Champions Blackrock College weather the storm against St Michael’s to book final date

Conditions made semi-final a game of patience before a thrilling ending

Blackrock College 17 St Michael’s College 14

Holders Blackrock repelled a final-quarter comeback from St Michael’s in the Bank of Ireland Leinster schools senior cup semi-final on a cold and wet Thursday afternoon at Energia Park in Donnybrook.

The pre-eminent programmes in all of Irish schools rugby put their players out in conditions that tested their skills as much as their resilience.

The raucous atmosphere highlighted the level of rivalry generated between the sides and it was clear from the off that pragmatism was favoured over optimism as Oliver Coffey and Wilhelm de Klerk kicked for position, Rock gaining ground when David Walsh was too slow to roll away at a ruck.

Their ability to hold on to the ball through phases was as impressive as St Michael’s accuracy to defend it as Coffey probed intelligently.


St Michael’s produced super-quick ball for scrumhalf James Sherwin to bring the big runners on to the ball, De Klerk getting driven back in the tackle.

A beauty of a bomb from Coffey got away from De Klerk, Blackrock moving at pace to draw a penalty which Coffey slotted for the lead in the 15th minute.

The continuation of the understandable kicking strategies made this a game of patience under extreme pressure, De Klerk making up for a knock-on with thunderous defence on Michael Colreavy.

Then, from a lineout, St Michael’s moved away from the maul, Jim White and Tom Stewart powering on before Sherwin came back left for De Klerk to find Jules Fenelon, hiding in behind the outhalf, on a late arcing line that produced a wonderful try for Fenelon to also convert for 7-3 on half-time.

Blackrock came out strong after the break, Conall Hodges blasting Rian Coogan behind the gainline and Tommy Butler blocking Sherwin.

They turned the screw, opting for a lineout rather than three points, the pack getting the momentum for Mikey Yarr to claim the try, converted by Coffey in the 40th minute.

A hard tackle by Coogan on Eoghan Walsh was deemed worthy of a yellow card and Rock came again, wing James O’Sullivan denied by De Klerk’s superb low tackle.

Still, St Michael’s could not secure the lineout and the carries came in waves close to the line for Conor Tonge to score, Coffey converting for 17-7 in the 49th minute.

The Ailesbury Road school got back on attack, De Klerk’s kick over the top earning a penalty. Like Rock, they chose the lineout in advance of certain points, only to lose it.

Soon after the same situation arose, this time the lineout was won, only for the ball to be lost when Rock held Mark Canniffe up for a scrum turnover.

However, the Sky Blues countered through David Lucey and Canniffe and a sweet one-two between Patrick Wood and Chris O’Connor produced a magical try for Wood, converted by Fenelon to make it 17-14 in the 65th minute.

Back-to-back spills from Blackrock and an attempted intercept by Canniffe kept the crowd on tenterhooks, especially when Fenelon was tackled late to give St Michael’s one last chance, which ended on Mark Walsh’s miraculous turnover.

SCORERS – Blackrock: M Yarr, C Tonge try each; Ó Coffey pen, 2 cons; St Michael’s: Fenelon try, 2 cons; P Wood try.

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: C Molony; J O’Sullivan, L Kritzinger, M Walsh, E Walsh; C O’Shaughnessy, Ó Coffey (capt); T O’Riordan, M Yarr, A Mullan; M Colreavy, T Butler; C Tonge, J Angulo, T Brigg.

Replacement: C Hodges for Brigg (31 mins).

ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: D Lucey; L Kirkham, J Fenelon, M Canniffe, P Wood; W De Klerk, J Sherwin; B Howard, T Stewart, R Coogan; D Walsh, M O’Reilly; J White (capt) R Brown, S Corrigan.

Replacements: T Begley for Stewart (40 mins), D Maguire for Brown, 46, temp).

Referee: S Holt (Leinster).