BELVEDERE COLLEGE 16 BLACKROCK COLLEGE 10 THERE were scenes of unbridled joy at Lansdowne Road yesterday as Belvedere College bridged a thirty-three year gap in taking the Powerade Leinster Schools Senior Cup back across the Liffey for the first time since 1972.
And let there be no doubt in anyone's mind but that the best organised team in the entire competition, playing the most committed and most rounded rugby has eventually come through.
The two big questions asked of them before yesterday's final showdown was whether or not they could match 'Rock at the breakdown and around the fringes.
And secondly whether they could put the shackles on the player who had been the star of the competition to date - Luke Fitzgerald in midfield.
On both counts they came up trumps and, as in the semi-final against St Mary's, it made for the definitive team victory on this the biggest schoolboy stage of all.
They were heroes throughout the field but, in particular, the contributions of Cian Healy and David Gilchrist up front and Ian Keatley behind were again immense.
For 'Rock Cian Culleton was a colossus but in truth this day and this match belonged to the team in black.
Backed by the strong wind blowing in from the Havelock Square end they took the lead some twelve minutes in with a near carbon copy of the opening score against St Mary's.
Brian Moran did the initial damage with a bulldozing run before off-loading to Eoin O'Malley and on to Keatley in support.
It took play up to the 'Rock line and from the ensuing ruck Keatley picked out right wing Peter Woods with the most precise cross-field lob. With the 'Rock defence squeezed tight, it represented innovation and execution at its best.
Blackrock threatened on occasion particularly when Vasaya Artemiev had the ball, one chip and chase, cleverly covered by the ever alert Eoin O'Malley, bringing him close.
But Belvo were looking comfortable, composed and hugely committed at the breakdown and in response Culleton was the only 'Rock player to manage any sort of meaningful inroads.
Belvedere needed and deserved another score before the interval and opportunistically it came with Robert Fitzgerald's courage and determination in blocking down Ian Madigan's attempted clearance before winning the race to the touchdown effectively turning the match Belvo's way. Given the context it was in many ways the match defining moment.
'Rock hit back immediately after the break when Fitzgerald landed a penalty from wide on the left.
But within minutes the same player failed to find Niall Morris on his shoulder when a safely delivered pass would surely have seen the full-back race in close to the posts. The pass went to ground as did so many 'Rock attacking plays that followed.
A Keatley penalty struck with such assurance (55 mins) added to the 'Rock woe and when the same player landed the sweetest drop goal (64 mins) off his unaccustomed left for a 16-3 lead the thirty-three year dream was about to become a reality.
'Rock battled back with Darren O'Reilly last to emerge following the most meaningful maul of the match.
Fitzgerald converted but with Gilchrist and Healy to the fore Belvo continued to dominate close in.
'Rock had one final opportunity in injury time when the hard working Morris just failed to put Artemiev away, the final pass drifting forward. Within seconds Alan Lewis had blown the final whistle. 'Rock were devastated, Belvo in seventh heaven.
The 15,000 crowd stood and clapped in appreciation. Justice was done, the sleeping black and white giant had finally re-awoken.
SCORERS - Belvedere 16 (P Woods try, R Fitzgerald try, I Keatley pen, drop goal) Blackrock 10 (D O'Reilly try, L Fitzgerald pen, con).
BLACKROCK COLLEGE - N Morris; R Keaveney (J Coleman 56), L Fitzgerald, F Moran (E Fleck 35), V Artemiev; I Madigan, D Moore; C Culleton, E Mullen (E Baker blood inj 44-51), E O Cuilleanain; P Ryan, B Cawley (D O'Connor 57); Z Farivarz, M Lynch, D O'Reilly (capt).
BELVEDERE COLLEGE - C Murphy; P Woods, E O'Malley, B Moran, L Power; I Keatley, P O'Donohoe; M Cuddy, C Healy, E Byrne; C Pendred, G O'Rourke; R Fitzgerald, R Carson (capt) (D Synnott 47), D Gilchrist.
REF - A Lewis (IRFU).