Blackrock and Belvedere play out thrilling draw
Donnybrook quarter-final sees sides finish level after superb encounter
Blackrock’s James McGowan and Patrick Patterson with Conor Jennings and Peter Maher of Belvedere College in pursuit during the Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Blackrock College 10 Belvedere College 10
This was a Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final to rank with any that have gone before it at Donnybrook.
Last year’s beaten finalists Belvedere made no secret of the fact it is their mission to make up for what happened 11 months ago.
They were driven by a “manic aggression” called on many years ago by Paul O’Connell, to do what many thought could not be done.
For, this is a well above-average Blackrock collective with an array of weapons in close and out wide which can make them a nightmare to defend against.
It is one thing to dominate the gainline; another to make it show up on the scoreboard.
This is where the northsiders ran into difficulty in breaking down Peter Smyth’s defensive structure, underpinned by total commitment from the likes of captain Caelan Doris and hooker Stephen McLoughlin.
The first crack came from Belvedere when scrumhalf Luke Gaffney took advantage of a defence short of numbers to flick an over the shoulder pass inside to flanker Richard Dunne, who was up in support to pick up a try. Fullback James McGowan converted for 7-0 in the 18th minute.
It must have come as a gut-check for Belvedere. It didn’t show as they were soon back on the front-foot for Conor Jennings to strike a penalty for offside.
It was give-and-take from there to half-time as two skilful back divisions would not go to the boot when the ball could be sent over and back in search of the slightest gap to squeeze into.
On return, there was no real revision of strategy.
Both schools believed the best way forward was through the middle and around the outside as they tried to drag each other out of position
It was from a break from deep that Belvedere got their noses in front for the first time.
Centre Jennings and fullback Hugh O’Sullivan put James McKeown in play down the right. It was good enough to take the game deep into enemy territory.
A stunning line by the omnipresent Kearney was the beginning of a composed, cool attack which ended with outhalf David Hawkshaw spearing the defence for the lead try. Jennings converted for 10-7 in the 44th minute.
This gave them an energy boost. ’Rock carriers were twice shunted into touch. The choke tackle was also starting to take hold for Belvedere with Kearney right in the thick of it.
Blackrock were brave to a fault. They never took the easy option, running their way out of trouble and beyond the halfway line.
Centre Gavin Mullin made the most profitable break to draw a penalty out of a ruck. Goal-kicker McGowan had departed injured by the 65th minute.
The burden fell to Conor Dean and the outhalf’s strike guaranteed a replay on Monday week.
BLACKROCK: J McGowan; P Patterson, G Mullin, L Turner, C Kelly; C Dean, L Gaffney; E Burns, S McLoughlin, R Mouatt; C O’Flaherty, C Ryan; R Dunne, J Fairley, C Doris (capt).
Replacements: C Connolly for Burns (39 mins); J Gardiner for Ryan (40 mins – temp); H Bourke for Fairley (51 mins); F Power for McGowan (56 mins); H Egleston for McLoughlin (62 mins).
BELVEDERE: H O’Sullivan; J McKeown, C Jennings, H Sexton, P Maher; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney; D McCaffrey, C Galvin, C Walsh; H Fenlon, B Egan (capt); S McNulty, M Kearney, T de Jongh.
Replacements: F Flood for Cagney (54 mins); J Iredale for McNulty, J Kenny for Fenlon (both 56 mins); C Molloy for McCaffrey, J Robinson for Walsh (both 65 mins).
Referee: D Blake (Leinster Branch).