Kingston class seals Rock bliss
Blackrock 18 Terenure 9
The cream rose to the top yesterday as Blackrock College emerged deserving winners of this coveted crown for the 66th time by overcoming Terenure in front of 12,880 spectators at the RDS.
Robert Duke and his Terenure team gave it their all and much like Ireland at Murrayfield last Saturday -- despite playing second fiddle for most of the first half -- trailed by just three points at the break.
But, unlike the Scots, this is a talented 'Rock unit of many parts. They continued the second half as they finished the first and eventually the totality of their play was rewarded with two tries worthy of winning any match, but particularly one of this magnitude and intensity.
Despite going behind to a Brian Kingston penalty in the second minute, the 'Nure settled quickly and effectively and for the nervy opening quarter gave every bit as good as they got.
Their opening points and equalising score after five minutes came at the end of attacking movements embracing superb ball-handling skills involving forwards and backs and stretching the width of the field. Appropriately, it was their most accomplished out-half, James Thornton, who was the instigator and finisher.
Thornton initiated the build-up by way of a superb floated pass to Dominic O'Dowd. Duke and Paddy McCormack supplied the all-important link, before Thornton added the coup de grace by way of the most cheeky but deserving of drop goals.
The 'Rock cage was rattled, the response immediate as they controlled both territory and possession for the remainder of the half .
Three times they were almost in. First the outstanding Brendan Macken (one destined surely for greater things) set Calum Rowden racing up the left only for an extraordinarily brave body-on-the-line tackle from James O'Donoghue to save his side from conceding the opening try.
Then Kingston's long and accurate passing set the ever-dangerous Macken on an arcing run to the right corner, only to lose his footing within metres of the line.
Finally, a sweeping run the length of the field sparked by Paul O'Shea and involving the workaholic Jordi Murphy, flanker Richard Liddy and Rowden, culminated in the last following his own delicately placed grubber and just failing to make the touchdown. A late Kingston penalty for a 6-3 lead at the break made for little resemblance to what had gone before.
But just four minutes in came a try worthy in itself of separating the sides. From a scrum on the left, the ball moved through the halves before reaching Macken. His delicately delivered pass to Rowden -- in off his wing and steaming through the centre -- cut the 'Nure midfield apart. The lightening-quick Andrew Conway was on hand to complete the most brilliantly executed pre-rehearsed move.
But this is a resilient 'Nure side full of character and in the 46th minute a Thornton penalty narrowed the gap to just a try (11-6). But the work-rate of 'Rock skipper Murphy, of blind-side Dylan Fawsitt and of No 8 Conor Barry was infectious and denied 'Nure even the minutest of space around the fringes or outside of Thornton. Murphy up-front was, like Macken in midfield, a colossal presence.
Coming up to the hour, Kingston's razor-sharp footballing brain spotted the gap -- following another Liddy counter surge -- to race in from 35 metres and unopposed under the posts. The No 10 added the extras before his opposite number, Thornton, completed the scoring when tacking on his second successful penalty after 61 minutes for all nine of his side's points on the day.
But that was as good as it got with the 'Rock line holding firm and taking the coveted trophy back to its most familiar resting place.
Blackrock -- A Conway; L McHugh, B Macken, K Curran (C Fitzpatrick 64), C Rowden; B Kingston, P O'Shea; D Buckley, P Kilcoyne, A Lyons; J O'Beirne, J Murphy (Capt); D Fawsitt, R Liddy, C Barry.
Terenure -- J O'Donoghue; C Kelly, R Williamson, D O'Dowd (M Hyland 65), H Moore; J Thornton, K O'Neill (N Casey 58); P McCormack, S Reid, R Burdock; R Duke (Capt), C Deans; A Clarkin (S Doherty 61), C Shanahan (G O'Doherty 69), E Joyce.
Ref -- D Phillips (Leinster Branch).