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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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Belvedere the team to beat as defending champions battle past Michael's

The northside school showed their clinical edge and experience in a high-scoring encounter at Donnybrook.

Hugh O'Sullivan celebrates his try.
Hugh O'Sullivan celebrates his try.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Belvedere College 29

St Michael’s College 18

– Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

THE END SCORELINE probably doesn’t reflect how fiercely-contested this game was but it tells you everything you need to know about Belvedere College as they marched into the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-finals.

The result doesn’t flatter the defending champions but they were certainly pushed all the way by a Michael’s side who will rue a 10-minute period before the break during which they conceded two soft tries.

After a frenetic, and scrappy, opening quarter, Belvo seized control thanks to quickfire scores from Hugh O’Sullivan and then Jordan Wilkes with Michael’s playing catch-up from there.

The Ailesbury Road school battled valiantly until the death as they attempted to overturn the deficit but David Hawkshaw’s late intercept try settled a titanic tussle.

Fullback O’Sullivan was again superb and it was Belvo’s experience which ultimately told in the end as their title defence gathered serious momentum in front of a large crowd at Donnybrook.

Ruadhan Byron celebrates his try Ruadhan Byron scored Belvo's third try. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Phil Werahiko’s men are certainly the team to beat again this year and they’ll take their place in Friday’s draw with every confidence that they can replicate last year’s achievements on St Patrick’s Day just down the road from here.

It was a near faultless performance from Belvo as, just like in the first round demolition of St Andrew’s, they showed their ruthlessness in attack while dominating up front.

In defence, too, the northside school were peerless and while the pressure eventually told as Michael’s set-up a grandstand finish, their ability to shut the door and then take their chances at the other end was the difference.

Michael’s can be proud of their efforts and on another day, the result might have gone their way but they’ll no doubt look back on a couple of missed chances when handling errors and a lack of patience cost them.

As it was, it was Belvo’s day and the celebrations when Hawkshaw read Peter O’Beirne’s pass to race under the posts spoke volumes of how hard they were forced to work for the win.

There was an edge to the game throughout as both sides brought a huge physicality to proceedings and even allowing for the awful conditions — driving wind and rain — the rugby on show had those in attendance on the edge of their seat for much of the encounter.

Michael’s drew first blood as Harry Byrne slotted over a penalty after his side had earlier come within inches of driving over the Belvo line before a knock on thwarted their advances.

Dejected St. MichaelÕs College players St Michael's players dejected at the final whistle. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

At the other end, Belvo were beginning to threaten. Ireland and Leinster representative O’Sullivan was the standout performer in the backline and he created and finished the game’s opening try all on his own.

The 11-time winners had been knocking on the Michael’s door when O’Sullivan wasn’t held in the tackle and he showed good awareness and pace to get back up and stroll under the posts uncontested.

Minutes later, Belvo had their second.

A grubber kick through wasn’t dealt with by Ian O’Kelly and Wilkes was quick to latch onto the loose ball, stab it through and then have the composure to collect and fall over the line. O’Sullivan stretched the lead to 14-3.

At this stage, Michael’s were being frustrated by Belvo’s work-rate around the breakdown and time and time again, Max Kearney, Conor Doran and Ruadhan Byron came away with the turnover penalty.

Byrne kept his side in touch with another penalty from in front of the posts but Belvo continued the pressure after the interval and got their reward through Byron, who powered over after spotting the gap.

With the game slipping away, Michael’s shuffled their pack and the introduction of prop Alex Deegan made an instant difference as he carried hard twice in successive plays to get his side moving.

The two-time winners felt they’d got over through hooker Stephen Judge after a driving maul but referee Helen O’Reilly wasn’t convinced as Belvo’s defence stood firm again.

Jody Booth and Grellan Murray Despite the weather, a large crowd turned out to watch the quarter-final tie. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

The wall of black and white shirts was finally breached from the next play as Michael’s captain Jack Dunne broke through two tackles to bring his side back into the contest.

When substitute Rob Russell gathered Byrne’s beautifully weighted kick through to dot down in the corner, Michael’s suddenly found themselves within four points of the holders with 10 minutes remaining. Game on.

That was until Hawkshaw swooped to safely secure Belevdere’s place in Friday’s semi-final draw.

Belvedere scorers:
Tries: Hugh O’Sullivan, Jordan Wilkes, Ruadhan Byron, David Hawkshaw
Penalties: Hugh O’Sullivan [1 from 1]
Conversions: Hugh O’Sullivan [3 from 4]
St Michael’s scorers:
Tries: Jack Dunne, Rob Russell
Penalties: Harry Byrne [2 from 2]
Conversions: Harry Byrne [1 from 2]

BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. Hugh O’Sullivan, 14. Mark Donnelly, 13. Peter Maher, 12. Cian Walsh, 11. Jordan Wilkes (22. Jamie O’Grady 66′) , 10. David Hawkshaw, 9. Paraic Cagney; 1. Cillian Molloy, 2. Sam Osborne (16. Conor Byrne 53′), 3. Jake Robinson, 4. Grellan Murray, 5. Oran O’Brien, 6. Max Kearney (captain), 7. Conor Doran, 8. Ruadhan Byron.

Replacements not used: 17. Anthony McDonnell, 18. Joseph Haughey, 19. David Hill, 20. John Meagher, 21. Ted Walsh, 23. Gregory Petherbridge.

ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: 15. Ian O’Kelly, 14. Jeff O’Loughlin (23. Rob Russell 56′), 13. Michael Corcoran, 12. David Ryan, 11. Chris Carey, 10. Harry Byrne, 9. Peter O’Beirne; 1. Chris Hennessy, 2. Stephen Judge, 3. Luke Duffy (18. Alex Deegan 40′) 4. Ryan Baird, 5. Jack Dunne, 6. Michael Roche (20. Jody Booth 40′), 7. Scott Penny, 8. Dan O’Donovan.

Replacements not used: 16. Pierce Feeney, 17. Max Kennedy, 19. Bobby Leahy, 21. Charlie Allen, 22. David Moran.

Referee: Helen O’Reilly.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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