devine, son of former Connacht player Mike Devine, and brother of winning junior captain John, and Purcell successfully the points from inside his own half to close the gap to 14-6.
However, the tide quickly turned when, against the run of play, CBS lost possession and Mannion raced upfield to score and add the conversion, stretching the lead to 21-6. And it was all over when Oisin McCormack added two more tries ensuring the Connacht kingpins secured their 47th title.
Garbally College: S Jennings, S Hennessy, S O’Carroll, J Carry, S Horkan, S Mannion (V cpt ), M Devine, Seamus Egan, C Dolan, J Curley, F Finneran, P Galvin, M Mitchell, O McCormack (V cpt ), P Grehan.
Replacments, O Dooley, J Dempsey, J Noone, J Claffey, K Blackweir, C Finn, C Goode, J Ryan.