Blackrock College 50 Gonzaga College 21
A 70th Leinster Schools Senior Cup title and one that will stand favourable comparison with the most memorable that Blackrock College have racked up down through the years. It came on foot of a brilliant performance from an outstanding team, who produced a cracking brand of rugby that showcased their power and athleticism to great effect.
The final scoreline might seem a little lopsided, especially given the nature of the contest, but Gonzaga lost nothing in the manner of their performance in the final. They scored three superb tries, could have registered a couple more, all the product of some superbly inventive back play. In another year they would have been worthy champions.
However, no one can quibble with Blackrock's success, one that revolved around the contribution of several outstanding individuals within an impressive team dynamic. The seven tries originated from a primary physical superiority that allowed them to dominate many of the collisions, and in this respect Paddy McCarthy, the outstanding Liam Molony, Kevin Jackson and replacement Jack Molony were especially prominent.
Blackrock did enjoy a smidgeon of good fortune, captain Gus McCarthy - he was otherwise excellent - receiving a yellow card for a shoulder charge clearout that didn't look too clever in real time.
Blackrock centre Hugh Cooney embellished a brilliant display with two tries, fullback Reuben Moloney, another who looks a superb prospect in a backline that contained high-calibre players; a word too for halfbacks Oliver Coffey and Zach Quirke who ran the game beautifully.
Gonzaga were resilient and doughty in trying to withstand the physical battering and in that respect the pack to a man stood up manfully. George Morris, Luke O'Callaghan, Noah Maguire and number eight Paul Wilson put body and soul into carrying and tackling.
Michael Sullivan was a sharp and lively presence at scrumhalf, Jody Browne's ability to beat or break a tackle was a significant asset, while in fullback Hugo McLaughlin Gonzaga possessed a gem that glistened in an attacking capacity.
The underdogs had the temerity to score the first try of the match on eight minutes. It came off a turnover and Gonzaga were precise and accurate in creating an overlap that enabled Rory Finlay to scamper over unopposed. McLaughlin kicked a superb touchline conversion.
Blackrock's response was unequivocal, Liam Molony drove over from close range, Cooney chose a lovely line to cut the Gonzaga defence open and Eddie Walsh was set free by Reuben Moloney for an unopposed run to the line; the genesis of all three tries coming from Blackrock's power in contact.
When Gus McCarthy received his seven-minute sabbatical in the sin bin, Gonzaga dominated the ball. Sullivan might have had a try if McLaughlin’s pass had been a bit more sympathetic, the scrumhalf again threatened after a fine Browne break before McLaughlin availed of some good work by the forwards to cross for a try, which he converted. It was a rip-roaring contest.
Blackrock were ruthless in improving on their 21-14 interval lead, starting two minutes after the restart with a brilliant strike move from a lineout which Andrew Quinn finished with a flourish. Quirke converted and tagged on a penalty kick to make it 31-21.
Gonzaga managed one final riposte and it was a doozy from centre Hugh Goddard's soft hands and disguise in the pass to Hugo Neville cracking line and timing onto the ball. McLaughlin converted and at 31-21, the next score was crucial.
It materialised two minutes later and belonged to Blackrock; Cooney charged down Stephen McMahon’s attempted clearance and regathered sharply before the ball vanished from the in-goal area.
It proved a tipping point as Blackrock signed off on the victory in impressive style, Gus McCarthy adding a sixth try, before his replacement Mikey Yarr claimed a seventh, tail gunner in yet another Blackrock lineout maul that beat a relentless path to the Gonzaga line. It was the fitting epitaph for a superb final to which both schools contributed lavishly.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 4 mins: Finlay try, McLaughlin con, 0-7; 9: L Molony try, Quirke con, 7-7; 18: Cooney try, Quirke con, 14-7; 20: Walsh try, Quirke con 21-7; 31: McLaughlin try, McLaughlin con, 21-14. Half-time: 21-14. 42: Quinn try, Quirke con, 28-14; 47: Quirke pen, 31-14; 50: Neville try, McLaughlin con, 31-21; 52: Cooney try, 36-21; 65: G McCarthy try, Quirke con, 43-21; 69: Yarr try, O'Shaughnessy con, 50-21.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: R Moloney; A Quinn, H Cooney, L Kritzinger, E Walsh; Z Quirke, O Coffey; M Holmes, G McCarthy, P McCarthy; T Brigg, C Tonge; L Molony, I Cruise-O'Brien, K Jackson.
Replacements: Yarr for Brigg (27 mins); Briggs for Yarr (34); J Molony for Tonge (h-t); J Angulo for L Molony, W Fitzgerald for Coffey (both 65); M Yarr for G McCarthy, C O'Shaughnessy for Quirke,T O'Riordan for Holmes, A Andersson for P McCarthy, M Aschenbrenner for Walsh (all 66).
Yellow card: Gus McCarthy (25 mins).
GONZAGA COLLEGE: H McLaughlin; H Neville, H Goddard, J Browne, R Finlay; S McMahon, M Sullivan; T Hammond, T Cotter, G Morris; T Murphy, L O'Callaghan; N Maguire (capt), G O'Donnell, P Wilson.
Replacements: T Noone for O'Donnell (42 mins); O Murray for Sullivan (44); L McLaughlin for Cotter (54); O O'Neill for Finlay (58); T Wyley for Murphy (62); M Tyrrell for O'Callaghan (64); A McVerry for Hammond, A O'Flanagan for Neville (both 65).
Referee: Andrew Cole (Leinster).