Monday, May 20, 2024

Blackrock win 71st Leinster Schools Senior Cup in emphatic fashion

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Leinster Schools Senior Cup: Blackrock College 28 St Michael’s College 12

Blackrock College’s 71st Leinster Schools Senior title was as emphatic as the final scoreline suggests, thoroughly deserving winners against a St Michael’s College side that only belatedly, with the outcome already decided, produced rugby that properly represented the talent within the squad.

Justin Vanstone’s team led 28-0 after 46-minutes, fluent and cohesive in their attacking patterns, ones that complemented disparate qualities, power, footwork, good passing, clever angles, and most of all a fine appreciation of where the space was and how to exploit it.

They got their marquee players on the ball at key times, tighthead prop Niall Smyth grabbed a brace of tries for the third match in succession, while behind the scrum centre Mark Walsh and long striding fullback Charlie Molony were intelligent in sizing up opportunities.

Blackrock set the tone from the get-go by kicking a couple of penalties to the corner rather than for the posts and from the second of those Smyth, despite stumbling initially, barged over, as he profited from a clever front peel, Donnacha McGuire having secured the lineout ball.

It was a familiar theme in the opening 35 minutes, Blackrock playing the majority of the rugby, direct to get their opponents defensive line to condense, and then quickly getting the ball to the edges. Smyth, Paddy Moore, captain Jack Angulo and Michael Walsh took collisions on their terms for the most part, while openside flanker Jack O’Neill was clever and dynamic in contact.

Scrumhalf Albert Lindner had a fine game, particularly in his cover tackling, and provided Conor O’Shaughnessy space and time to manage the game, while the team managed to survive the early loss of wing Derry Moloney who had looked threatening in his time on the pitch. Johnny O’Sullivan proved a capable deputy.

Michael’s will rue the fact that they did not really get into this match in a meaningful way until it was too late. Secondrow David Walsh, tighthead prop Riain Coogan, Duinn Maguire, Frazer McKenna and Sam Corrigan never shirked the workload or the collisions, but hard-won possession was often squandered.

Charlie McConnell and, in particular Ethan Black didn’t see much from a constructive standpoint while the back three were starved of possession until Daniel Ryan’s late cameo of excellence.

Leading 5-0 Blackrock served further notice following a lovely in-and-out break from fullback Molony followed by a one-handed offload but Michael’s survived thanks to David Lucey’s vigilance.

The winners continued to build into the game, O’Neill demonstrated lovely footwork to complement his strength while Moore showed good appreciation that the softest point of contact is between two tacklers. Moloney’s break was his last action before limping off, the net return from the line breach a penalty kicked by O’Shaughnessy.

Another gorgeous sweeping attack from Blackrock sent O’Sullivan racing down the touchline, which eventually culminated in a try for flanker Michael Walsh. Within minutes Molony broke free once again, and after rounding Lucey his attempted inside pass was batted down by Ryan. The Michael’s wing received a yellow card.

Rock went quickly with a tap penalty and although Michael’s held firm initially, there was no stopping Smyth as he burrowed over for his second try. At 20-0 and backed by the wind in the second half, Blackrock effectively settled the outcome five minutes after the restart.

When Michael’s outhalf Joe Quigley tried to force through an umpteenth grubber kick, Mark Walsh blocked the ball, benefited from a kind bounce, and outpaced the cover to score a try. O’Shaughnessy’s penalty soon after pushed his side out to a 28-0 lead.

Michael’s got a reward for their endeavour following a protracted period of pressure, Blackrock hooker Jack Pollard received a yellow card for cumulative team offences and Michael’s secondrow David Walsh powered over for a try that centre Ethen Black converted.

It’s a pity that it took Michael’s that long to play with a little more width to match the vigour of their close-in work in which tighthead prop Coogan was an outstanding exponent; he never stopped for a moment. They finally removed the shackles of an overly patterned and regimented approach. There was no faulting the integrity of effort or application, just that it was misdirected at times.

Right wing Daniel Ryan, a late call-up to the starting team, received the reward his second half performance merited with a late try. He was a threat with the ball in hand, the problem was that he didn’t see it often enough.

It was a third final defeat to Blackrock, but they can and will have no complaints. The better side on the day prevailed.

Scoring sequence – 3 mins: Smyth try, 5-0; 24: O’Shaughnessy penalty, 8-0; 29: Michael Walsh try, O’Shaughnessy conversion, 15-0; 32: Smyth try, 20-0. Half-time: 20-0. 40: Mark Walsh try, 25-0; 46: O’Shaughnessy penalty 28-0; 55: D Walsh try, Black conversion, 28-7; 69: Ryan try, 28-12.

Blackrock College: C Molony; D Moloney, C Woodcock, Mark Walsh, B O’Flaherty; C O’Shaughnessy, A Lindner; P Moore, J Pollard, N Smyth; T Butler, D McGuire; Michael Walsh, J O’Neill, J Angulo (capt). Replacements: J O’Sullivan for Moloney 24 mins; L Coffey for Lindner 45 mins; G Wall for Michael Walsh 46 mins; P Clancy for O’Shaughnessy 57 mins; B Walsh for Butler 57 mins; L Magee for Moore 64 mins.

St Michael’s College: D Ryan; D Pryce, E Black, C McConnell, P Woods; J Quigley, J Sherwin (capt); B O’Donohue, D Maguire, R Coogan; D Walsh, F McKenna; J Elliott, R Brown, S Corrigan. Replacements: M Berman for Elliott 15 mins; B Conry for Quigley 46 mins; E McLaughlin for M Furlong 46 mins; C O’Connor for Sherwin 55 mins.

Referee: Sam Holt (Leinster)

Yellow card: D Ryan (St Michael’s) 32 mins. J Pollard (Blackrock) 54 mins.

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