Blackrock College win Junior Cup
March 18, 2016 12:00 am client
Wing Niall Comerford’s only try of the match was decisive as Blackrock edged out St Michael’s in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup final at Donnybrook on Wednesday.
There was an electric atmosphere long before the first whistle between these close rivals and the obvious adrenalin took St Michael’s kick-off directly into touch.
They were better from their first lineout and clearance from scrum-half Robert Gilsenan.
However, the counter came from Comerford, requiring Ben Gannon to take hooker Ben Wallace and for captain Mark Hernan to poach a penalty out of prop Luke Mion.
From there, Christopher Cosgrave worked the angle for a lineout on the 22 which was halted by a vigilant defence.
‘Rock scrum-half Chris Rolland cleared and number eight Ed Brennan was twice involved in the follow up.
There were big hits going in everywhere, none more so than from Gavin Jones on Cian McGettigan to provide Blackrock with territory.
The wind in ‘Rock’s favour made the lineout a lottery as St Michael’s lost one in the air and gained a knock-on on the ground.
The latter were more effective at the breakdown and forced a turnover after keeping Wallace off the floor.
There was just so little room for error as both schools hunted in packs and seemed to know each other’s plays inside out.
The latest spill handed Blackrock a scrum in the middle of the pitch and it was from there they made the breakthrough.
The link between Brennan and Rolland put Comerford one-on-one and the side-step took him into the clear for a fine individual try for 5-0 in the 17th minute.
Sadly, the try-scorer was immediately forced to leave the field with an injury.
The lighter St Michael’s forwards were finding the front-foot difficult to locate into the teeth of the wind and the bigger ‘Rock boys.
Comerford’s replacement Richard O’Farrell flew down the right where Mark O’Brien was textbook in his tackle.
Blackrock were turning the screw, flanker Sean O’Brien almost darting over at the front of a lineout.
The enterprise of Christopher Cosgrave cutting right opened the space on the left for Zach Harrison to show his pace to cause a penalty at the ruck.
Cosgrave flighted a superb kick to within ten metres. Ben Gannon just couldn’t crack the ‘Rock solid defence.
Their first sign of real danger came from out-half Niall Carroll’s lofted ball and McGettigan’s movement onto it only for the assistant referee to call back play for interference.
Blackrock captain Jones was clever enough to defuse a set play as Cosgrave took an angle.
When Brennan and prop James McKeon come onto the ball, St Michael’s held firm to force a mistake. They took the chance to go left where the footwork of prop Jack Boyle came as a surprise.
Cosgrave attracted defenders by running laterally. The fast hands of Hernan put Boyle into the action again and tight-head Joshua Toland fought through bodies to earn a penalty for side entry.
The centre’s low trajectory somehow made it all the way to make it 5-3 at the interval.
It would be interesting to see how both would approach the turnaround.
Blackrock went about seeking out the edges as hooker Wallace and left wing Ben White brought danger out wide and the heavies came through the middle for Jones to cross the line without getting the ball down.
Out-half David Fitzgibbon had the compensation of a penalty to make it 8-3 in the 34th minute.
There was almost immediate payback when centre McGettigan executed a blockdown, but fumbled the bobbling ball forward with the line in sight.
St Michael’s still had position when they turned over the subsequent scrum. Fly-half Carroll had a pop and they pursued the blindside without reward.
Hooker Wallace was unlucky to be blown for his work at the breakdown. Cosgrave teed it up and went close from 40 metres.
The diagonal ball from Cosgrave put Michael’s back where they wanted to be. ‘Rock marshaled their attack well as prop Boyle showed his ability to spin out of tackles and keep going.
It was a simple knock-on that gave ‘Rock release from the pressure.
Brennan galloped off the back of the scrum to trigger a relentless attack that was halted by another ball shaken away from a carrier.
The ‘Rock eight, led by Cian Duffy, came like a train before the ball was moved for full-back Ross Barron to be stopped in his tracks.
Cosgrave latched onto the loose ruck ball and Wallace was pinged for playing the ball from an offside position.
However, the holders had a stranglehold on the game. Jones arced outside Carroll and Brennan threatened once again.
Time was off the essence. St Michael’s went for broke from the deep and lost out to the tidy work of O’Farrell.
The quality of their rearguard action was reflected in how ‘Rock’s Rolland kicked the ball away on the 22-metre line.
St Michael’s tried everything they knew against a swarming, rush defence.
Gannon brilliantly broke away from the back of the scrum and had a second go from a ruck until Wallace intervened for a vital penalty.
It was the closest Michael’s would get to mounting a comeback. Blackrock controlled the endgame through their forwards to make it four-in-row.
Blackrock: Ross Barron; Niall Comerford, Tim D’Arcy, Gavin Jones (capt), Ben White; David Fitzgibbon, Chris Rolland; James McKeown, Ben Wallace, Luke Mion, John Corless, Cian Duffy, Sean O’Brien, Jack Loscher, Ed Brennan.
Replacements: Richard O’Farrell for Comerford 17 mins; Killian McQuaid for O’Brien ht; Tom Handrick for McKeon 57 mins.
St Michael’s: Mark O’Brien; Andrew Smith, Christopher Cosgrave, Cian McGettigan, Zach Harrison; Niall Carroll, Robert Gilsenan; Jack Boyle, Lee Barron, Joshua Toland, Jonathan Fish, Luke Dunne, William Hickey, Mark Hernan (capt), Ben Gannon.
Replacements: Hugh McGovern for Toland 34 mins.
Referee: Gary Glennon, Leinster Branch.