Saturday 21 April 2018

McMahon provides inspiration as rampaging 'Rock produce perfect performance

Blackrock College 35 Belvedere College 12

Blackrock College captain Liam Turner lifts the cup with his teamates. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Blackrock College captain Liam Turner lifts the cup with his teamates. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Blackrock chose the biggest day on the schools rugby calendar to produce their most complete display of the season.

With it came Senior Cup crown number 69 to add to the 51st Junior Cup won in midweek and in the process a 27th double at under 16 and under 19 age grades for the Williamstown school that continues to set the highest standards.

And, as 'Rock final deliveries go, this was one to rank with the very best. That is saying something given the number of wins allied to outstanding performances down through the years.

It was not rugby perfection, but aside from the opening Belvo salvo, allied to James Gleeson's 28th-minute try converted by David Lacey, it was 'Rock in total control in most every facet throughout an extraordinary first half in almost perfect conditions at the RDS.

Blackrock's Liam McMahon beats the tackle by David Lacey of Belvedere College on his way to scoring his side's fourth. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Blackrock's Liam McMahon beats the tackle by David Lacey of Belvedere College on his way to scoring his side's fourth. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Four first-half tries, with three converted by the outstanding James Tarrant, and one by the equally impressive Stephen Madigan, made for a proverbial mountain for the cup holders to climb in the second period if they were to hold on to that much-coveted trophy for the third year running.

They had started well, with skipper David Hawkshaw back from injury and looking like he'd never been away, courtesy of a deft chip and gather in the opening attack. The Blackrock 'scramble defence' managed to bundle supporting centre Matthew Grogan into touch and the danger was averted.

Little did we know then what a pivotal moment it was to prove but given what followed its context was massive.

Much like Ireland in Twickenham last Saturday, Blackrock soaked up early pressure with control the operative word.

From one to 15 they were superb in that opening period with numbers almost meaningless as backs and forwards interchanged seamlessly.

They hinted at greater things to come in the semi-final and they duly delivered on the biggest stage.

Belvedere's James Murphy is tackled by Tom Maher, left, and Jack Stapleton of Blackrock College. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Belvedere's James Murphy is tackled by Tom Maher, left, and Jack Stapleton of Blackrock College. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It was difficult not to feel for Belvedere given the perfect storm that came their way in that opening half.

Flanker Michael McGagh, brilliant winger Liam McMahon twice (bear in mind he is a converted No 8) and the inspirational Tarrant all crossed the Belvo whitewash and with Thomas Clarkson and Sean Molony also going close, the damage could have been worse.

To their credit, Belvo came back out with all guns blazing. They threw everything at the pre-tournament favourites but aside from a Cian Scott try in the 52nd minute that was as good as it got.

Here again the 'Rock defence was outstanding in that period of pressure. And when replacement scrum-half Ross Barron rubbed salt into the already gaping wound courtesy of a fifth 'Rock try following more intelligent driving, it meant the champions elect had taken both halves on the scoreboard.

The final difference fully reflected what had gone before as Liam Turner and his talented squad of 2018 got what they deserved. It made for a high quality match in which both teams did themselves proud and 'Rock again a class apart.

Blackrock - S Madigan; L McMahon (R Madigan 65), L Turner (capt), T Maher (G Jones 68), H Donnelly; J Tarrant, L O'Reilly (R Barron 47); D Mescal (C Duffy 47), S Molony (L Mion 68), T Clarkson (H O'Malley 68); S O'Brien (D Foley 68), J Stapleton; J Dixon,(J Burke 40) M McGagh and E Brennan.

Belvedere - D Lacey; A O'Grady, M Grogan (J O'Grady), S Barry, A Loughrey; D Hawkshaw (capt), T Walsh (P Lysaght 46); J Gleeson (M Galinski 46), L Harmon (J Haughey 66), C Cagney (J Bell 46); N Howard (C Scott 46), J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman and R Byron.

Ref - N Correll (ARLB)

Irish Independent

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