Clarke magic bags Belvo a rematch

Des Berry

THE finishing prowess of Rory Clarke  was decisive in seeing Belvedere through to a Beauchamps Leinster Schools Junior Cup final rendezvous with Blackrock from the second semi-final at Donnybrook on Tuesday.



The same schools convened for last year's final with 'Rock emerging 17-10 winners to leave Belvedere still looking for their first Junior Cup since 2005.

This was a deceptive contest in that St Michael's made most of the early running without getting the reward for their territory and Belvo' proceeded to strike for stunning effect with two tries from Clarke and one from fly-half David Hawkshaw.

"We had minimal chances, but we made the most of them," said Belvedere coach Stu Wheeler. "We are not the biggest team going around. We fight for over scraps and what scraps we get, we use as best we can."

There was little to separate these two at the three-quarter hour mark, the primary difference being Belvedere's clinical edge inside the red zone as they defended. Where St Michael's had pieced many phases of positive rugby together in the first half, Belvedere made themselves busy in defence where they were disciplined and aggressive.

It was full-back Clarke's sharp feet that split the St Michael's defence in the 24th minute and the accurate boot of left wing Dylan Corrigan-Forbes with five points had Belvo' 10-6 ahead.

It was informative that the Aylesbury Road school had to settle with penalties from their fly-half Harry Byrne in the 30th and 45th minutes leaving the game in the balance.

This was the cue for Clarke to accelerate between defenders for his second try in the 49th minute and for Hawkshaw to pop up with a breakaway effort from fully 65 metres, Corrigan-Forbes stitching on the conversion for an unassailable 22-6 in the 54th minute.

St Michael's did not drop their heads. They stayed with their patterns and eventually found the try they had been looking for from centre Chris Carey, Byrne converting from the left. By then, it was too little, too late. "It was an outstanding defensive performance from everyone out on the field. They tackled their hearts out," said Wheeler.

It is this attention to defence that will form the basis of their challenge to an impressive 'Rock, who had taken care of Terenure 41-3 in the first semi-final on Sunday.

Belvedere: R Clarke; M Donnelly, C Walsh, P Smith, D Corrigan-Forbes; D Hawkshaw, H O'Sullivan; S Osborne, G Murray, J Robinson; D Ring, D McKenna; R Byron, C Byrne, M Kearney (capt). Replacements: P Maher for Smith 50 mins; A Grennell for Murray 52 mins; J Doorley for Byron, C Doran for Walsh both 56 mins; O O'Brien for McKenna 58 mins.

St Michael's: R Franklin; I Walsh, C Carey, I O'Kelly, R Dix; H Byrne, P O'Beirne; D Thompson, M Kennedy (capt), A Deegan; J Dunne, B Leahy; R Murphy, S Penny, D O'Donovan. Replacements: R Kelly for Frankling 45 mins; S Judge for Murphy 49 mins; R Melvin for Deegan 56 mins; M Corcoran for O'Kelly 57 mins.

Referee: N Correll, Leinster Branch.