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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Blackrock's clinical edge the difference as they reign supreme at Junior Cup level again

Tom Henderson, Ben Brownlee, Max Patterson all crossed for Blackrock as they beat St Mary’s in this year’s decider.

Blackrock College 24

St Mary’s College 14

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook

NORMAL SERVICE RESUMES, as Blackrock College — the dominant force of Leinster schools rugby — ensured last year’s slip-up was only a brief lull in their remarkable run of supremacy at Junior Cup level.

Blackrock college celebrate after the match Blackrock captain James Culhane lifts the Junior Cup. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

A 51st title, and sixth in eight years, is a telling statistic in itself but the class of 2018 stamped their own authority on this competition, culminating in a hugely impressive three-try display.

Although trailing to an early St Mary’s try, the end result rarely looked in doubt as Blackrock moved through the gears after a slow start to cross three times and wrap up a title they hope the school’s senior team will augment at the RDS this Friday.

Not to do St Mary’s a disservice, as they played their part in a hugely entertaining, free-flowing contest, but once Blackrock flexed their muscle they always had too much, both up front and in a backline led by Tom Henderson and Ben Brownlee.

Both centres crossed in the first half to establish a 14-7 lead for the blue and whites, and while Mary’s — appearing in this final for the first time since 1997 — showed huge resolve to bring it back to a three-point game with 10 minutes remaining, Blackrock struck through Max Patterson in this near corner for the insurance score.

There were big performances across the board, most notably out-half Michael Moloney, who was faultless from the tee, and the tireless back row unit of Alex Simpson, captain James Culhane and number eight Sean Dempsey.

With a relentless work-rate in defence, Blackrock’s attacking edge proved the difference and even allowing for the loss of Milo Byrnes and then David Walsh to injury, they were clinical and composed.

That said, Mary’s started the brighter and Blackrock second row Rory McGuire paid for his over eagerness after a bulldozing run as he was sent to the bin for a reckless high hit.

With the numerical advantage, Mary’s were unable to penetrate the Blackrock rearguard but, ironically, were then rewarded for a sustained period of pressure in the phase after McGuire had returned to the field.

Tom Henderson scores his sides first try despite the efforts of Hugo Massey Tom Henderson crashed over for Blackrock's first try. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The forwards got through mountains of work around the fringes and having inched their way across the face of the line, centre Barra O’Loughlin stretched Blackrock’s defence for captain Adam Mulvihill to find the gap and burrow over.

With their tails up, Mary’s continued to probe but while they chose to keep it tight and use the power of their forwards to hammer away, Blackrock had the distinct advantage of a superb and slick backline, who showed their clinical edge throughout.

Henderson was the man to level proceedings on the 18 minute mark after latching onto a flat pass from scrumhalf Thomas Quinn to crash over at the foot of the post from close range, with Moloney converting.

Blackrock were beginning to move through the gears, with their engine room getting through trojan work both on the ball and on the ground. Dempsey was particularly energetic and dynamic at the back of the scrum.

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McGuire darted for the line but was held up by an admirably resilient Mary’s defensive line and then Scott Barron thought he had got over the whitewash with a pick-and-go, but again referee Cillian Hogan said there was no clear grounding.

However, from the resulting five metre scrum, the pressure told. Blackrock moved it right and struck off the set-piece through Brownlee, who showed strength and dexterity to ground under pressure from several blue shirts.

Moloney is unerringly accurate from the tee and his conversion, followed by an early second-half penalty, stretched Blackrock’s lead to 10 points, but their momentum stalled after a lengthy stoppage in play for treatment to loosehead prop Walsh.

On the restart, Mary’s made five changes and replacement out-half Euan Feeney’s crisp distribution and willingness to take the ball to the line got his side moving again, with Daniel Leane finishing off a period of sustained and controlled territory.

Blackrock celebrate after the game Blackrock celebrate their win. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It briefly gave Mary’s hope, but any thoughts of a comeback were soon extinguished when Blackrock secured a much-deserved victory after a powerful rolling maul.

Big carries from Dempsey and Scott Barron in midfield had Mary’s on the back foot and when they were pinged at the breakdown, Moloney kicked to within five metres of the line, allowing Patterson drive over.

Blackrock reign supreme again, now the question is if they can make it a double down the road.

Blackrock scorers:
Tries: Tom Henderson, Ben Brownlee, Max Patterson
Penalties: Michael Moloney [1 from 1]
Conversions: Michael Moloney [3 from 3]
St Mary’s scorers:
Tries: Adam Mulvihill, Daniel Leane
Conversions: Max Svejdar [2 from 2]

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: 15. Cormac O’Brien, 14. Harry Whelan, 13. Tom Henderson, 12. Ben Brownlee, 11. Michael Nealon, 10. Michael Moloney, 9. Thomas Quinn; 1. David Walsh, 2. Milo Byrnes, 3. Scott Barron, 4. Naoise Golden, 5. Rory McGuire, 6. Alex Simpson, 7. James Culhane (captain), 8. Sean Dempsey.

Replacements: 16. Max Patterson, 17. Aaron Lysaght Walsh, 18. Sam Loscher, 19. Alex Dinn, 20. Niall Brophy, 21. Cian Moloney, 22. Dylan Stafford, 23. Conor Bleakley.

ST MARY’S COLLEGE: 15. Max Svejdar, 14. Ross Moore, 13. Robert Nolan, 12. Barra O’Loughlin, 11. Sam Czerniak, 10. Daragh Gilbourne, 9, Seanan Devereux; 1. Colum Dillon, 2. Matthew Black, 3. Adam Mulvihill (captain), 4. Daniel Leane, 5. Hugo Massey, 6. William Sparrow, 7. John Kennedy, 8. Adam Sloan.

Replacements: 16. Andrew Gibbons, 17. Matthew Gallagher, 18. Jack Reidy Walsh, 19. Garrett O’Moore, 20. Jack McKenna, 21. Daniel Martinez-Dunn, 22. Euan Feeney, 23. Alex Boland.

Referee: Cillian Hogan.

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Ryan Bailey

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