Crescent College Comprehensive claimed the Munster Schools Cup with a comprehensive 27-5 win over three-in-a-row seeking Rockwell College in Thomond Park on Monday afternoon.
Crescent’s first Cup success since 1994 was thoroughly convincing, with the impressive manner in which it was achieved sure to add to the Dooradoyle rugby nursery’s feeling of satisfaction.
The successful side of 19 years ago, which was captained by Bevan Cantrell, included former Munster, Ireland and Lions flanker David Wallace, and given the quality of the rugby Crescent played in the white heat of a Cup final, then several members of the latest Cup-winning side are also likely to enjoy distinguished playing careers at representative level.
This exciting squad, back-boned by players who won Junior Cup medals in 2010 and 2011, delivered in spades on the promise they had displayed at U-16 level.
Such a stunning success must have seen like light years away to the Crescent players when they trailed by six points in their semi-final replay against CBC as the clock turned into the 13th minute of added time. However, a stunning last ditch try from winger Greg O’Shea, worked off a move code-named ‘turkey’, and a majestic conversion from out-half Gearoid Lyons secured Crescent’s first final appearance for 18 years. After reaching the decider in such Roy of the Rovers fashion, Crescent were simply not going to be denied.
In winning Monday’s decider, Crescent College Comprehensive become the first school to claim the province’s premier schools rugby competition through availing of the ‘second chance’ system which has been introduced at this level. Ironically, the side which had inflicted that defeat on the Limerick side earlier in the Cup was their final opponents Rockwell.
Crescent turned the tables on the pre-match favourites in no uncertain terms, playing with a huge intensity, bossing the breakdown and crucially succeeding in converting their bountiful supply of possession into points.
The Limerick side scored two smashing tries, one in either half, from impressive centre JJ O’Neill and powerful back-row Diarmuid Dee.
Out-half Gearoid Lyons added 17 points with the boot, turning in an exhibition of goal-kicking.
Rockwell were dealt a huge blow with the red-carding of full-back Steven McMahon for a dangerous tackle on Crescent centre William Leonard five minutes into the second half. However, even at that stage, Crescent were asserting their superiority all over the field and were leading 16-5.
Crescent College, wearing their alternative all-black strip so as to avoid a clash of colours with their opponents, signalled their intent from before kick-off when getting up close and personal with their Rockwell opponents in the pre-match huddle.
With the likes of hooker James Green and the outstanding back-row trio of Diarmuid Dee, Jack Dinneen and Jay Kavanagh, dominating the forward exchanges, Crescent built an early lead. Three penalty goals from Lyons in the fifth, 12th and 20th minutes helped the Limerick side into a significant 9-0 lead.
To their credit, Rockwell hit back and scored the game’s opening try through David O’Mahony on 26 minutes.
However, the crucial score of the half arrived on the half-hour mark when Crescent’s exciting scrum-half Gary Fitzgerald combined with Lyons and winger Greg O’Shea to create the opening for centre JJ O’Neill to score.
Lyons’ terrific conversion left Crescent 16-5 to the good at the break and Rockwell facing an uphill battle.
Rockwell’s dwindling hopes of pulling off a famous comeback ended with the red-carding of full-back McMahon. Two terrific penalties from Lyons in the 41st and 47th minutes helped the Limerick side build an unassailable 22-5 lead.
It was fitting that number eight Dinneen sent his back-row colleague O’Dea over for a second Crescent try in the 54th minute, following some excellent play by second row Jonathon Keane, to round off the scoring.
SCORERS – Crescent College Comprehensive: JJ O’Neill, Diarmuid Dee try each, Gearoid Lyons five pens, one con. Rockwell College: David O’Mahony try.
CRESCENT COLLEGE COMPREHENSIVE – James Frawley; Jason O’Sullivan, JJ O’Neill, William Leonard, Greg O’Shea; Gearoid Lyons, Gary Fitzgerald; Sean McGee, James Green, Liam McMahon; Jonathon Keane, Robert Scott; Diarmuid Dee, Jay Kavanagh, Jack Dinneen. Replacements used: Joseph Purcell, Cormac Blake, Michael O’Donnell, Cillian Rea, Eoin Casserly, Edmond Barry, Jack Leonard, Gerard Mullins.
ROCKWELL COLLEGE – Steven McMahon; David O’Mahony, Shaun O’Donoghue, Rory Parata, William Coffey; Aidan Moynihan, Ben Riley; Denis O’Connell, Sean McNulty, James Maxwell; Neville Fynn, Sean O’Connor; James Feehan, Sonny Dwyer, Aidan Butler (Capt). Replacements used: Thomas Anglim, Aidan Horgan for Flynn, Alan McMahon, Rory Horgan.
REFEREE – Kieran Barry (IRFU)