Blackrock reach Senior Cup Final after Titanic battle with St Michael’s
March 9, 2023 4:52 pm Des Berry
Blackrock College 17 St Michael’s College 14.
Holders Blackrock repelled a final quarter comeback by St Michael’s in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final at Energia Park on a cold, wet Thursday afternoon.
The preeminent programmes in all of Irish Schools rugby put their players out in conditions that tested their skills as much as their resilience.
The raucous atmosphere highlighted the level of rivalry generated between the century-old kingpins and the professional-making machine from down the road.
It was clear from the off that pragmatism was favoured optimism as Oliver Coffey and Wilhelm de Klerk kicked for position, ‘Rock gaining ground when David Walsh was too slow to roll away at a ruck.
Their ability to hold onto the ball through phases was as impressive as St Michael’s accuracy to defend it as Coffey probed intelligently.
The onus was on the holders to make the running given the backing of the elements, but James Sherwin smashed Luke Kritzinger in a tackle.
St Michael’s produced super quick ball for scrum-half Sherwin to bring the big runners onto the ball, de Klerk getting driven back in the tackle.
A beauty of a bomb from Coffey got away from de Klerk, Blackrock moving at pace to draw a penalty which Coffey slotted for the lead in the 15th minute.
The continuation of the understandable kicking strategies made this a game of patience under extreme pressure, de Klerk making up for a knock-on with thunderous defence on Michael Colreavy.
The gain line was a real battleground none more so than when St Michael’s pressed for a second time, flanker Jack Angulo wrestling the ball away and David Walsh’s block on Coffey travelling beyond the dead-ball line.
Left-wing Patrick Wood almost broke the line on an inside ball from prop Riain Coogan and James O’Sullivan bounced Wood in the tackle.
From a lineout, St Michael’s moved away from the maul, Jim White and Stewart powering on before Sherwin came back left for de Klerk to find Jules Fenelon, hiding in behind the out-half, on a late arcing line that produced a wonderful try for Fenelon to also convert for 7-3 on half-time.
Blackrock came out strong, Conall Hodges blasting Coogan behind the gain line and Tommy Butler blocking Sherwin.
They turned the screw, opting for a lineout rather than three points, the pack getting the momentum for Mikey Yarr to claim the try, converted by Coffey in the 40th minute.
A hard tackle by Coogan on Eoghan Walsh was deemed worthy of a yellow card and ‘Rock came again, wing James O’Sullivan denied by de Klerk’s superb low tackle.
Still, St Michael’s could not secure the lineout and the carries came in waves close to the line for Conor Tonge to score, Coffey converting for 17-7 in the 49th minute.
The Aylesbury Road school got back on attack, de Klerk’s kick over the top earning a penalty. Like ‘Rock, they chose the lineout ahead of certain points only to lose it.
Soon enough, the same situation arose, this time the lineout was won only for the ball to be lost when ‘Rock held Mark Canniffe up for a scrum turnover.
However, the Sky Blues counted through David Lucey and Canniffe and a sweet one-two between Wood and Chris O’Connor produced a magical try for Wood, converted by Fenelon to make it 17-14 in the 65th minute.
Back to back spills from Blackrock and an attempted intercept by Canniffe kept the crowd on tenterhooks, especially when Fenelon was taken late to give St Michael’s one last chance which ended on Mark Walsh’s turnover.
Scorers – Blackrock – M Yarr, C Tonge try each; O Coffey pen, 2 cons. St Michael’s – Fenelon try, 2 cons; P Wood try.
Blackrock College: Charlie Molony; James O’Sullivan, Luke Kritzinger, Mark Walsh, Eoghan Walsh; Conor O’Shaughnessy, Oliver Coffey (Capt), Tom O’Riordan, Mikey Yarr, Alex Mullan, Michael Colreavy, Tommy Butler, Conor Tonge, Jack Angulo Tom Brigg (Conall Hodges 31).
St Michael’s College: David Lucey; Larry Kirkham (Charles Foley 58), Jules Fenelon, Mark Canniffe, Patrick Wood; Wilhelm De Klerk, James Sherwin (Chris O’Connor 57); Ben Howard, Tom Stewart (Tom Begley 40), Riain Coogan, David Walsh, Mikey O’Reilly, James White (Capt) Rory Brown (Duinn Maguire 46, temp), Sam Corrigan.
Referee – S Holt, Leinster Branch.