Friday 15 December 2017

Outstanding Michael's lay down early title marker

St Michael's 36
Belvedere 8
Leinster schools senior cup

Mark Corballis of St Michael's College hands off Cillian O'Sullivan of Belvedere College during their first round of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. Photo: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile
Mark Corballis of St Michael's College hands off Cillian O'Sullivan of Belvedere College during their first round of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. Photo: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Last year's beaten finalists St Michael's announced their renewed intent with a six-try extravaganza against Belvedere at Donnybrook yesterday.

By any standard this was impressive, as this multi-talented squad hit the 2011 competition running.

St Michael's high-tempo, all-action game is underpinned by great attacking variety. Furthermore, they have, in outstanding scrum-half Luke McGrath and the equally influential flanker Dan Leavy, two of the most talented operators in underage rugby.

Between them they wreaked havoc. Pity poor Belvo. Despite enjoying the perfect start by way of a first-minute David Carey penalty, it was to be another 69 minutes before they scored again.

In between, St Michael's dominated, with only a heavy penalty count against them preventing a more accurate reflection of that domination on the scoreboard.

They trailed for just two minutes when the first clean incision of many by Leavy led to McGrath, Bobby Holland and Andrew O'Flynn handling before Rory O'Loughlin touched down close to the corner. Despite some gallant black-and-white defending, epitomised by full-back Sean Baird, the writing was on the wall as slowly but surely the Ailesbury Road school converted their all-round supremacy into points.

On 24 minutes, a sweet tap-down from Leavy to McGrath at full tilt through the Belvedere line-out saw the impish scrum-half make his way all the way to the line for a spectacular solo try.

It was one-way traffic at this stage and in the final minute of the half, McGrath repeated the dose this time by way of sheer determination and equally effective technique when crossing from a five-metre scrum. Rory Kavanagh -- another to leave an indelible mark -- converted and at 17-3 going into the break it was merely a matter of by how many.

They took up where they left off with powerful prop James Lawless crossing after 43 minutes, following good approach work by the industrious McGrath in tandem with O'Flynn.

O'Loughlin then pinched a loose ball inside his own 22 before racing fully 80 metres for his second and his side's fifth try of the day. Fellow centre Kavanagh added the extras as he did again in the 59th minute after Cameron Diamond's touch-down on the back of another mighty Lawless surge.

Belvo threw caution to the wind in the final 10 minutes and, with second-half replacement Peter Lalor adding significant punch, they finally got the try their late effort deserved when captain David Shanahan crossed over.

Alas, it was much too little far too late as the superior force prevailed. Early days I know, but on this evidence, St Michael's are going to take some stopping.

St Michael's - C Diamond; M Corballis, R O'Loughlin, R Kavanagh, C Kelleher (S Dawson 53); B Holland (R Byrne 60), L McGrath (capt, B Butler 55); T O'Connell (R O'Neill 53), J Headon, J Lawless (A Barr 60); M O'Neill, D Lawlor (D Coulson 53); D Leavy (R Moloney 53), A O'Flynn, C Fletcher.

Belvedere -- S Baird; D Brennan (B Fitzpatrick 45), C O'Sullivan, F Sullivan, D Kennedy; D Carey, D Shanahan (capt); K Foley (P Lalor 45), A Slein, J McCabe; K O'Donoghue, D Lynch; G Offiah (E O'Hehir 45), D Fernee, B Byrne.

Ref -- E O'Dowd (Leinster Branch).

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