Pundit Arena columnist, Reggie Corrigan, analyses the threat posed by Gonzaga’s pack as they prepare for their first ever Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final. They face St Michael’s on Sunday.
Obviously, this is a young Gonzaga side that had never made it to a Senior Cup Final before so that lack of experience could be an issue. The occasion of the Senior Cup Final takes on a whole new level of meaning for them than any team that has ever been in it, purely because it’s their first ever one.
For a lot of people, it was a major surprise to see Gonzaga beat Clongowe’s in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final. It looked like Clongowe’s, on paper anyway, had a much more physical and stronger pack of forwards and they were expected to wear down the Gonzaga lads, and just get the better of them. Additionally, the increased level of experience was expected to be a determining factor, but Gonzaga performed incredibly well to upset those that had written them off.
The Front Row
Upon reviewing the game, I was in awe of the physicality and fitness of the Gonzaga side. They were a team of athletes. The front row of Henry Godson, Hugo Fitzgerald, and Ronan Shaw, in particular, stood out. They’re almost built in the same mould as a group of back-row forwards; cut to bits, no excess body fat, lean and mobile forwards. Their ability to get around the pitch and be at every breakdown was incredible to witness. They were extremely physical in the scrum and used their body types to their advantage, constantly applying pressure on Clongowe’s.
To be fair to Clongowe’s, the Gonzaga front row was much bigger than them. It was so impressive, even without mentioning the fact that Henry Godson scored three tries. With that performance, regardless of the result in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final and whether they like it or not, Godson will be a name forever remembered by Clongowe’s rugby fans. Not to mention, he’s probably a legend in Gonzaga now too.
The Second Row
Liam Tyrrell and Jack Coolican make up the second row, and again, they were both unbelievably athletic. They were involved in everything across the pitch and provided good lineout options as well. Lineout options were incredibly important for Gonzaga and it functioned particularly well against Clongowe’s. They will need more of the same against St Michael’s if they are to topple another giant. All in all, the set-piece between lineout and scrum was excellent throughout.
Gonzaga also boasts a strong back row, particularly in captain Jack Barry, who continues to be involved in everything they do well. Colm Kirby O’Briain and Tom Cullen are strong operators also, and will need a big game.
Conclusion On Pack
If I was to sum up the Gonzaga pack, I would say they’re very good all around the set piece, excellent scrum and strong lineout setup. As well as that, they’re incredibly athletic and fit, and well able to get around the pitch. Their high energy and high impact game could prove telling in the final. Most teams have pace, but Gonzaga’s ability to use it effectively is a major threat for St Michael’s. Their tackling is good, and they put emphasis on turnover balls. They’re up against it, but on a difficult day, their high energy and fitness definitely gives them a chance.
The 2019 Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final between Gonzaga and St. Michael’s will take place on Sunday, March 17th at the RDS.
Pundit Arena will be releasing a preview piece everyday leading up to the final.