Two tries in the second-half sent St Mary’s College through to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Schools Junior Cup final for the first time in 21 years at Donnybrook on Tuesday.
After the initial sparring, Belvedere took control of the ball and got their forwards on the front foot until St Mary’s wing Ross Moore cut out a dangerous pass and prop Adam Mulvihill followed up to force a penalty in the shadow of the posts.
There was confidence in St Mary’s defence that forced mistakes through pressure. But, it couldn’t go on that way.
Belvo’s Dylan O’Grady burst through on the right where Sam Czerniek brought down the full-back.
For all of the good approach work, the breakthrough came down to a lineout where captain Jonathan Ross grabbed a throw at the back to finish sharply on the right. Then, O’Grady landed an unlikely conversion from the right for 7-0 in the 17th minute.
They were almost in again when O’Grady came raiding down the right from a pre-planned move for wing Scott Meaney to chip the last man back and just fail to ground the bobbling ball.
St Mary’s were spending far too much time in retreat, despite the form of centres Rob Nolan and Barra O’Loughlin.
Slowly, they moved upfield until a crucial knock-on denied them the time in Belvedere territory for which they were crying out.
The grappling work of Ross and kick of scrum-half Ben Foy put the Northsiders back in control.
It stayed that way to the break without the extra points that would have given them greater comfort.
On the restart, St Mary’s moved into position through keep-ball and the lineout connection from hooker Matthew Black to the leaping Hugo Massey.
The maul travelled and, when going to the floor, the carriers came around the corner in waves for number eight Adam Sloan to claim the try to reduce the gap to two in the 32nd minute.
It was game on, for St Mary’s had shown Belvedere they were capable of taking chances if they could just make more of them.
Their confidence was on the rise as their backs moved the ball sweetly from left to right.
It was Belvedere’s turn to show how they could defend in squeezing the space out wide and hooker David Lambe snaffling a penalty at the breakdown midway into the second period.
St Mary’s were beginning to churn out the hard yards as hooker Black and flanker John Kennedy led the charge.
They eventually worked an opening for centre Nolan to have a pop down the left.
They were clean in their ruck work and satisfied with a metre-by-metre approach from one-out runners until replacement Andrew Gibbons crashed to the line for 10-7 in the 50th minute.
There was a sense that the tide had turned from a ball kicked out on the full to two quick mistakes that ceded ground to the Rathmines school.
A superb tackle by Nolan forced a turnover and flanker Will Sparrow was on hand to take the ball forward.
This counter was yet again stifled by Belvo’s superior work on the floor for a penalty with that man Lambe close to the action.
They went to touch and to their maul to suck in numbers, lock Daniel Leane somehow getting through to cause a turnover scrum.
St Mary’s couldn’t hold onto the ball. But, flanker Kennedy and wing Moore made big tackles behind the gain line for St Mary’s to see it out.
At Donnybrook – St Mary’s College 10 (A Gibbons, A Sloan try each); Belvedere College 7 (J Ross try; D O’Grady con)
St Mary’s College: Max Svedjar; Ross Moore, Rob Nolan, Barra O’Loughlin, Sam Czerniek; Daragh Gilbourne, Senan Devereux; Collum Dillon, Matthew Black, Adam Mulvihill (capt), Daniel Leane, Hugo Massey, Will Sparrow, John Kennedy, Adam Sloan.
Replacements: Euan Feeney for Svejdar 29 mins; Andrew Gibbons for Sparrow, Matthew Gallagher for Dillon both 41 mins; Garreth O’Moore for Massey 56 mins.
Belvedere College: Dylan O’Grady; Scott Meaney, Joshua Maher, Daniel Hawkshaw, Eric Carroll; Finn McCarrick, Ben Foy; Cian Russell, David Lambe, Senan Hayes, Jonathan Flynn, Cillian Doran, Jonathan Sargent, Eoghan Rutledge, Jonathan Ross (capt).
Replacements: Zander Hayden for Russell 50 mins; Rob Keeley for Devereux 54 mins.
Referee: J Flynn, Leinster Branch.