Rockwell surge to glory as Ardscoil Ris made to wait for elusive maiden crown
Rockwell College 23 ArdScoil Ris 13 Munster Schools Snr Cup Final
Rugby can often be a cruel game and, unfortunately for Ardscoil Ris, they can testify to that more so than most.
Rockwell College's victory at Thomond Park yesterday means that the Limerick school have now lost all three of the Senior Cup finals they have appeared in.
The Cup will make its way back to the Cashel nursery and, in truth, Rockwell were fully deserving winners not only on the day but throughout the tournament.
When Ian Brown scored a try with five minutes remaining, the Ardscoil supporters began to believe that another stunning comeback was on the cards and so too did their coach Mossy Lawler.
"I thought the stars were written on the walls for us," the former Munster winger sighed. "I did believe we could do it again when we scored but we didn't field the kick-off well and didn't play in their half.
"Everyone keeps talking that it's a great achievement but I don't see it like that if you don't win it, but there's great building blocks there as long as someone comes in to steady the ship that we unfortunately couldn't."
The sun shone on a thronged Thomond but nerves got the better of both sides in what was a scrappy opening half.
Bill Johnston and Conor Fitzgerald exchanged penalties before Mikey Wilson capitalised on a powerful rolling maul to dot down for a try that Johnston converted.
Rockwell had built up a deserved 10-3 lead at the break but their forwards coach Denis Leamy bemoaned his side's lack of a cutting edge.
"I felt that it was a slow burner of a final. It seemed that every time we were in their 22, we left them off the hook with the decisions and inaccuracies in our game," the former Ireland No 8 admitted.
"To be honest, we butchered so many opportunities and that was a big concern for us. It wasn't a surprise when Ardscoil got their try but I thought the reaction of our players showed the true grit of what's inside them," Leamy added.
Fitzgerald and Johnston again traded penalties early in the second half before the Rockwell out-half kicked his side into a 16-6 lead on the hour mark.
Just when it looked like the 25-time winners would see the game out, Brown was put in for a try by Peadar Collins and suddenly the comeback was on for Ardscoil.
Fitzgerald hurriedly added the extras and with time very much against them, Ardscoil's cause was helped when Johnston was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.
But to their credit, the 14 men of Rockwell responded well and sealed the game when they went through the phases and the impressive Bryan McLaughlin burrowed over.
Tom McHale converted in Johnston's absence and, by that stage, Rockwell only had to see out the next phase of play, which they did.
"We didn't make it easy on ourselves but it's fantastic for the school to get that 26th title," Leamy beamed.
What Ardscoil would give for just one.
Rockwell College - T McHale; D Gallagher, L Molloy, C Cashman, K Moynihan; B Johnston, D Egan; N Campion (C Beary 55), B Murray (D Barron 55), J Kendrick (J Tierney 62); S O'Connor (c), J Binchy (J Power 68); M Wilson, B McLaughlin, M Casey.
ArdScoil Ris - D Gavin (E Cusack 69); N Randles, J O'Donnell (P Ryan 8), P Collins, McManemy (L Brock h/t); C Fitzgerald, H Bourke (D Scannell 69); A Coffey, T Chan (c), P Lyons (J Sexton 60); B O'Byrne (L Moylan 69), R Coffey; O Bernard, I Brown, D Ryan (C Cannon 69).
Ref - G Clancy (IRFU)