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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 22 February, 2019
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Black and white! Belvedere deliver back-to-back Senior Cup titles after edging Blackrock

Peter Maher’s try the difference as Belvo retain the Leinster Senior Schools Cup.

Blackrock College 3

Belvedere College 10

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS 

IT TOOK A while to get going, but when it did, this Leinster Senior Schools Cup final delivered everything we were expecting as Belvedere College, the defending champions, claimed back-to-back titles in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Max Kearney lifts the Leinster Schools Senior Cup Max Kearney lifts the trophy. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

It was a brutally physical encounter from start to finish at the RDS with little to separate the two sides but, in the end, Peter Maher’s first half score was the difference as Belvo secured a 12th title.

Phil Werahiko’s side did all the damage in the opening period and they showed incredible resolve thereafter to hold firm and close the door on Blackrock’s late rally.

The 68-time winners never really got going, and it was a great shame they were unable to produce the type of performance which had seen them power into the final, as conditions made it difficult for both teams in front of a large St Patrick’s Day crowd.

Even still, Blackrock pushed hard and came within inches of forcing the tie into extra time right at the death but the wall of black and white shirts held firm on their own line to seal a hard-fought victory.

David Hawkshaw was hugely influential once again for the Great Denmark Street school while captain Max Kearney led from the front alongside his back row unit of Conor Doran and Ruadhan Byron.

It wasn’t the type of game we know these two sides can produce but so often these big occasions are decided by the smallest of margins and, on the day, it was Belvo who managed the conditions to prevail.

College's Charlie Ryan wins a lineout ahead of Oran O’Brien Charlie Ryan rises highest to claim a line out ahead of Oran O'Brien. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

The first half was riddled with handling errors and a succession of turnovers with a gusting wind and incessant rain making it difficult for the game to flow with any sort of structure.

Indeed, it wasn’t a great spectacle and scoring opportunities were few and far between with individual errors costing Blackrock as they failed to get any sort of stranglehold on the game.

With the wind at their backs, Belvo settled the quicker and soon began to dominate proceedings with half-backs Paraic Cagney and Hawkshaw pulling the strings behind a powerful pack.

It took until the 21st for any real meaningful action to develop with both sides exchanging early blows in midfield during an otherwise scrappy opening quarter.

With Hawkshaw’s influence growing, Belvo started asking questions of the ‘Rock defence and after building the phases in opposition territory, the out-half’s clever grubber kick in behind engineered the game’s opening score.

Tom Roche appeared to have had the danger covered but he failed to gather cleanly under his posts and then lost his footing on the greasy surface to allow Maher to dive on the loose ball.

Hawkshaw had done something similar a few minutes earlier on this near side as he used the space in behind to force Blackrock back towards their own line. It was incredibly smart rugby and it would prove to be the spark the contest needed.

Peter Maher knocks on as he is tackled by Liam Turner Maher battles with Liam Turner. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

O’Sullivan added the extras and, five minutes later, his sweetly-struck penalty extended Belvo’s lead to 10-0 at the break.

Blackrock made a change on the wing for the second half, Ross Deegan replacing Tom Maher, and they came out of the blocks quickly, as Patrick Patterson’s penalty finally got them on the board.

A response from ‘Rock was inevitable but Belvo’s hardworking backrow, led by Kearney, denied them the type of go-forward ball they used to cause serious damage in the previous rounds.

For the first time in the campaign, ‘Rock found themselves behind and they were then left without John Farley and Charlie Ryan for the remainder of the game with both succumbing to the brutally physical nature of the contest.

Justin Vanstone’s side pushed hard in the second period, searching for a way to claw themselves back on the scoreboard, but Belvo were resilient in defence and closed the door every time ‘Rock threatened to force their way through.

It wasn’t until the last play of the game that ‘Rock found themselves within striking distance but Belvo weren’t to be denied as Kearney and O’Sullivan, fittingly, got their hands under the ball to spark jubilant celebrations.

Hugh O’Sullivan kicks a penalty as Paraic Cagney holds the ball in place Hugh O'Sullivan kicks a penalty. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“We’ll see you on O’Connell Bridge,” Kearney proclaimed to the Belvedere supporters during his post-match speech.

The Leinster Senior Schools Cup is staying on the Northside.

Blackrock scorers:
Tries:
Conversions:
Penalties: Peter O’Reilly [1 from 1]
Belvedere scorers:
Tries: Peter Maher
Conversions: Hugh O’Sullivan [1 from 1]
Penalties: Hugh O’Sullivan [1 from 1]

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: 15. Tom Roche, 14. Tom Maher (22. Ross Deegan 35′), 13. Liam Turner, 12. James Moriarty, 11. David Heavey, 10. Peter O’Reilly, 9. Patrick Patterson (21. Richie Fahy 65′); 1. Giuseppe Coyne (17. Carl Delaney 64′), 2. Stephen McLoughlin (16. Sean Molony 50′), 3. Joe Byrne (18. Thomas Clarkson 50′), 4. Andrew Murphy, 5. Charlie Ryan (19. James Burke 50′), 6. John Farley (Michael McGagh 43′), 7. Alan Francis, 8. Cian Reilly (captain).

Replacements not used: 23. Gavin Jones.

BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. Hugh O’Sullivan, 14. Mark Donnelly, 13. Peter Maher, 12. Cian Walsh, 11. Jordan Wilkes (23. Sam Barry 43′), 10. David Hawkshaw, 9. Paraic Cagney; 1. Cillian Molloy (18. Joseph Haughey 64′), 2. Anthony McDonnell (16. Conor Byrne 61′), 3. Jake Robinson, 4. Grellan Murray, 5. Oran O’Brien (19. David Hill 61′), 6. Conor Doran, 7. Max Kearney (captain), 8. Ruadhan Byron.

Replacements not used: 17. Sam Osborne, 20. John Meagher, 21. Ted Walsh, 22. Jonathan Bell.

Referee: Paul Haycock.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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