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The class of 2018: Belvo bid for three-in-a-row as Leinster Schools Senior Cup returns This year’s competition gets underway tomorrow. Jan 27th 2018, THE SERIOUS BUSINESS begins now. In no other sport does a breeding ground quite like the Leinster Schools Senior Cup exist, and as this year’s edition of the competition gets underway, the pathway for the class of 2018 has never been more defined.

Belvedere College will be the team to beat again this yea Belvedere College, the defending champions, begin their quest for three-in-a-row against Gonzaga College in an opening fixture which marks the beginning of the show-piece event of the schools rugby season. The action is already underway in Munster, Ulster and Connacht and over the course of the next two months, the next generation of stars across all four provinces are given a platform to exhibit their ability and make a name for themselves. Just as importantly, however, is the competition’s facility to provide a stage for young players to learn, grow and develop, while also producing some enthralling, free-flowing rugby which seems to get better which

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each passing year. Standout players from 2017 are already making strides in the Leinster academy, most notably former St Fintan’s prop Jack Aungier and Belvo’s fullback Hugh O’Sullivan, both of whom are also involved with the Ireland U20s this year. They’re just two of countless examples from recent times, see also Jordan Larmour’s extraordinary rise from gracing this competition in St Andrew’s College colours just two years ago. A natural passageway to the professional game exists. 2017 was the year of black and white again, and certainly Belvo will be the team to beat once more. Phil Werahiko has enlisted the help of previous winners Brian Egan, last year’s captain Max Kearney and O’Sullivan as part of his coaching set-up, while 16 of their squad were involved last term. Out-half David Hawkshaw, who led Leinster U19 to inter-pro success, skippers Belvo while number eight Ruadhan Byron is likely to be another key figure in the Northside school’s title defence. Belvo’s credentials are likely to be tested straight away as they face last year’s semi-finalists Gonzaga in what promises to be a pulsating first round tie at Donnybrook on Sunday [KO 3pm]. “Our lads have been looking forward to this for a while now and are really looking forward to facing up to the challenge from a well prepared and talented Gonzaga team,” head coach Werahiko said.

David Hawkshaw captains Belvo in 2018. “We are well aware of the strengths they possess and have had to prepare accordingly, for what we expect to be a full on first round battle.” Gonzaga enjoyed a memorable run to the last four in 2017 and picked up a head of steam before Christmas by progressing to the league final, only to lose by five points to St Gerard’s in the decider. ‘Zaga’s devastating backline and running game was a hallmark of their campaign last year, and centres Brian O’Donnell and Eoin Barr will again provide a threat outside a powerful pack led by captain Robbie Kidney. Monday sees the tie of the round down for decision, as two heavyweights in the form of Terenure College and St Michael’s College collide. 10-time winners Terenure have 16 players back from last year and will be looking to build on their quarter-final exit to Blackrock with Leinster underage representatives Sam Dardis, Ross McInnes, Jack Cooke and Adam La Grue making John Coffey’s side a dangerous proposition. St Michael’s are fully aware of the challenge awaiting them as they look to lift the Senior Cup for the third time and first since 2012. There are exciting prospects in their panel, too, most notably second row Ryan Baird, back row Scott Penny and centre David Ryan who have all represented Leinster and Ireland. “We have a very competitive squad which has made selecting the strongest team very challenging, many more than 15 would do a great job,” Michael’s head coach Emmet MacMahon says. “We are not looking any further than the first round and Terenure College, as they are a brilliant side with great coaches and a school nearly twice our size. If we win that game we will have done very well.”

While Belvo are the favourites, many people will be keeping a close eye on Blackrock College, the competition’s protagonists with a record 68 titles, as they look to end their Senior Cup drought. Beaten in last year’s decider at the RDS, Blackrock are fully locked and loaded for another tilt in 2018 and are led by Ireland schools centre Liam Turner, while Tom Maher, props Cian Duffy and Thomas Clarkson, hooker Sean Molony, lock James Burke and flanker Michael McGagh are all back and no doubt keen to go one step further this time around.

