Blackrock defeat St Michael’s in Leinster Schools Senior Cup

Ryan Baird’s younger brother Zach shines but Michael’s cannot overcome local rivals

Blackrock College 25 St Michael’s College 20

Sixty-nine times champions Blackrock College produced a superb second half performance at Energia Park yesterday to overcome St Michael's College in a pulsating Leinster Schools Senior Cup opening round fixture.

Trailing 10-6 at the break, 'Rock subsequently turned the table on their south Dublin rivals after the resumption courtesy of impressive tries from team captain Gus McCarthy, Ruben Moloney and Oliver Coffey. There were some nervous moments for the Williamstown outfit during a frantic finale, but they ultimately prevailed to book their spot in the last-eight of the competition.

Leinster forward Ryan Baird was left out of Ireland's match day 23 for Saturday's Six Nations Championship clash with France in the Parisienne suburb of Saint-Denis, but his younger brother Zach made a telling impact for Michael's throughout the course of the tie.

After expertly picking out Dave Woods off a line-out on the right in the 14th-minute, Baird got on the end of the ensuing maul before dotting down beyond the whitewash. Scrumhalf Fintan Gunne supplied the bonuses to this score and also nailed a difficult penalty on the half-hour mark to ensure Michael's were four points in front at the interval.

The most recent outright winners of the Senior Cup - Kildare schools Clongowes Wood College and Newbridge College shared the trophy in 2020 after their final was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic - Michael’s appeared primed for their second competitive win over ‘Rock in the space of four years.

They initially remained on top of possession when the action resumed, but their opponents eventually displayed their mettle. Zach Quirke’s decision to kick a penalty to touch on 40 minutes proved to be a shrewd one as McCarthy joined his opposite number Baird in securing a try off a lineout maul.

Although a wayward Quirke conversion meant ‘Rock were ahead by the bare minimum, it didn’t take them long to extend this advantage. Gathering a loose Charlie McNamee pass on the right flank, fullback Moloney raced up the field unopposed for a superb converted effort in the 48th minute.

Michael's briefly settled with another successful Gunne place-kick, only for 'Rock to pounce for their third try of the half. Following his excellent break through a defensive gap, No 8 Kevin Jackson released Coffey for a smooth score over the line.

Another Quirke conversion ensured ‘Rock were 25-13 to the good, but there was a spark from their Ailesbury Road counterparts in the final quarter. Despite his struggles with an injury that eventually forced him out of the action, Baird once again applied the finishing touches to a lineout move for his second try of the game.

Gunne added the bonuses to bring their deficit down to five points and with several attacking penalties going their way, there was an opportunity for them to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. However, ‘Rock held firm in defence and forced a late turnover inside their own ‘22’ to finally seal their place in the quarter-finals.

Scorers: Blackrock College: G McCarthy, R Moloney, O Coffey try each, Z Quirke 2 pens, 2 cons. St Michael's College: Z Baird 2 tries, F Gunne 2 pens, 2 cons.

Blackrock College: R Moloney; A Quinn, H Cooney, L Kritzinger, E Walsh; Z Quirke, O Coffey; M Holmes, G McCarthy, P McCarthy; M Colreavy, A Mullan; L Molony, T Brigg, K Jackson.

Replacements: T O'Riordan for Holmes, P Van Zuydam for Cooney (both 68 mins).

St Michael's College: J Nicholson; L Hassett, S Berman, W de Klerk, C Foley; C McMamee, F Gunne; T Stewart, Z Baird, S Egan; D Woods, D Barron; D Carroll, J White, M Victory.

Replacements: A Murray for Stewart, R Coogan for Egan, M O'Reilly for Barron (all 50 mins), M Sherwin for Baird, J Brown for White (both 63 mins).

Referee: D Blake (LRR).