Blackrock College 17 St Michael’s College 15
A late try by Conall Power secured a 53rd Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup title for Blackrock in dramatic fashion in the sunshine at Energia Park on Monday afternoon.
It really all came down to St Michael’s setting a tempo that challenged Blackrock to live with it. And they did. Just about.
St Michael’s were out of the traps rapidly, their backs and forwards whizzing through the phases with centre Matthew Haugh prominent. It was effective enough to draw a penalty which Harrison McMahon turned into the lead points in the fourth minute.
Four minutes and 42 seconds passed before Blackrock touched the ball, Rhys Keogh scooping up a loose ball. In a flash, they moved forward and to the right where Bernard White sent wing James Browne into the corner to make it 5-3 in the sixth minute.
Everything was happening at pace, even the St Michael’s maul was activated from a low throw by Joe Kennedy for the forwards to go to work, Haydn Gallagher plunging to the line for McMahon to convert from the right.
They simply doubled down on their tactic of using the latch to add power to their carries, steaming onto the ball for Setanta McLaughlin to power over for the second try to make it 15-5 in the 17th minute.
Increasingly, the Aylesbury school was forced to relieve pressure rather than apply it until Sean King broke from deep and booted a 50-22 for a five-metre lineout.
However, ‘Rock were wise to the low throw, snaffling the ball away and surviving McLaughlin’s blockdown of Luke Coffey to leave it 15-5 at the break.
Blackrock captain Wyse returned with a heavily-strapped leg and was withdrawn within minutes in a real blow. A stunning tackle from behind by Eoin Loo on Browne was followed by Owen Twomey’s expert capture of Browne on his next carry for a penalty on the floor.
The strength of White ensured a turnover and the big centre blasted out a 50-22 for the lineout and scrum to click into gear. Back-to-back penalties in the shadow of the posts were used to create a sliver of space for Keogh to squeeze in, Coffey converting in tremendous style from the touchline in the 43rd minute.
Blackrock were having the better of it, another tumbling kick leading to prime field position which was turned into a counter-attack by King’s long ball out of defence. A marauding McLaughlin carry was matched by prop Louis Magee’s body position for a penalty at the breakdown.
A burst by Power, the hands of White and another surge from White came to nothing. They stayed on message, using the lineout and forwards to eke out vital yards for Power to burrow over.
Blackrock College: C McCloskey; J Browne, O Daly, B White (C White 56), R Keogh; L Coffey, C Martin; L Magee, M Wyse (Capt, L Golden 32), L Kelly (B Guerin 45), G Eggers (JJ Hamilton 34), C Power, T Keaveney (P Agnew 58), T McAleese, G Wall.
St Michael’s College: S King; J Divilly, M Haugh, S Barron (J McMahon 56), E Loo; H McMahon, A Norse (O de Vreeze 47); C Canniffe, J Kennedy, M Dredge (D O’Donohoe 15), H Gallagher, T Reynolds (P Lynch 47), S McLaughlin, O Twomey, M Berman (Capt).
Referee: P O’Connor, Leinster Branch