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'Rock roll in thriller

The sport of rugby is in safe hands as Brian O'Driscoll continues his final lap before retirement with the Beauchamps Leinster Schools Senior Cup remaining in the grip of his alma mater Blackrock College after what can only be described as a classic 22-17 victory over Clongowes Wood College at the RDS on Sunday.

Former Leinster hooker Peter Smyth, the 'Rock head coach, was gracious in his praise of his players and those of Clongowes Wood in what was a renewal to match, even surpass, last year's 23-20 edge-of-the-seat win over St Michael's.

"It was an unbelievable game. You know, there was probably more drama this year than last year," he said.

How right he was. Blackrock started out as if there was nowhere else the trophy was going except back to Williamstown for the 68th time.

From the off, they looked to blow Clongowes away with their heavier, more powerful pack setting the tone against a watertight defence in which captain Fergal Cleary was immense.

Eventually, the weight of pressure had to translate into points, flanker Conor Oliver sneaking down the short side for the first try, Hugo Keenan latching onto Jack Power's pass for the second, both converted by fly-half Sean Kearns for 14-0 before the interval.

It looked like the dam had been burst. That was to reckon without what Clongowes held in the locker. It was time to show the ball-in-hand brilliance to go alongside their defiant defence.

Full-back Alan Hughes kicked the points to bolster tries from Cleary and left wing Cian O'Donoghue for unanswered 17 points that altered the landscape beyond recognition.

The key was the calmness 'Rock showed in clawing their way back in front from a Kearns penalty and the final try from captain Nick Timoney in the 63rd minute.

"In fairness to Clongowes, I really do feel for them. I think a draw might have been a fair result. I have so much sympathy for them. I thought their defence was heroic," said Smyth.

Perhaps, the reason for the composure came from the large cluster of 'Rock players back from last year. They had been there before and come through. They never hit the panic button.

"I'm so proud of them, the way they went to the well," added Smyth.

"They've been going to the well all year. It was a great test for them. We are a big school and they do demand success. Luckily, enough, we've been able to deliver."


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