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Gerard's rock senior party

St Gerard's, with Evening Herald columnist Eric Miller as coach, are no longer a school that make up the numbers in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup as they dumped out the reigning champions Blackrock College at Donnybrook yesterday.

The league champions, with barely a quarter of the playing numbers that 'Rock can rely on, deservedly took their place in the Cup semi-finals with a 7-0 win.

After the first 35 minutes, a missed Blackrock penalty was the closest either side had come to a score as the sides cancelled each other out in almost every facet.

Scrums were even, Gerard's steadied the line-out after losing possession on their first throw and the ball spent an undesirable amount of time in the air, although both full-backs coped admirably with the Garryowens.

Forays into the opposition 22 were rare, if not quite non-existent, as the rival packs sized each other up in the opening exchanges.


The Gerard's back-row did, however, hint at the influence they would exert in the second half. Stephen Hackett-Delaney, aided by Finn Boylan, put in a thunderous hit on Blackrock's Con Sheehan, and Jack Conan, who put in a man-of-the-match performance, snaffled up an interception and looked set for a try, only to be pulled back for a marginal offside call.

After some ferocious exchanges, injuries dominated the half-time discussion. Both No 9s had been forced off before the break -- Blackrock's Marcus Walsh succumbed to a shoulder injury he carried into the game, and St Gerard's captain Robbie Glynn was also replaced after picking up a knock.

Thankfully, the second period offered much better fare. Miller's half-time team-talk seemed to strike a chord with the Wicklow side as they showed more adventure with ball in hand, looking to spread the play wide.

Steve Crosbie's kicking was right on the money all afternoon and it was his break that set up the game's decisive moment. On 40 minutes, the Bray out-half created space with a jink and tore through the heart of the defence before handing off Blackrock No 8 Richard Marsh.

Centre Rian O'Loughlin did brilliantly to get alongside his No 10 and his angled run was superb as he eluded another Blackrock defender to crash over and prompt delirious celebrations among the Gerard's support. Full-back Josh Glynn kept his nerve to add the extras.

The Blackrock backlash didn't come immediately as a number of handling errors halted their momentum and on the odd occasion they did threaten, the superb Conan was on hand to plug the gap.

'Rock centre Caolann Fitzpatrick carried the fight in the final quarter and he was at the centre of the move that saw Blackrock almost get over the line, only to be held up by some magnificent last-ditch defending.

Further attacks were thwarted by a combination of knock-ons and more terrific Bray defending.