Tom Maher will be a key player for Blackrock again. Their first assignment is by no means a straightforward one as Castleknock eye a first round upset while Presentation College Bray and Newbridge College both enter the competition on Wednesday as dark horses following strong league campaigns. On Thursday, eir Sport will televise their first game of the year as St Gerard’s College meet St Fintan’s High School while in Clontarf RFC, Clongowes Wood will be the favourites to overcome The King’s Hospital. St Gerard’s are certainly a team to watch after storming to league success before the turn of the year and in scrum-half Cormac Foley — capped at Ireland U18

level — have one of the outstanding young talents in the country. Captain Ethan Baxter, Charles Byrne, Ben Watson and Max O’Reilly are all players to watch out for but Jason Emery’s men will be under no illusions of the challenge Fintan’s pose, with the Sutton school back for a second-ever appearance at this level after last year’s heroics. In addition to Thursday’s clash, eir Sport will broadcast live coverage of all four quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the St Patrick’s Day decider at the RDS, while the channel will also show the Munster Senior Cup final from Thomond Park. The final day of first round ties sees a fascinating double-header as St Mary’s College — tipped by many this year — meet St Andrew’s while Vinnie Murray Cup qualifiers Wesley College face 2015 winners Roscrea, who must be considered front-runners once again. Rathmines school Mary’s have Leinster talent in their ranks in Adam McEvoy and Niall Hurley and the fivetime winners will be favourites to get past Andrew’s, but Ian Dumbleton’s side have enjoyed a resurgence of their own in recent years. Having advanced to the semi-finals in 2014, the Booterstown school haven’t been able to rich those dizzy heights since but three first round exits doesn’t really reflect the potential they possess.

Jordan Larmour has been part of the St Andrew’s coaching staff. Larmour and Andrew Porter — both of whom could be in Paris next Friday — have been back to their alma mater to aid preparations and Andrew’s will be targeting an early upset. “As a senior cup squad we embrace the challenge ahead,” Dumbleton said. “This is an opportunity to test ourselves against the top teams and our aim is to ensure we challenge our opposition and give a positive account of St Andrew’s College rugby.” May the best team win.

Leinster Senior Schools Cup fixtures: All 3pm kicks off at Donnybrook, unless otherwise stated Sunday 28 January: • Belvedere College v Gonzaga College Monday 29 January: • Terenure College v St Michael’s College Tuesday 30 January: • Blackrock College v Castleknock College Wednesday 31 January: • Newbridge College v Presentation College Bray Thursday 1 February: • Clongowes Wood College v The King’s Hospital, Clontarf RFC • St Fintan’s High School v St Gerard’s School Friday 2 February: • St Mary’s College v St Andrew’s College • Wesley College v Cistercian College Roscrea, Clontarf RFC

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Belvo pushed all the way by Gonzaga but holders get campaign up and running

The first round of the Leinster Senior Schools Cup got underway at Donnybrook this afternoon. Jan 28th 2018,

Jamie O’Grady breaks clear of Gonzaga’s Daniel Inglis. Belvedere College 11 Gonzaga College 10 Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook ABSORBING CUP RUGBY right until the very death, and although Belvedere, the defending champions, were given an almighty late scare, there was never a point in this game when you felt they weren’t going to get their three-in-a-row bid up and running. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means from Phil Werahiko’s charges, but with just two players back from last year, all the hallmarks from those winning campaigns were again evident here as they stood firm to advance. Even allowing for the loss of Leinster U19 captain David Hawkshaw to injury in the first half, Belvo were always a step ahead of Gonzaga, who to their credit, threw everything at their opponents only to fall agonisingly short of launching their campaign with a major upset. Robbie Kidney’s converted try gave Gonzaga late hope and it setup a grandstand finish with just one point between the sides, but as they had done for the previous 70 minutes, Belvo’s rearguard held firm to ensure their safe passage through to the second round. After an error-ridden and scrappy opening quarter, the holders soon hit their straps through Aaron Coleman and six points from the boot of fullback David Lacey had opened up an eightpoint advantage for the Great Denmark Street school. In the end, they needed it all but with a powerful pack, led by Ruadhan Byron and Gerard Hill, this was a display which not

