Hugo Burke was the late try-scoring hero at Donnybrook on Wednesday as Blackrock College defeated Belvedere College 17-10 to secure their 47th Powerade Leinster Schools Junior Cup crown…
Following their Senior Cup triumph at the RDS on Monday, Blackrock College now have an astonishing 24 SCT and JCT doubles – this latest double being their first since 2006 – as they replicated St. Michael’s heroics from last year.
Aiming for their first Junior Cup title since beating Terenure College 12-5 back in 2005, Belvedere College enjoyed a positive start to the game with an early territorial advantage.
This period of pressure presented the Great Denmark Street school with an opportunity to open the scoring when they were awarded a 30-metre penalty four minutes in.
Out-half Conor Jennings’ kick at goal was sweetly struck, but he was most unfortunate to see his effort come crashing off the top of the post before being mopped up by the Blackrock defence.
It was a let-off for Justin Vanstone’s charges, but forceful play by their scrum resulted in a close range penalty being awarded to Blackrock on 11 minutes, and scrum half James McGowan landed the kick from a relatively straight angle on the 22-metre line.
The opening score helped to ease any nerves that the south Dublin side might have been experiencing, and after a series of drives towards the ‘Belvo line five minutes later, prop Emmet Burns supplied the finishing touches to the first try of the contest.
McGowan was on target with a difficult conversion off his trusty right boot. The cushion was now out to 10 points, raising hopes that the Blackrock faithful would be welcoming a second trophy in three days back to their school.
But the Donnybrook decider was still at a very early stage, and Jennings got the Belvedere account up and running with a routine penalty after 22 minutes.
Blackrock continued to control much of the tempo for the remainder of the half, but their northside opponents were presented with the chance to reduce their deficit even further when referee Nigel Correll awarded them a penalty just before the break.
Jennings’ kick drifted agonisingly past the right hand post though, meaning that Blackrock held onto a 10-3 buffer at half-time.
Given the calibre of the opposition, ‘Rock would have been pleased to have a lead of this nature, but the Conor Doherty-coached Belvedere side were always going to battle until the bitter end. And they were back level thanks to a pulsating start to the second period.
It took them just three minutes to do just that as hooker Dan McCaffrey drove over to the left of the posts following a neat pass from a maul by influential scrum half Hugh O’Sullivan.
Jennings had the simplest of tasks from the subsequent conversion, which set the game up for an intriguing finale.
The sharpness of the Belvedere play after the restart certainly did raise alarm bells for Blackrock, but despite suffering a couple of shaky moments after McCaffrey’s score, they did inevitably settle back into the proceedings.
Brave defending by Belvedere held up Blackrock just short of the try-line on a number of occasions, but the relentless pressure finally paid off in the 58th minute when ‘Rock number 8 Hugo Burke broke free from a ruck to power over the whitewash.
The try, coupled with McGowan’s successful conversion, turned out to be the decisive moments of the game. Although ‘Belvo threatened to level matters once again when they made excellent in-roads deep into stoppage time, Blackrock stood firm for another thrilling Schools Cup success.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE SCORERS: E. Burns (1 try), H. Burke (1 try), J. McGowan (2 conversions and 1 penalty)
BELVEDERE COLLEGE SCORERS: D. McCaffrey (1 try), C. Jennings (1 conversion and 1 penalty)
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Steven Kilgallen; Matthew O’Callaghan, Gavin Mullin, Tommy O’Brien, Nick Gleeson; Conor Dean, James McGowan; Hugh Egleston, Eric Olden, Emmet Burns, Niall Marshall, Caelan Doris, Richard Dunne, Jay Mion CAPTAIN, Hugo Burke.
Replacements used: Ben Layden for O’Callaghan (39 mins), Andrew Murphy for Dunne (45), Richie Mouatt for Burns (64), Ben Nolke for Doris (67), Charlie Connolly for Olden (67).
BELVEDERE COLLEGE: Matthew Oliver; Gerry Farrell, James McKeown, Hugh Sexton, Cian O’Sullivan; Conor Jennings, Hugh O’Sullivan; Conor Wynne Walsh, Dan McCaffrey CAPTAIN, Tom De Jongh, Hugh Fenlon, Brian Egan, Jesse Iredale, Senan McNulty, James Kenny.
Replacements used: Sam Osborne for Sexton (49 mins), Kevin O’Callaghan for Kenny (61).
REFEREE: Nigel Correll (Leinster Rugby Referees)