O'Flaherty stars in PBC triumph
PRESENTATION Brothers College Cork claimed their 28th Munster title yesterday, moving level with great rivals CBC Cork, after a deserved victory over a game but out-classed Rockwell outfit.
Centre Daniel Horgan was the two-try hero in front of a crowd of 5,000 but there were notable performances up front from No 8 Cathal O'Flaherty, tenacious open-side Jack Duffy, hooker Brian Vaughan and joint captains, second-row David O'Mahony and prop Niall Scannell.
Rockwell out-half JJ Hanrahan scored all the Tipperary school's points and when he converted his own try with three minutes left, adding to his earlier penalty, Rockwell, inspired by barnstorming No 8 Luke Cahill, pushed hard for an equalising score.
Instead, substitute prop Killian Kingston put the seal on Pres' victory in injury time and when referee Leo Colgan blew the final whistle shortly afterwards, Cork joy was unrestrained.
It was a bitter blow for Rockwell, who lost last year's decider to CBC, but they can take pride in a performance that never wanted for effort. Their powerful pack had Pres in trouble in the scrum and Cahill and second-row Sean McCarthy (a nephew of Munster legend Mick Galwey) did considerable damage on the charge.
The clash of the No 8s was compelling viewing: O'Flaherty is the rangier player, excellent out of touch and an extremely athletic ball-carrier, while Cahill was direct and abrasive throughout.
Pres have a record for producing quality scrum-halves going back to Peter Stringer and Brian O'Meara in the 1990s. Ronan Barry, their No 9 yesterday, was physical and busy behind his pack and provided good service for assured-looking out-half Sean Og Murphy.
Pres made a whirlwind start and had the game's first score after just three minutes when accomplished phase play saw Horgan power his way over on the right, with Murphy adding the extras for 7-0.
Rockwell were visibly rattled and the Cork school sought to exploit the nerves in the Tipperary ranks which led to persistent handling errors in promising positions. However, the Rockwell blitz defence was smothering Pres ambition and they began to settle into the game. With 15 minutes gone a late challenge on Rockwell's lively full-back Brian O'Rahilly afforded Hanrahan a penalty that he knocked over for 7-3.
It was Rockwell's turn to apply the pressure and after shunting Pres off their own scrum ball, good work by O'Rahilly and McCarthy had their opponents scrambling in defence.
However, a great break by Murphy relieved the pressure and PBC, with Vaughan to the fore, finished the half strongly with Murphy kicking a penalty for 10-3 and Vaughan being denied what looked like a legitimate try when the referee could not be certain he had grounded the ball.
Rockwell had to start the second half strongly but Pres came at them again, a beautiful off-load by O'Mahony setting O'Flaherty free on a wonderful, weaving 40-metre run. That attack was seen off and Hanrahan and Cahill tried desperately to drag their team back into it, the No 8 matching O'Flaherty's effort with a searing break of his own only for his Pres counterpart to pull off the covering tackle.
And it was PBC who struck next when indecision in the Rockwell back line just outside their own 22 saw Horgan pounce for a gleefully accepted intercept try, converted by Murphy for 17-3 with 10 minutes left.
It looked like game over but Rockwell refused to lie down and Hanrahan took advantage of some relaxed tackling to crash over under the posts and converted for 17-10. However, any notions of an equalising converted try were dashed by Kingston burrowing over after concerted pressure in the left-hand corner.
A deserved win, an entertaining final and two back-rows in O'Flaherty and Cahill that we might be seeing a lot more of in years to come.
PBC CORK -- S Glynn; E Dennehy, J Costigan, D Horgan, R Caplice; S Óg Murphy, R Barry; C Keane (K Kingston 65), B Vaughan, N Scannell; R Herlihy, D O'Mahony; B Carroll (R Murphy 52), J Duffy, C O'Flaherty. Reps: B Scott, B Coughlan, E Mills, E O'Shaughnessy, R Cullinane all 67.
ROCKWELL -- B O'Rahilly; S Horgan, H McNulty, D McGillicuddy, R Mullane; JJ Hanrahan, T Rafferty (B Haugh 61); T Doyle, R Moran, C O'Donnell; S McCarthy, S McGuire; S Buckley (capt), J Meagher, L Cahill. Reps: E Phelan, M Cummins, A O'Sullivan, Myles Coffey, D White, C Hyland all 67.
REF -- L Colgan (MAR).