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only sends out an early statement of intent, but one, worryingly for the competition’s other contenders, which leaves even greater room for improvement. Mistakes and indiscipline were common threads throughout a stop-start opening period. After Jack Connolly failed to hang on to a swirling up-and-under, his Gonzanga team-mates were offside, only for Lacey — a member of the Dublin minor football team last year — to push his penalty attempt right of the posts. Both sides were guilty of committing a series of infringements at the breakdown, and after a penalty advantage had come to nothing, Connolly — superb all afternoon in pulling the strings — got Gonzaga on the board with a well-struck effort from the tee. With no real pattern to proceedings, and both Connolly and Lacey happy to exchange kicks from deep, possession changed hands regularly and it wasn’t until Belvo created an overlap out right that space opened up on either side. Quick hands and a lovely line from Jamie O’Grady saw the centre burst through and wrap around the outside, only to lose control of the ball when Gonzaga fullback Fran O’Grady had scrambled brilliantly to cover the danger. Belvo, through a mixture of direct, precise carries around the fringes, most notably from blindside Hill, began to turn the screw and the breakthrough came after a show-and-go break from scrum-half Ted Walsh. He showed good acceleration to streak clear and then awareness to offload left to Coleman, who had run an excellent support line to get over despite the attention of two green shirts. Lacey struck the upright with the conversion attempt. Gonzaga looked for an instant reply, and a poorly-executed box kick from Walsh sailed out on the full and gave the Ranelagh school prime attacking position, which prop Henry Godson took full advantage of with a powerful surge through midfield. With referee Paul Haycock’s arm outstretched, Eoin Barr looked right and found the unmarked Fergus Ó h Oisín but Belvo quickly plugged the holes and Connolly then spurned the chance from the tee as he tugged the penalty attempt left. Belvo were dealt a huge blow moments before the break as they lost Hawkshaw with an arm injury, adding to their problems having been forced into an earlier change when prop Scott Barron hobbled off. Not to worry, mind, as the holders stretched their lead to five points not long into the second-half after lock Alekseiy Soroka made the initial break from the halfway line and Gonzaga were pinged for not rolling away.

One of the hallmarks of Gonzaga’s superb run to the semi-finals last year was their devastating ability to turn defence into attack and cut teams apart from deep, and Kidney very nearly set Jack Barry away only for Belvo to get numbers back and poach possession on their own line. As the minutes ticked down, Gonzaga unloaded their bench in search of a spark and a route into the contest but indiscipline again cost them as the right boot of Lacey landed the insurance score for Belvo from the 10 metre line. Gonzaga just wouldn’t go away, though. Out of nothing, Kidney eventually found the breakthrough to dive over under the posts and when Connolly slotted over the conversion, it was a onepoint game. The final exchanges were frenetic and tension-laden, with Gonaga given multiple opportunities to launch a late counter but the wall of black and white shirts proved immovable. Belvedere scorers:Tries: Aaron Coleman Penalties: David Lacey [2 from 3] Conversions: David Lacey [0 from 1]Gonzaga scorers:Tries: Robbie Kidney Penalties: Jack Connolly [1 from 2] Conversions: Jack Connolly [1 from 1] BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. David Lacey, 14. Matthew Grogan, 13. Jamie O’Grady, 12. David Hawkshaw (captain), 11. Alistair Loughrey, 10. Justin Leonard, 9. Ted Walsh; 1. James Gleeson, 2. Luke Harmon, 3. Conor Cagney, 4. Alekseiy Soroka, 5. Neil Howard, 6. Gerard Hill, 7. Aaron Coleman, 8. Ruadhan Byron. Replacements: 16. Paul Twomey, 17. Jonathan Bell, 18. Mark Daly, 19, Joseph Haughey, 20. Cian Scott, 21. Patrick Lysaght, 22. John Meagher, 23. Alex O’Grady. Belvo building up a head of steam as defending champions power

into last four The Leinster Senior Schools Cup quarter-finals continued at Donnybrook this afternoon. Feb 19th 2018,

Belvo’s James Murphy in action. Belvedere College 23 Newbridge College 7 Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook THE THREE-IN-A ROW bid is building momentum, and as has been the case for the last number of years in this competition, Belvedere College are again emerging as the team to beat. They needed a strong second-half display to eventually see off Newbridge College but once Phil Werahiko’s side began to flex their considerable muscle, there was only ever going to be one winner. In what was a scrappy contest, Belvo displayed all their credentials by striking at key moments. Neil Howard crashed over just before the interval to break the deadlock and although the 12time winners were pegged back by the concession of an intercept try not long after, they pulled clear in the final quarter. Prop James Gleeson finished off a powerful rolling maul in the far corner and after fullback David Lacey had knocked over two penalties, centre Matthew Grogan completed the win with a fine individual score at the death. Even without their talismanic out-half David Hawkshaw, who had his right shoulder heavily strapped as he acted as water carrier, this Belvo side have big players all over the field, no more so than captain Ruadhan Byron. Newbridge landed a couple of blows of their own, and in Cian Prendergast have a supremely-talented lock, but having expended huge energy in keeping the game scoreless until the 35th minute, were unable to match Belvo’s relentless energy and power. The first period was played at a high-tempo, but poor handling skills let both sides down and neither were able to land a punch

