High School CBS 23 - 22 Abbey CBS
Played in near perfect conditions, the Abbey kicked off and immediately put pressure on the High School with some surging runs by their formidable looking backline. A sweeping move saw the ball passed to Abbey number 8 Tadhg O'Dwyer who scored in the corner for the opening try after 2 minutes. The resulting conversion was missed but there were ominous signs that the Abbey was intent on reclaiming the cup they lost in last year's final against Waterpark College.
From the restart, it was the High School's turn to apply some pressure. Some effective rucking saw a fast ball to the backs and some clever inter play released centre Conor Molloy who outpaced his opponent to score the High School's first try. The conversion was unsuccessful.
The Abbey came right back to score their second try within two minutes. The High School failed to control the restart, giving the Abbey a lineout on the 22. After several phases, Abbey outhalf David Byron raced from one side of the pitch to the other to score a great individual try in the corner. He followed that up with a very impressive conversion taken from the touch line to put the Abbey 12 - 5 ahead.
It was clear the High School was struggling against the bigger Abbey backline, who looked very threatening every time they got possession. Byron was distributing the ball very well, and centres Callum Bowes and Daire Egan were very powerful going forward. On 15 minutes following broken play, Abbey winger Mark Ellard scored in the corner to give his side a 17 - 5 lead.
As the half wore on, the High School forwards began to impose themselves more on the game, in particular Jack Lonergan, Aaron Dempsey and Darragh Johnston. Following an infringement in the ruck, the High School opted to run a penalty and wing forward Tommy Ryan barged his way over the Abbey line to score a well taken try. Gavin Whelan kicked the conversion to reduce the deficit to 17 -12.
The High School kept up the pressure as the half wore on. Ill-discipline from the Abbey resulted in two players being sin binned. Whelan kicked one penalty to cut the lead to 17 - 15 at half time.
The second half began as the first ended with the High School dominating proceedings. James Corbett was stealing a lot of Abbey ball in the lineout while Raymond Kennedy, Conor Molloy and Mark Kehoe were clinical in the back line. Peter Heffernan and Rian Doody were doing Trojan work in the Abbey defence. On 32 minutes following some considerable pressure, High School prop Dylan Todd crashed over the try line to put his team ahead 20 - 17 for the first time in the match.
The Abbey looked to re-establish their lead but from the restart the ball was caught by High School wing forward Brian Guiry who made a surging 30 metre run before he has tackled to the ground. Jack Lonergan matched that with a weaving attack down the wing. But again stout Abbey defence by Daniel Kelly and Ben Kingston was notable.
On 42 minutes, the High School was awarded another penalty which Whelan converted to stretch his side's lead to 23 - 17. The Abbey reply was swift. Outhalf David Byron found space out wide and released full back Josh Ryan who sprinted down the line to score his side's fourth try. Byron narrowly missed the conversion to reduce the margin to a mere point, 23 -22.
The final minutes were dramatic to say the least. With time running out, the Abbey launched one final attack. A huge clearance from their 22 resulted in a kick and chase to the High School try line. The bounce of the ball beat the onrushing players and went out of play. The referee blew the final whistle to the utter delight of the High School.
The Cleary Cup was presented to High School captain Jack Lonergan by Mr. Tony Smith, Chairman of the Munster Schools Committee, who paid tribute to both teams for such an exciting and enjoyable game of rugby. He also thanked Clonmel RFC for the continued use of their facilities for Munster Schools matches.
All those in attendance were certainly impressed by the skill and commitment of both schools. Credit is due to the coaches and mentors, Billy Cronin, John Rodgers and Aine O'Mahoney from the Abbey, and Neville Melbourne, Jean Lonergan and Brendan Mullan from the High School, for preparing their respective teams.
The High School team was: Mark Kehoe, Conor McGuigan, Conor Molloy, Raymond Kennedy, Michael Murphy, Gavin Whelan, Joe Sheehan, Dylan Todd, Aaron Dempsey, Kevin Barry, Darragh Johnston, James Corbett, Tommy Ryan, Brian Guiry, Jack Lonergan.
The Abbey team was: Josh Ryan, Mark Ellard, Daire Egan, Callum Bowes, Daniel Kelly, David Byron, Ben Kingston, Luke Ashmore, Eoin Kelly, Adam O'Connell, Donal Ryan, Jamie Ryan, Peter Heffernan, Rian Doody, Tadhg O'Dwyer.