Blackrock's forwards crush any hope of an upset
Blackrock College 44 Gonzaga College 18:The slightest glimpse of an upset here was crushed by Blackrock’s huge pack of forwards steamrolling into this afternoon’s quarter-final draw.
Still, the ability of Gonzaga outhalf Conor McKeon should be recognised. McKeon, understanding the need for an early foothold, planted two drop goals in the opening 11 minutes. On both occasions, as everyone looked to the uprights, the Ireland under-19 was already headed back over the half way line.
Gonzaga have produced Leinster flankers Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan in recent years and on this all-too-brief viewing they may be gifting Girvan Dempseys Academy ranks with a polished outhalf soon enough.
Blackrock’s only response at that juncture was a penalty by Gary Ringrose. The centre nailed an astonishing eight from eight kicks to condemn Gonzaga into chasing an awful lot of restarts. This becomes soul destroying after a while.
Remarkably, the Ranelagh school refused to surrender but the contrast between the sides was stark. The accuracy of this largely under-17 ’Rock side, in all facets of their play, was allied by another obvious advantage: their immense power.
For all the honestly of Gonzaga’s defence, it seemed inevitable that holes would appear.
Blackrock’s best player is Nick Timoney, an athletic but mostly just powerful number eight, Timoney burst through midfield to create the platform for scrumhalf Charlie Rock to eventually snipe over for the game’s first try on 22 minutes.
Flopping over the line
That settled the nerves. Their second touchdown belonged to the forwards with loosehead Jeremy Loughman eventually flopping over the line.
Ringrose continued to add the extras along with a few penalties, ensuring any hope of a revival was extinguished straight after half-time when hooker Tom Cooke forced his way over.
Timoney’s performance was equalled by others like David O’Connor, openside Dave Fortune and tighthead Oliver Jager, but the game’s individual moment of class belonged to a green jersey.
McKeon’s vision to find Harry Caslin on the other side of the Donnybrook pitch with a laser-punt, allowing the winger a clear run to the line, was a perfect moment.
Honourable mentions must also go to number eight Marco McVey and their loosehead Robert Byrne, who seemed the cause of Blackrock’s scrum woes. Byrne’s technique was eventually rewarded by the referee. Took a while though.
There were other details from this encounter – like Loughman’s second try, a sin binning for Gonzaga centre Kevin O’Connor and a valiant response by Andy Marks to grab a consolation score - but the school with 66 Leinster tiles, and a drought stretching into its fourth year, look like genuine contenders once again.
After Mark’s fine individual effort, they marched into the opposition 22, incessantly wearing them down, before Zach O’Hagan crossed for try number five. And Ringrose completed his flawless day.