Old habits die hard as 'Rock rule Leinster
Blackrock Col 24-14 St Mary's Col
It was goodbye to the old Donnybrook and hello to the new Energia Park as the signs were unveiled yesterday when hosting the final of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup at the headquarters of the underage game.
A new and welcome sponsor in a ten-year naming rights arrangement between Leinster Rugby and Energia but old habits die harder still as Blackrock went about their business in the usual winning way, courtesy of a 51st title at JCT level.
In the end, 10 points separated the sides but that should not mask what was another hugely competitive showing from a talented St Mary's group that has grown in confidence with every game. 'Rock deserved their win but it wasn't until the final minutes that it was copperfastened courtesy of a magnificent touchline conversion by out-half Michael Moloney to Max Patterson's 56th-minute pushover try.
Up to that point there had been precious little in it with the Rathmines school taking up where they left off against Belvedere in the semi-final.
They needed to hit the ground running and did when - with hooker Matthew Black and workaholic centre Robert Nolan prominent - skipper Adam Mulvihill created a bit of history when crossing for Energia Park's first ever try and with equally excellent full-back Max Svejdar adding the extras.
That came in the 10th minute but immediately this immensely strong Blackrock side upped the ante with the classy Tom Henderson on the end of a Moloney pass to cross next to the posts for the former to convert.
That was in the 18th minute and following a bout of incessant Mary's pressure with Black, John Kennedy and Adam Sloan to the fore, the 'Rock defence stood firm and, in the final minute of the half, Ben Brownlee took a pass from Thomas Quinn to cross the Mary's line. Moloney again converted as Blackrock edged in front for a lead they were never to relinquish.
They continued to turn the screw upon the restart, with bruising lock Rory McGuire starting the second half just as he had the first by way of a trademark bulldozing run. Moloney again did the needful courtesy of a relatively easy penalty awarded for a dangerous tackle just four minutes in.
At 17-7, it looked ominous for St Mary's, yet slowly but surely they worked their way back and when Daniel Leane crossed for a well-deserved try in the 44th minute, Svejdar's sweetly-struck conversion narrowed the gap to three and, at 17-14, it was game on.
However, when it was most needed, the best all-round squad in the competition dug deep again - with Moloney's kick to the corner in the final few minutes setting up the lineout for Niall Brophy to fetch, for the pack to rumble and for Patterson to touch down.
Moloney's superb kick sealed the win but St Mary's had done themselves and their school proud. That said, the cup once again rests where it is most deserved for 2018.
Blackrock - C O'Brien; H Whelan, T Henderson, B Brownlee, M Nealon; M Moloney (D Stafford 58) , T Quinn; D Walsh, M Byrnes (M Patterson 7); S Barron; N Golden, R McGuire; A Simpson (N Brophy 52); J Culhane (capt) (S Loscher 39), S Dempsey.
St Mary's - M Svejdar; R Moore, R Nolan, B O'Loughlin, S Czerniak; D Gilbourne (E Feeney 35) , S Devereux; C Dillon (A Gibbons 33), M Black, A Mulvihill (capt); D Leane, H Massey (G O'Moore 33); W Sparrow (M Gallagher 33), J Kennedy, A Sloan.
Ref - C Hogan (ARLB)