Belvo's brilliance edges favourites in nine-try Cup epic
Belvedere 35-29 Blackrock
Seventy minutes couldn’t separate Blackrock and Belvedere when the two sides met a fortnight ago and right down to the last play of yesterday’s sensational quarter-final replay, it could have gone either way.
Blackrock stumbled at the quarter-final stage last year when they were beaten by the eventual winners and although Belvo face a 10-day turnaround before they face St Michael’s in the last four, they will be hoping that yesterday’s stunning victory leads them down the same path as Roscrea.
In the drawn game, both defences came out on top as 20 points were shared evenly but that was turned on its head yesterday as the attacking play was truly a joy to watch.
Belvo scored five tries to Rock’s four as two exceptional teams racked up 64 points between them in one of the best games in recent schools history.
It had the feel of a final before a ball was even kicked and the packed crowd wasn’t disappointed. The new 4G surface at Donnybrook continues to allow expansive game-plans to thrive and the hope is that these future stars will continue in a similar vein.
Rock’s pack was much more powerful and although they scored three tries off rolling mauls, Belvo proved that even nowadays when players are becoming much bigger and stronger, brain can still be better than brawn.
Belvo had built up a four-point lead at the break (23-19) and although Rock came storming back into the lead, they never panicked.
Rock made one change from the drawn game with Hugo Burke getting the nod at openside flanker and it proved to be an inspired decision as he scored a hat-trick of tries. David Hawkshaw got Belvo off to a flying start after four minutes when he scored the first of his two tries when he collected Hugo Sexton’s exquisite offload.
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Rock managed to respond shortly after when Burke dotted down for his first try and James McGowan converted. A Conor Jennings penalty put Belvo back in front but not for long as Conor Dean got over with McGowan again on hand to fire over the extras.
Belvo’s Senan McNulty was shown a yellow card for tackling a player without the ball and Rock punished them when Burke scored his second try from another rolling maul as Rock built up an 11-point lead (19-8) after 25 minutes.
But Belvo showed great character to hit back with a Jennings penalty and a brilliant try from Peter Maher after Hawkshaw’s pass took out three defenders. Jennings added the extras and there was still time left in a breathless half for Maher to score his second try following a scintillating break from Hugh O’Sullivan.
Burke completed his hat-trick three minutes after the restart and McGowan converted to put Rock back into a 26-23 lead but tries from the impressive Tom De Jongh (converted by Jennings) and another from Hawkshaw swung the momentum back in Belvo’s favour.
McGowan’s 62nd-minute penalty left Rock within a converted try of keeping alive their cup hopes but Belvo’s remarkably disciplined defence held firm.
And so it is Belvedere who take a giant step closer to ending their eight-year wait for a title as another chance passes a hugely talented Blackrock team by.
One can only hope that the remainder of the competition is half as exciting as this unforgettable thriller.
Blackrock College – J McGowan; P Patterson, G Mullin, L Turner, C Kelly (F Power 60); C Dean, L Gaffney (P Cullen 60); E Burns (G Coyne 60), S McLoughlin (H Egleston 66), R Mouatt (C Connolly 60); C O’Flaherty (J Gardiner 60), C Ryan; R Dunne, H Burke (J Fairley 47), C Doris (capt).
Belvedere College – H O’Sullivan; J McKeown, C Jennings, H Sexton, P Maher; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney (F Flood 68); D McCaffrey, C Galvin, C Walsh; H Fenlon (J Iredale 60), B Egan (capt); S McNulty (J Kenny 60), M Kearney, T De Jongh.
REF – D Blake