Brilliant Belvedere too savvy and too good for Roscrea
Last year’s losing finalists go one better at the RDS and lift Leinster Schools Senior Cup
Belvedere celebrate their Leinster Schools Cup victory at the RDS. Photograph: Inpho
Belvedere College 31 Cistercian College, Roscrea 7
It takes a special team to lose two finals yet return to beat Terenure, Blackrock, St Michael’s and the defending champions.
“Since losing the JCT final we refocused and said 2016,” said Belvedere captain Brian Egan. “I don’t know if it’s about revenge, more about leaving a legacy.”
The last Belvedere side to play this type of heads-up, clinical and defensively impenetrable rugby ended up producing a British and Irish Lion, two Ireland internationals, four professionals and a UFC brawler.
There’s no guarantee any of them will earn a living, however brief, from professional sport but the potential is unquestionably there.
More than anything else to note about the eleventh Belvedere side to win the Leinster schools cup is the rugby intellect within the group.
Phil Werahiko may be an excellent coach but it was Egan’s men, out on the field, who out-muscled then out-tackled Blackrock in that thrilling quarter-final replay and picked St Michael’s apart with clever intercept tries.
To halt Roscrea’s enormous pack they needed to figure out a seemingly unstoppable driving maul.
And rack up early points of their own. That was achieved within four minutes when the brilliant O’Sullivan, a scrumhalf masquerading as a fullback, returned to his natural role to slide in beside the ruck.
Jennings converted while Alan Tynan put the restart out on the full.
But Roscrea knew what needed doing. They went to their heavies. Direct carries by Brian Diffley, captain Simon Meagher, 16 year old prop Michael Milne, Fineen Wycherley, Dylan Murphy and Tynan brought play inches shy of the Belvedere try line.
Belvedere forwards fought among themselves to kill the ball. Clever.
From the penalty Roscrea attempted to unleash their primary weapon but
Newton’s third law of motion cannot exist without a second force simultaneously exerting force in the opposite direction. Belvedere had done their homework. Ireland, under John Plumtree before he moved on to the Highlanders, pulled a similar trick on the Springboks two seasons ago. The Roscrea drive faced no opposition and could be legally chopped down. From the next scrum Jack Canning, a nephew of Joe and Ollie, tried to set up the drive again but referee Dermot Blake penalised them for being offside.
The tackling in general was ferocious with Belvedere’s technique loosening possession from normally guaranteed Roscrea yardage makers.
“I wouldn’t have coached a team as (defensively) effective as this,” said Werahiko.
Frustration eventually turned to despair for Roscrea when Max Kearney started and finished the second Belvedere try after a sensational 70 metre break up field. De Jongh carried next then Kearney again before Canning saved matters with a quality steal. However, Roscrea failed to sufficiently clear their lines and Kearney eventually stretched over.
Jennings made it 14-0.
Then came a great disallowed try. McKeown and O’Sullivan showed magic skills attacking the short side, after a de Jongh picked off the scrum, but the TMO decided O’Sullivan’s last offload was forward.
Roscrea were in desperate need of a score before half-time but the latest massive hit, by blindside Sean McNulty, saw Milne fumble possession.
The contest was over a minute into the second half when McKeown took a Jennings offload before sprinting around Joe Murphy then riding Canning’s hit while expertly avoiding the touchline, Their fourth try belonged to Peter Maher, the other Belvedere winger, who stepped fullback Conor Kelly to also power past two Roscrea defenders.
The fifth try, finished by McKeown, must be credited to the final’s best player.
After O’Sullivan galloped out of his 22, well over halfway, he drew the last defender, taking a heavy tackle in the process of perfectly releasing his winger. Instead of joining friends in their last ever try celebration as schoolboys, O’Sullivan turned and jogged back into position. Looked like he has been doing this his entire life.
“We’re lucky that we have Hughie O’Sullivan,” Egan added.
“Body of a12 year old, mental state of a 70 year old. He never let us get ahead of ourselves. The psychology was really good. We know complacency kills. We’ve seen teams beat the hot favourites, like Blackrock, and thrown it in the next round. We weren’t going to do that.”
The game ended with a Belvedere tackler knocking the ball out of a Roscrea carrier’s grasp. Could have been any one of them. Some team.
Scoring sequence - 3 mins: H O’Sullivan try, 5-0; C Jennings con, 7-0;
18 mins: M Kearney try, 12-0; C Jennings con, 14-0. Half-time. 36
mins: J McKeown try, 19-0; P Maher try, 24-0; 65 minutes: J McKeown try, 29-0; C Jennings con, 31-0; 68 mins: J Culligan try, 31-5; A Tynan con, 31-7.
Belvedere College: H O’Sullivan; J McKeown, C Jennings, H Sexton, P Maher; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney; D McCaffrey, C Galvin, C Wynne-Walsh; H Fenlon, B Egan (capt); S McNulty, M Kearney, T de Jongh. Replacements:
J Iredale for H Fenlon, J Kenny for S McNulty (both 55 mins), C Molloy for D McCaffrey, J Robinson for C Wynne-Walsh (both 59 mins), S Osborne for C Galvin, R Byron for P Cagney, F Flood for M Kearney, F Smith for H Sexton (All 65 mins).
Cistercian College, Roscrea: C Kelly; D Keane, P O’Shea, S Hastings, J Murphy; A Tynan, K Kavanagh; M Milne, E Maher, D Murphy; F Wycherley, A Browne; B Diffley, J Canning, S Meagher (capt). Replacements: F Crowley for K Kavanagh (27 mins), J Culligan for B Diffley (half-time), R Lomas for M Milne (51 mins), E Browne for C Kelly (51 mins)C Walsh for J Canning (58 mins), D Treacy for E Maher, A Murphy for A Browne (both 60 mins), B Hyland for S Hastings (65 mins).
Referee: D Blake.