Blackrock build on pack power as road opens up
Blackrock College forward Jeremy Loughman holds off Sam Sterling of Kilkenny at Donnybrook yesterday Photograph: Inpho
Blackrock College 22 Kilkenny College 8:Close observers of this latest Blackrock offering believe they are the biggest specimens to grace the light blue and white strips since 1996. That was a pack containing Bob Casey, Leo Cullen and the current head coach Peter Smyth. So they are huge specimens, and arguably more powerful than Jordi Murphy’s 2009 vintage – the last team to bring the cup back to Williamstown.
They play a markedly different style to the expansive 2009 and ’96 sides, more forward orientated with the focus on bludgeoning their way through opposing defences. Or maybe that was just what they believed was the correct game plan to deal with Kilkenny.
Either way, it worked.
The school that shocked Ian Madigan and Jason Harris-Wright’s Blackrock side in the 2008 quarter-final were no match for Charlie Rock’s team yesterday. And with pre-tournament favourites Terenure removed by Cistercians College, Roscrea on Tuesday, the road has opened up. The draw takes place at half-time of the Leinster versus Scarlets game tomorrow night at the RDS.
Blackrock clocked up a 17-0 lead in 29 minutes after tries by lock David O’Connor and winger Zach O’Hagan. Gary Ringrose added the rest in yet another polished return off the tee that leaves him with 11 successful kicks from 12 attempts.
The first of their three tries, by O’Connor in the right corner, was a display of power by the forwards. Nick Timoney, the under-17 number eight, is well known, as is tighthead Oliver Jager, but Jeremy Loughman and Raef Tyrell must be mentioned for their performances. Inside centre Steve Lawton also had a fine game.
Ringrose added a penalty to his touchline conversion on 22 minutes after Timoney and Tyrell made significant yardage before the back line cut open the defence moments later as Ringrose’s clever inside pass put O’Hagan away.
Some signs of a Kilkenny revival came before half-time, as they made their first sortie into the 22, but Timoney’s defence was shudderingly effective. A Simon Williams penalty got Kilkenny off the mark before the big winger produced the play of the day 13 minutes into the second half. After a turnover in their 22, Williams hoofed the ball 40 metres up field and was first to regather and score. Unfortunately he missed the conversion.
That scare got the Blackrock machine motoring again; the killer score coming on 55 minutes when Gavin Tynan did a similar trick to Ringrose as his reverse pass saw Jack Power dotting down. Ringrose missed the conversion but Blackrock were in the comfort zone. The next challenge will offer no such luxury.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: J Power; Z O’Hagan, G Ringrose, S Lawton, S Coughlan; P Quirke, C Rock (capt); J Loughman, T Cooke, O Jager; D O’Connor, J Dwan; G Fenn, R Tyrell, N Timoney. Replacements: G Tynan for Z O’Hagan (49 mins), D Fitzpatrick for T Cooke, H Keane for T Cooke (both 65 mins), L O’Dea for R Tyrell (69 mins).
KILKENNY COLLEGE: H Rhys Thomas; S Williams, S Sterling, R Baily Kearney, T Bulfin; B Ridgeway, C Miller; J Baker, C Ruddock, J Patton; G Hastings, C Hanbridge; S Pim, E Horan, M Triggs (capt). Replacements: R Trayer for H Rhys Thomas (17 mins), J Yates for T Bulfin (35 mins), J Holland Brennan for C Hanbidge (37 mins), R Stanley for G Hastings (45 mins), M Mulhall for J Patton (57 mins), C Stephenson for C Ruddock (63 mins), S Horan for C Miller (65 mins), S Beattie for J Baker (69 mins). Referee: S Gallagher (LRR).