Wednesday 21 August 2019

Power pounces to steal it for teak-tough 'Rock

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

If there has been a better final in this competition than the pulsating clash at the RDS, then I cannot recall it.

Eventual winners Blackrock College and defending champions St Michael's slugged it out in a hugely entertaining encounter that enthralled from first whistle to last.

Blackrock sealed a title which they are pretty well acquainted with as the much coveted trophy made its way to Williamstown for the 67th time.

But spare a thought for Michael's, who fought back from a 16-7 deficit to control the second half and appeared to have it in the bag only to be outplayed by a 'Rock squad that, similar to their semi-final win at the death over Roscrea, showed they simply don't know when they are beaten.

The lead changed hands four times, but it was the quality of the rugby, the intensity of the tackling, the accuracy of the kicking, the security in the catching and the impact of the chasing that had the massive crowd on the edge of their seats on a bitterly cold March day.

It was a shame that there had to be a loser after a game of such outstanding quality.

Within the opening quarter of an hour the lead changed hands twice. Blackrock's Gary Ringrose stroked over a second-minute penalty, but Michael's responded.

Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Matt Gilsenan and Cian Kelleher all combined when taking play up to the 'Rock line for McCarthy to find skipper Ross Molony on the most delicious inside angle to the try line. Byrne converted.

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Ringrose then added a second penalty in the 11th minute to narrow the gap to one before turning the game on its head when dispossessing No 8 Josh Murphy on the charge well inside his own half before racing 60 metres to the opposition line.

With unerring accuracy he added the extras to give his side a 13-7 lead. When Peter Quirke then tagged on a beautifully struck drop-goal, it looked ominous for the holders.

But with the inspirational Molony seemingly everywhere and with fellow lock James Ryan not far behind him, slowly but surely their fightback began.


First Alex Penny crossed on 22 minutes but failed to ground thanks to an extraordinary cover tackle by David O'Connor.

However, four minutes later they eventually did get their try when a typically dynamic maul, with Molony at the hub, provided the forward momentum for the near faultless Kelleher to sidestep his way in, leaving Byrne to add the extras. 'Rock went in at the break with a 16-14 lead.

At this stage the game and the title was anyone's as Michael's, inspired by a master class in tactical kicking from Byrne, took control. The out-half registered penalties in the 42nd and 52nd minutes to give Michael's a 20-16 lead, which was fully reflective of the balance of play at that point.

'Rock were rattled and finding it extremely difficult to establish field position for Ringrose to do his thing. It would require something inspirational and in the 64th minute it came courtesy of winger Sean Coughlan.

His mazy run not alone lifted the siege but took 'Rock deep into the Michael's half.

Ringrose, Dane Fitzpatrick and Jack Power then combined for the latter to dive in for the match-winning try at the corner. Ringrose added the icing from the touchline as the most resilient team in the tournament did it the hard way yet again.

Blackrock – J Power; Z O'Hagan (L O'Dea 8 (S Kearns 58)), G Ringrose, S Lawton, S Coughlan; P Quirke, C Rock (capt); J Loughman, T Cooke, O Jager; D O'Connor, G Fenn; R Tyrell (D Fitzpatrick 56), D Fortune (J Dwan 33), N Timoney

St Michael's – C Kelleher; M O'Hare, A Leavy (M O'Keefe 17), M Gilsenan, D Green; R Byrne, N McCarthy; H Redmond, R Allen, D Coulson; R Molony (capt), J Ryan; C Cregan, A Penny, J Murphy

Ref – S Gallagher (LRR)

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