Blackrock dig it out against valiant Pres Bray
Holders made to work hard to get past Pres in first round
Blackrock’s Liam Heylin is tackled by Josh Pyper of Pres Bray. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Blackrock College 25 Pres Bray 19
Pres Bray blasted back from an 18-point deficit to take Blackrock right to the wire in the Leinster Schools Senor Cup first round at Donnybrook on Monday.
The Bray school knew they had to keep it tight for as long as possible and look to prey on any fallibilities late into the game.
They made their first-up tackles through captain Mick O’Gara and their loose forwards until ‘Rock hit top gear.
In a beautifully designed move, outhalf David Fitzgibbon’s inside ball was taken on by Sean O’Brien, the timing of the flanker’s pass sending wing Niall Comerford away to the right corner in the fourth minute.
There were glimpses from Pres though, O’Gara making significant headway up the middle and Josh Pyper nailing man, ball and all in a front-foot tackle.
The breathing space for Pres came from a penalty, for no release post-the-tackle by centre Gavin Jones, O’Gara’s long range effort missing left and low.
The main problem for the Pres’ came when O’Brien made the gain line and the support players started to flood through, as they did for the second try, centre Sam Small staying on his feet long enough to find the line, sweetly converted by David Fitzgibbon for 12-0 lead in the 19th minute.
They simply closed down space quickly and, when the time was right, moved forward to force a penalty, struck by Fitzgibbon.
The harsh reality came from the difference in power, ‘Rock taking contact on their own terms, making a metre here, there, everywhere.
Pres’ just couldn’t crack the gain line, no matter how hard they drove, battling their hearts out.
Ireland Schools scrumhalf Ben Murphy tried to inject tempo with a tap penalty but lacked the support to follow through.
Blackrock applied pressure and squeezed out a second penalty for Fitzgibbon in the 38th minute.
Pres’ never lacked for urgency and O’Gara was their arrowhead in attack. They never gave up the fight and tighthead Darren Magge showed plenty of it to churn out 10 metres for a fine try, converted by O’Gara in the 48th minute.
Their fullback Samuel O’Dowd then worked an opening that couldn’t be finished but centre Peter Ford did likewise for O’Dowd to flash home in the 59th minute.
The bigger ‘Rock boys were tiring and Pres’ were firing bullets that were finding the target.
However, they kicked on when they had to keep it alive, Blackrock driving forward to cross the line thee times before Scott Barron was awarded the try, converted by Fitzgibbon.
Pres’ were not quite finished, Pyper taking off for 50 metres and Murphy somehow making the whitewash for O’Gara to add the conversion in the last minute.
Blackrock: C Rolland; N Comerford, S Small (J Kenny 51), G Jones, B White; D Fitzgibbon, M Cullen; A Rowan (E Downey 67), S Dunne (S Barron 39), L Mion (J Kirby 67), M Morrissey, J McCarthy (C McAleer 67), S O’Brien (capt), J Loscher, E Brennan (M Flynn 49).
Pres Bray: S O’Dowd; J Pyper, P Ford, M O’Gara (capt), J Mortell (R Houlden 51); S Corry (C Eddy 7, temp), B Murphy; J Mulhern, D Maloney, D Magee, S Kearney (J Treacy 7), R McDonald, S Graham, C McNulty, C Lawless.
Referee: H O’Reilly, Leinster Branch.