The Senior Rugby Team have won the inaugural Ian McKinley Cup, presented to the winners of the reestablished Metro Senior League (Section A). Ian McKinley, one of the College’s greatest ever sportsmen, presented the team with their trophy – fitting for both Ian and the College.
League or cup finals can often be anticlimactic, nervous affairs with low scores. All the signs pointed to the opposite as the weather was fine, the pitch was firm and the referee was clear that he was looking for a free-flowing game. St. Columba’s didn’t disappoint, producing a scintillating 35 minutes of rugby in the opening half.
As the referee’s whistle signalled the start of the game, there didn’t seem to be any nerves on show as St Columba’s came out firing. After a solid scrum, Nikolai Foster fed Tommy Casado and he set the backs away as he has done all season with a well timed skip pass to Marco Trolese who drew his man and used soft hands to send Kieran Ovenden sprinting through the Newpark defence and under the posts. Kieran then added the extras for a 7-0 lead after just two minutes.
Newpark looked to build into the game from the kick off but they gave away a couple of penalties which Kieran Ovenden expertly placed into touch. The second of which set up a great opportunity just 6 metres outs. Some deception at the lineout with a dummy jump by Aaron Murray and a perfectly placed throw from Ben Patterson into Caleb Owen set the foundation for a maul which drove towards the line for Ned Chambre to touch down for a 12-0 lead.
From the kick off, Columba’s uncharacteristically attacked from deep against coaches orders. It proved to be the right decision as Aubrey Gardner who was destructive all day, carried hard and through the Newpark defence; he appeared in open country and beat another defender and sprinted into the Newpark half, before drawing the full back and setting Thomas Dwyer free with a 40 metre race to the line which he won with metres to spare for a 17-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
Newpark finally got the ball in their hands following the kick off and started to put some pressure on. Some indiscipline from Columba’s gifted them a number of opportunities and despite some very good defence from Cameron McKinley, Noah Kutner and Bene Huessen in particular, Newpark managed to scramble over from close range. They added the conversion to cut the lead to 10. Some words of encouragement from coaches Alex Lee and Conor Anderson under the posts seemed to remind the team about the game plan. From the kick off the game calmed a little and we settled well into our system with some big carries from captain Solomon Babajide and Ben Patterson. Another solid maul was set up after Aaron Murray soared to claim yet another lineout and Newpark could do nothing but illegally pull it down to stop an almost certain try, The resulting tap penalty saw Caleb Owen carry well into three Newpark defenders. This meant there was space out wide which the backs identified and slick hands saw Marco Trolese crash over for our 4th try wide on the left. Kieran added the conversion for a 24-7 lead.
The resulting kick off saw one of the most amazing pieces of individual skill, power and determination many have seen in a green and white shirt. Caleb Owen recieved what looked like a simple crash ball, but he refused to be stopped by the two Newpark defenders and barged through the defensive line. He continued past another defender, before being tripped by a committed tackle, only to bounce back to his feet and beat another would be tacker, before eventually being dragged down 70 metres from where he received the initial pass. This set us up with a great opportunity, one which the backs spotted and Aaron Murray‘s well timed pass set Marco Trolese up; but he still had work to do to outpace the last defender as he dived in near the right touchline. Kieran Ovenden used the post and crossbar to get the ball over and add the extra 2 points for a 31-7 lead just before the end of the first half.
Despite playing with the wind in the second half, we couldnt add to our half time score, Newpark came with some skill and powerful carries and added a try after 15 minutes, to keep it interesting. Monty Walsh, Georg Wachs, Pablo Shavlov were brought on and added speed and power. Gavin O’Dowd‘s passing was accurate and allowed Aubrey Gardner to once again break free, his offload, unfortunately, didn’t stick for Camilo Nordmann for what would have been a try to remember. Newpark came firing again late on to add another try, but it was too little too late and as the final whistle went the party began!
It was a fantastic achievement to win the first ever Ian McKinley Cup, made all the more special having Ian’s nephew Cameron on the winning team! They were cheered on the majority of the pupils and staff in the school and by Tom Larke, who represented Ireland U19’s last week against Japan but was unavailable for the league decider. Congratulations to Solomon and his team, the coaching team of Hein Havenga, Alex Lee, Conor Anderson, Will Gibbs, Ian O’Herlihy and team logistics manager Charlie Poole.