until the final minute of the half when replacement lock Howard crashed over for Belvo. On the balance of play, Newbridge were unfortunate to go in behind at the break, particularly when they thought Luke Rigney had muscled his way over after a period of sustained, and controlled, pressure. As the powerful prop, whose departure through injury shortly into the second half proved crucial, held off three would-be tacklers and stretched for the line, referee Gary Conway adjudged the grounding to be fractionally short, although TV replays suggested it was a harsh call. Belvo struck at the other end. Newbridge will have been disappointed with a sloppy exit after initially shutting the door and from there Belvo worked it infield and their superior power up front told as Howard eventually found a gap from close range. The defending champions enjoyed the majority of the possession and territory after the interval, too, but were caught when Ted Walsh’s attempt to go down the short side was read by Donal Conroy, who had the footwork to evade the last man back and then race clear uncontested. Luke Maloney converted for a 7-5 lead. Behind on the scoreboard, Belvo’s dominance grew. They hammered away relentlessly for large periods, often to no avail, but all the while the defensive effort was sapping the life out of Newbridge, who then had nothing left to give with the contest in the balance. The boot of Lacey, a minor footballer with Dublin, nudged them back in front after Newbridge were caught offside and the lead was extended when Gleeson scored in the far corner after Byron had made the initial surge. Lacey added another penalty to ensure Belvo’s safe passage through to the last four, and the icing on the cake arrived courtesy of Grogan’s slalom score as the centre carved through midfield to dive under the posts. Belvedere scorers: Tries: Neil Howard, James Gleeson, Matthew Grogan Penalties: David Lacey [2 from 2] Conversions: David Lacey [1 from 3]Newbridge scorers: Tries: Donal Conroy Conversions: Luke Maloney [1 from 1] BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. David Lacey, 14. Alex O’Grady, 13. Matthew Grogan, 12. Cailean Mulvaney, 11. Alistair Loughrey, 10. Justin Leonard, 9. Ted Walsh; 1. James Gleeson, 2. Luke Har-

mon, 3. Conor Cagney, 4. Alekseiy Soroka, 5. James Murphy, 6. Gerard Hill, 7. Aaron Coleman, 8. Ruadhan Byron (captain). Replacements: 16. Andrew Synnott, 17. Jonathan Bell, 18. Mark Daly, 19. Neil Howard, 20. Cian Scott, 21. Patrick Lysaght, 22. John Meagher, 23. Gareth O’Brien.

Belvo complete incredible late comeback to keep threein-a-row bid alive The holders overturned a 19-3 deficit to advance into the final at the expense of St Michael’s. Mar 7th 2018,

Belvedere College 20 St Michael’s College 19 Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook FILE THIS SCARCELY believable comeback under the dictionary definition of great champions. Against all odds, against all reason, Belvedere College’s three-in-a-row bid remains well and truly alive. Dead and buried with 10 minutes remaining, the holders — trailing 19-3 — found something from somewhere to mount a late surge which not only came out of the blue but blew a previously superb St Michael’s side away. Replacement prop Mateusz Galinski will go down as the hero as his try, just as the clock had gone red, sent one side of Donnybrook into complete raptures before David Lacey held his nerve to complete a one-point victory. Smash and grab comes to mind, but that would do Phil Werahiko’s side a great disservice. Granted the 12-time winners were second best for large periods of this Leinster Senior Schools Cup semi-final, but just when it looked like their grip on the trophy was slipping, they dug deep, turned the tide and staged an almighty heist.

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Lacey’s try on 60 minutes gave Belvo hope but, even still, they had nine points to overhaul against a resolute and tireless Michael’s defence, which had stood firm for so long only to wilt in the crucial moments.

