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Dublin: 4°C Monday 1 March 2021

Classy Cosgrave kicks St Michael's to victory over Blackrock

Flanker Mark Hernan led an immensely physical pack effort to set up a semi-final with Belvedere on 6 March.

Blackrock College 10

St Michael’s College 16

Sean Farrell reports from Donnybrook

BRIMMING WITH INTENSE physicality, high skill levels and immense drama from start to finish. This match was well worth the wait.

Illness forced this Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final to be postponed a fortnight ago, but neither side looked the slightest bit under the weather as they went toe to toe for 7o minutes.

St Michael’s won out to set up a semi-final clash with Belvedere thanks to a dynamic attack that went about its business with slick precision.

While Jack Guinane and John Fish were immense in the St Michael’s pack, centre Chris Cosgrave led the high standards in the back-line, providing a lightning-quick outside option on top of nerveless goal-kicking capped by a sublime 62nd-minute strike.

Chris Cosgrave kicks a conversion Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Though they trailed 13-0 at half-time, Blackrock did not balk the task of reeling in the deficit and did their best to set up a grandstand finish thanks to Scott Barron’s late try.

Michael’s had to bide their time before putting their stamp on the game as their fierce rivals in Dublin 4 mounted concerted early pressure with captain Sean O’Brien and second row Mark Morrissey to the fore.

The solid hits kept coming from Emmet MacMahon’s men, however, and despite a shaky first turn with the ball and an attacking line-out malfunction, they scored on their second visit to opposition territory.

Stephen Woods rose to claim a nerve-settling clean line-out and a powerful run of pick-and-drives took Michael’s within 10 metres before a penalty was awarded.

Cosgrave slotted his shot between the sticks despite the derision from the stands. But his next act cut ‘Rock wide open. The 13, who played out-half in the last round, broke outside his opposite number Ronan McGoldrick and powered from his own half to the Blackrock 22.

He passed inside to Robert Gilsenan in support, but the sky blue and white jerseys had scrambled well in defence and managed to slow up the move and force a knock-on in the phases that followed.

Michael’s forward pack ensured the territory would not be wasted. Led by Jack Boyle and Fionn Finlay they won the scrum against the head to force an attacking set-piece. And from there the heavy hitters went to work again. While the backs fanned out in the hope of a loose play, Finlay and Hickey made big carries under the posts and lock Fish planted the ball against the pads to earn the score.

Despite their early onslaught, Blackrock found themselves 10 points adrift and the deficit would extend out to 13-0 by the half-time interval. Their best chance of the first period came thanks to Chris Rolland.

The fullback pounced on a bouncing ball kicked his way and scythed through the fractured defence. Niall Comerford was on his fullback’s shoulder and stormed through towards the Michael’s 22, stopped only by a desperate diving ankle tap from his opposite number Andrew Smith.

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Jack Guinane celebrates with Simon O'Kelly Jack Guinane celebrates with Simon O'Kelly. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

There was more helter-skelter rugby to come before the half was out. Simon O’Kelly advanced into open space off an intercept. Though his pass towards Mark O’Brien went to ground, Michael’s advanced until Smith was taken high on the 22, allowing Cosgrave to raise the flags again.

Justin Vanstone’s men refused to be counted out. Wing Ben White, sin-binned for taking out Michael’s captain Mark Hernan before half-time, returned to the field in time to join a prolonged bout of pressure as ‘Rock searched for a score to bring the game back into the mixer.

Twice they forced their way over the line and twice referee Nigel Correll ruled the ball was held up. MacMahon’s men dug deep to keep their sheet clean and Jack Guinane’s huge hit to force a spill from Cullen was a welcome release valve.

Though David Fitzgibbon got points on the board for his side’s efforts, once back in enemy territory and with a penalty in the offing, Cosgrave elected to take a sighter with his terrific right boot. From all of 45 metres, his shot struck the posts. A 62nd minute penalty to allow Cosgrave take aim from within his range and his sweet strike did not disappoint.

Blackrock College players ahead of the game Blackrock players and fans in Donnybrook. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Yet still they could not count themselves as home and hosed as ‘Rock blasted their way into attacking gear searching for anything to reignite the contest. And they found it through Barron’s late score.

The nerves were palpable as the clock ticked down, but the brilliant Mark Hernan bravely shot up to annex a late attacking wave and intercepted the pass to bring a rapturous and relieved roar from the St Michel’s support.

They have 10 days to rest up and recover before facing Belvedere.


Blackrock College:

Tries: S Barron
Conversions: T Gavigan (1/1)
Penalties: D Fitzgibbon (1/1)

St Michael’s

Tries: J Fish
Conversions: C Cosgrave (1/1)
Penalties: C Cosgrave (3/4)

Blackrock College: Chris Rolland (Jeff Kenny ’51), Niall Comerford, Ronan McGoldrick (Tim D’Arcy ’65), Gavin Jones, Ben White, David Fitzgibbon (Tom Gavigan ’59), Matthew Cullen: Luke Mion (Aaron Rowan ’59), Stephen Dunne (Scott Barron ’37), Hugo O’Malley (Rory McGuire ’59); Mark Morrissey (Conor McAleer ’65), Joseph McCarthy, Sean O’Brien (Capt) Jack Loscher (Matthew Flynn ’56), Ed Brennan.

St Michael’s College: Andrew Smith (Rohan van den Akker ’65), Edward Kelly, Chris Cosgrave, Simon O’Kelly, Mark O’Brien, Niall Carroll, Robert Gilsenan:
Jack Boyle, Lee Barron, Fionn Finlay (James Power ’54), Stephen Woods (Tom Gavigan ’61), John Fish, Jack Guinane, Mark Hernan (Capt), Will Hickey.

Replacements not used: Joey Boland, Ben Victory, Luke Fehily, Jeffrey Woods, Hugo McWade.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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