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Blackrock turn on the style to end four-year wait for Senior Cup glory

Belvedere’s recent dominance of the competition is over as they were swatted aside at the RDS on Friday afternoon.

Belvedere College 12

Blackrock College 35

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS 

FOUR YEARS AFTER last lifting the Leinster Senior Schools Cup, title number 69 for Blackrock College may just have been worth the wait.

It could very well be one of their sweetest, as the class of 2018 — impressively powerful and clinical — swatted the two-time defending champions Belvedere College to one side.

The Blackrock team celebrate winning Blackrock captain Liam Turner lifts the Senior Cup trophy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

As far as big occasion performances go, this was as good as you’re likely to see as Blackrock, seeking vengeance for defeat to Belvo in last year’s decider, produced a ruthless five-try display to reign supreme again.

It was always going to take something special to end the northside school’s two-year grip on this trophy and Blackrock, superior in nearly every facet, saved their best for last to seal a memorable double for the school after their Junior Cup success earlier in the week.

The game was over as a contest as early as the opening quarter and while it was a great shame Belvo didn’t show up for the first 35 minutes, Blackrock were in ruthless form to score four first-half tries.

Michael McGagh set his side on their way from close range before winger Liam McMahon scored either side of out-half James Tarrant, as Blackrock’s power and dynamism around the park proved too much for Belvo to handle.

Phil Werahiko’s charges improved as the game wore on but they had given themselves far too much to do as replacement scrum-half Ross Barron then sniped over to seal a comfortable victory for Blackrock.

Led by talismanic captain Liam Turner, Blackrock’s pack worked tirelessly to ensure quick ball for their thrilling backline and then when questions were asked of their rearguard in the second half, they stood firm to ensure there was no mistake this time around.

“It was our best performance all year, that is all we wanted to do,” Turner said afterwards, before becoming the latest Blackrock captain to lift the Senior Cup trophy.

The result was never really in doubt, although the returning David Hawkshaw looked to get Belvo off to a bright start as he collected his own kick, before hitting the supporting Alistair Loughrey on his right shoulder, only for Blackrock to scramble and bundle Matthew Grogan into touch on the far side.

Tarrant was the man to track back and make the try-saving intervention, and the out-half would become the contest’s main protagonist as he pulled the strings for Blackrock in the pivot position.

Liam McMahon is congratulated by team mate Louis O'Reilly after scoring a try Liam McMahon scored twice in the first half. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Blackrock were sharper in every department and quick ball allowed Louis O’Reilly to provide crisp distribution for a lively backline to cause serious damage, particularly down this right side in the first period.

As it was, the opening score came courtesy of the forwards as Blackrock made inroads around the fringes and had too much power in the loose as Thomas Clarkson carried to within a couple of inches, allowing McGagh to finish the job.

The second wasn’t long in coming. Donnacha Mescal and Sean Molony carried powerfully and when the forwards weren’t getting any reward for their toil under the posts, O’Reilly flung a skip pass right for McMahon to run it over uncontested.

Belvedere were all over the place, and it was all one-way traffic.

The defending champions’ against-all-odds semi-final comeback win over St Michael’s had seemingly drained their reserves and it was evident from the as early as the opening quarter that they were struggling to live with Blackrock’s energy.

Justin Vanstone’s side were clinical in the opening period, and the scoreboard read 21-0 after 15 minutes when Tarrant darted over for a converted score.

Blackrock’s back row unit were immense in hitting rucks hard and ensuring clean ball for O’Reilly and Tarrant to orchestrate proceedings, and with Belvo slow to organise themselves defensively, it was easy pickings.

inpho_01347454 (1) Michael McGagh impressed for Blackrock. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

McGagh is an impressive operator at openside and carried a powerful threat with ball in hand as well as getting through colossal work alongside Josh Dixon, second row Sean O’Brien and Ed Brennan.

It was blindside flanker Dixon who provided the link for a brilliantly executed set-piece move for the match-winning score after Belvo had threatened to mount another unlikely fightback through James Gleeson.

The lineout provided a solid platform and after McGagh and Jack Stapleton had got across the gain line in the middle of the park, O’Reilly and Dixon linked to feed McMahon, who had picked a glorious running line from deep.

The winger still had plenty to do and although he had the supporting and ever-willing Tarrant on his inside shoulder, backed himself to glide past David Lacey and race home, for a 28-7 half-time lead. No coming back from that.

It was a great shame Belvo had started so slowly because there were glimpses in the second half from the Great Denmark Street school of the work-rate and fight which had eluded them in leaking four first-half tries.

Replacement flanker Cian Scott reduced the arrears on the scoreboard after finishing off a powerful and compact rolling maul, but Blackrock were otherwise unwavering in their defensive duty, with Turner leading from the front in that regard.

Then came the coup de grace.

Sean Molony celebrates their second try Sean Molony celebrates Blackrock's fifth try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Tom Maher turned defence into attack with a stunning, slaloming break from his own 22, only bettered by his one-handed offload for winger Harry Donnelly. Belvo scrambled back but the white and blue shirts were there en masse to recycle quickly, with Barron finishing from close range.

Senior Cup winners again in some style.

Belvedere scorers:
Tries: James Gleeson, Cian Scott
Conversions: David Lacey [1 from 2]
Blackrock scorers:
Tries: Michael McGagh, Liam McMahon [2], James Tarrant, Ross Barron.
Conversions: James Tarrant [4 from 4], Stephen Madigan [1 from 1]

BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. David Lacey; 14. Alex O’Grady, 13. Matthew Grogan, 12. Sam Barry, 11. Alistair Loughrey; 10. David Hawkshaw (captain), 9. Ted Walsh; 1. James Gleeson, 2. Luke Harmon, 3. Conor Cagney, 4. Neil Howard, 5. James Murphy, 6. Gerard Hill, 7. Aaron Coleman, 8. Ruadhan Byron.

Replacements: 16. Joseph Haughey, 17. Mateusz Galinski, 18. Jonathan Bell, 19. Mark Daly, 20. Cian Scott, 21. Patrick Lysaght, 22. John Meagher, 23. Jamie O’Grady.

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: 15. Stephen Madigan; 14. Liam McMahon, 13. Liam Turner (captain), 12. Tom Maher, 11. Harry Donnelly; 10. James Tarrant, 9. Louis O’Reilly; 1. Donnacha Mescal, 2. Sean Molony, 3. Thomas Clarkson, 4. Sean O’Brien, 5. Jack Stapleton, 6. Josh Dixon, 7. Michael McGagh, 8. Ed Brennan.

Replacements: 16. Luke Mion, 17. Cian Duffy, 18. Hugo O’Malley, 19. Daniel Foley, 20. Jack Loscher, 21. Ross Barron, 22. Gavin Jones, 23. Rory Madigan.

Referee: Nigel Correll.

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Ryan Bailey

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