Sunday 18 March 2018

Synnott seals it as battling Belvo win 10th title

Belvedere 11 St Mary's 10

Belvedere College captain Thomas Sexton lifts the Leinster Schools Senior Cup after
his side defeated St Mary's College in the final at the RDS, Dublin yesterday
Belvedere College captain Thomas Sexton lifts the Leinster Schools Senior Cup after his side defeated St Mary's College in the final at the RDS, Dublin yesterday

Tony Ward

They've lived on the edge, close to the brink, all the way through the campaign but yet again Belvedere resilience knew no bounds as the Powerade Leinster Schools Senior Cup made its way across the Liffey for the second year in four and the 10th time in all following a riveting contest before 11,230 spectators at the RDS yesterday.

The Great Denmark Street School now moves up alongside Terenure and second only to Blackrock in the overall roll of honour.

On raw match statistics St Mary's, Rathmines certainly shaded it, dominating possession and territory for large tracts of the match. But this Belvo squad is special and not just in adding the Senior title to the Junior one lifted in 2005, completing their one and only double to date. They don't know the meaning of defeat. Time and again in both halves, the superbly drilled Mary's forward unit pummelled away. Only once did Belvo buckle and that came in injury-time when Robert Ferris crossed following another extraordinary bout of blue and white pressure.

While Peter Synnott and try poacher supreme Michael Keating shared the scoring honours, this was all about disciplined and hugely committed defending of the highest order right across the side. In some ways it was a repeat of the semi-final, where they soaked up everything the Clongowes forward unit could throw at them before applying the match-winning knockout at the death.

Mary's had started so well, dominating the early exchanges, and five minutes in Darragh Fitzgerald and Peter Finnegan provided the groundwork for Ray Crotty and Brendan O'Connell to combine up the left, the latter taking Crotty's inside pass and racing through for a brilliantly engineered try. Fitzgerald narrowly missed the difficult conversion from wide on the left.

It was all Mary's in that opening spell but in the first Belvo sortie, inspired by Synnott on the turnover, the flanker struck the resultant penalty kick awarded at the breakdown straight down the middle with ease. As a nerve settler it could hardly have been better timed.


But it was Mary's continuing to apply the pressure and following a diagonal run towards the left corner from Ian O'Neill, the best part of 10 minutes was spent with the Rathmines eight battering away at the Belvo line.

If any period defined the match as a contest this was it, with the extraordinarily controlled Mary's recycling matched play for play by the quality of black and white defending. Time and again the Mary's forward machine made it up to and over the try line only to be driven back by the incredibly well organised Belvo defence. Here the psychological advantage swung Belvedere's way. To add insult to injury, just five minutes before the break, Rowan Considine and Niall Myron combined in a rare Belvo attack up the right for the alert Keating to come storming through and take Myron's delicate offload for yet another cup final try of massive importance.

It made for an unlikely 8-5 lead at the break but not before the same player managed to complete another fearless man and ball tackle on Finnegan. Keating appeared to damage his shoulder in the tackle but in shrugging it off it typified his and his team's commitment to the cause on the day.

With tails up Belvo resumed the livelier after the break and 14 minutes in Synnott stretched the lead to six (11-5) by way of another well struck penalty. Inevitably Mary's worked their way back and with Jack McGrath, Ronan Lennon and most of all skipper Richard Bent leading the way they continued to threaten but still the Belvo defence held. Crucially they managed to put the shackles on the lively O'Neill down the right. They had done their homework and it showed.

Eventually a probing kick by Fitzgerald took play up to the Belvo line and following another period of concerted pick and drive pressure it was Ferris who eventually managed to make it tell. Unfortunately for the left footed Fitzgerald he was faced with the most difficult of pressure kicks from close to the left touch line. It veered right and wide. There was still time for one final assault but Belvo discipline held firm and when Hugo Nolan kicked the final ball into touch in front of the black and white masses Belvedere joy was unconfined.

Belvedere -- M Keating; J Conroy, N Myron, C O'Shea, B Woods; R Considine, H Nolan; C O'Brien, T Sexton, CJ Barry; E Browne, L Mangan; C Doyle, P Synnott, D Memery. Replacements: M D'Arcy for Considine (60), A Kenny for Woods (63)

St Mary's -- D Hudson; I O'Neill, M Walsh, P Finnegan, R Crotty; D Fitzgerald, S O'Donnell; J McGrath, W Andreucetti, R Ferris; O McGill, R Field; R Lennon, B O'Connell, R Bent.Replacements: E Moriarty for Crotty (14), S Murray for Field (64), K O'Sullivan for O'Connell (64).

REF -- A Rogan (Leinster Branch).

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