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Powerful Blackrock set up mouthwatering Schools Cup decider with Belvo

The 68-time winners are back in the final after a five-try win over Gonzaga.

Blackrock College 34

Gonzaga College 8

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

AS FAR AS big semi-final performances go, this was about as accomplished as you’re likely to see as Blackrock College — the 68-time winners of this competition — flexed their considerable muscle to power past Gonzaga at Donnybrook.

Mark Phelan scores a try Ross Deegan goes over for his side's fifth try. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

This game was always going to hinge on Gonzaga’s capacity to deal with Blackrock’s formidable pack and whether they would get enough go-forward ball for their backline to cause damage.

In both instances, Blackrock came out on top and it wasn’t until the tie was over as contest that we saw Gonzaga’s devastating running game which had been a hallmark of their brilliant campaign.

As it was, the semi-final hurdle was to prove one too far for the Ranelagh school as Blackrock scored five tries in a win which now surely installs them as favourites for the decider against holders Belvedere on St Patrick’s Day.

Justin Vanstone’s side were clinical from start to finish and displayed a ruthlessness in converting their chances as John Fairley, Liam Turner, Ross Deegan and Tom Roche (2) all went over.

Turner’s score was the crucial one as Rock struck with the final act of a tight first half to stretch their advantage to 17-3 at the break. There was no coming back from there for Gonzaga.

The impressive Roche added a second-half brace while substitute Ross Deegan ensured a safe passage through to the showpiece event of the schools calendar for Rock, who return to the RDS for the first time since 2014.

Tom Roche with Sean Galvin Tom Roche impressed again with two tries. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

It was a great shame for Declan Fassbender’s charges that they were unable to replicate the level of performance they produced en route to the last four of the competition for the first time — but Rock were just too strong across the pitch and won the key battles, particularly up front.

That said, Gonzaga showed few signs of early nerves as they settled into the occasion and struck first blood before Blackrock could get their own game going.

Michael O’Kennedy has been a standout performer for Gonzaga throughout the campaign and his half-back pairing with James Kenny was again lively. The scrum-half, in particular, looks a real prospect.

O’Kennedy’s sweetly-struck penalty from just inside the 22 ensured Gonzaga left opposition territory with points to show for their early possession, although their advantage lasted just four minutes.

Blackrock replied almost instantly and from the moment Fairley powered over from close range after 11 minutes, they never surrendered the lead.

Even when scrum-half Patrick Patterson was sent to the bin for an infringement at the breakdown, Rock’s defence remained firm before Turner burst through on the stroke of the interval to create daylight between the sides.

John Fairley tackles Michael O'Kennedy Gonzaga's Michael O'Kennedy makes a break. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The gap would only widen as the second period developed and Rock were in control of proceedings to such an extent that the final 15 minutes were a bit of an anti-climax, although David Lynch did give Gonzaga something to shout about with a fine try.

Blackrock’s pursuit of title number 69 surges on with real momentum and they’ll certainly take some stopping down the road at the RDS next week.

Blackrock scorers:
Tries: John Fairley, Liam Turner, Tom Roche [2], Ross Deegan.
Penalties: Peter O’Reilly [1 from 1]
Conversions: Peter O’Reilly [3 from 5]
Gonzaga scorers:Tries: David LynchPenalties: Michael O’Kennedy [1 from 2]Conversions: Michael O’Kennedy [o from 1]

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: 15. Tom Roche, 14. Tom Maher, 13. Liam Turner, 12. James Moriarty, 11. David Heavey, 10. Peter O’Reilly, 9. Patrick Patterson; 1. Giuseppe Coyne, 2. Stephen McLoughlin, 3. Joe Byrne, 4. John Fairley, 5. Andrew Murphy, 6. Michael McGagh, 7. Alan Francis, 8. Cian Reilly (captain).

Replacements: 16. Sean Molony, 17. Carl Delaney, 18. Thomas Clarkson, 19. James Burke, 20. Matthew Carroll, 21. Richard Fahy, 22. Gavin Jones, 23. Ross Deegan.

GONZAGA COLLEGE: 15. David Lynch, 14. Hugh Twomey, 13. Brian O’Donnell, 12. Eoin Barr, 11. Sean Galvin, 10. Michael O’Kennedy, 9. James Kenny; 1. Michael Gleeson, 2. Conor Gleeson (captain), 3. Simon Clear, 4. Eoin Buggy, 5. Caoilim Fassbender, 6. Ian O’Grady, 7. Mark Keegan, 8. Robbie Kidney.

Replacements: 16. Mikey Holly, 17. Matt Meagher, 18. James Veale, 19. Daniel Carson, 20. Charlie Goulding, 21. Elliot Allen, 22. Frank McHugh, 23. Jack Connolly.

Referee: Helen O’Reilly.

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Ryan Bailey

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