The fullback, a minor footballer with Dublin, then knocked over a penalty from in front of the posts and although Michael’s had control of the ball in opposition territory, Belvo snatched it back to launch one last attack. From a lineout on the far side, the pack surged towards the line — Michael’s were powerless to halt the momentum — and it was left to Galinski to crash over. While there was delight on one side, you can’t help but feel for Michael’s, who were quite superb for 60 minutes here and had one foot in a first final since 2013 having streaked clear through Rob Gilsenan and a brace from Jay Barron. But when Belvo threw everything at them, Michael’s were unable to see the game out and were left to rue another glorious missed opportunity, conceding 17 points during a frenzied finale. The agonising wait on Ailesbury Road goes on, with Belvo marching into the final on 18 March to face Blackrock College in a repeat of last year’s decider. Belvo will know they’ll need to make improvements across the board next week at the RDS if they are to win the title for a third straight year but as much as they were slow to get going, Michael’s deserve huge credit for their performance. At times, they looked a class above and their attacking, free-flowing brand of rugby is like no other in this competition, with the imposing duo of Ryan Baird and Scott Penny standing out again.

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Although captain David Ryan showed initial nerves from the tee, miscuing his first penalty attempt, Emmet MacMahon’s side assumed control of the contest as Gilsenan and then Barron sniped over from close range after industrious work from the forwards. Out-half David Moran pinged the penalty deep into Belvo territory and although the wall of black and white shirts closed the door twice, scrum-half Gilsenan stepped to his right and darted over past the cover. A penalty in front of the posts, conceded by Penny after Alistair Loughrey’s burst down the right, allowed Lacey to get Belvo on the board, but Michael’s were enjoying all the possession and territory. With Baird to the fore, Moran found another good touch on this near side, providing the platform for the powerful maul to drive towards the line, and Gilsenan spotted the space to free Barron for a 14-3 half-time lead.

Conversions: David Lacey [2 from 2] St Michael’s scorers:Tries: Rob Gilsenan, Jay Barron [2] Penalties: David Ryan [0 from 1] Conversions: David Ryan [2 from 2] BELVEDERE COLLEGE: 15. David Lacey; 14. Alex O’Grady, 13. Matthew Grogan, 12. Cailean Mulvaney, 11. Alistair Loughrey; 10. John Meagher, 9. Patrick Lysaght; 1. James Gleeson, 2. Luke Harmon, 3. Conor Cagney, 4. Neil Howard, 5. James Murphy, 6. Gerard Hill, 7. Aaron Coleman, 8. Ruadhan Byron (captain). Replacements: 16. Andrew Synnott, 17. Mateusz Galinski, 18. Jonathan Bell, 19. Mark Daly, 20. Cian Scott, 21. Ted Walsh, 22. Justin Leonard, 23. Sam Barry.

Belvedere out to set new record in Leinster Senior Cup final Belvo hunt an unprecedented third trophy in a row while Rock boys target 69th title

Sun, Mar 18, 2018, Belvedere captain Ruadhan Byron is tackled by David Ryan of St Michael’s in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final.

And Michael’s appeared to have had the game won when another sweeping team move, with willing support runners coming from all angles, seeing Barron run it home down the left wing. Crucially, Ryan — the younger brother of Ireland international James — was unable to add the touchline conversion to the Michael’s tally, but at that juncture it was of little consequence. Michael’s were in cruise control and when Werahiko changed his front five with a quarter of the game remaining, Belvo had run out of ideas and were starring down the barrel. Or so we thought. Sheer drama, and schools rugby at its best. The final should be a cracker. Belvedere scorers: Tries: David Lacey, Mateusz Galinski Penalties: David Lacey [2 from 2]

Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final preview: Belvedere v Blackrock, RDS, Sunday, 2pm (Live Eir Sport) It is all about milestones for Belvedere and Blackrock as the Leinster Senior Cup comes up for grabs at the RDS on Sunday afternoon. There are many sub-plots at play as holders Belvo hunt an unprecedented third trophy in a row to outdo the accomplishments of 1923-24 and 1971-72. As ever, Blackrock have their reasons for reaching the mountain top for the first time since 2014, a break of four years for the 68time champions. In fact, St Michael’s looked like the best in the competition until Belvedere escaped the strait-jacket, rebounding from 16 points down with 12 minutes left to play. It was the sort of comeback that would make believers out of the most sceptical as fullback David Lacey and captain Ruadhan Byron led the 20-19 semi-final recovery. It is doubtful whether it would have happened without what had transpired from the previous two years in which they took revenge on Roscrea (31-7) in 2016 and held out against Blackrock (10-3) in 2017. Recover Number eight Byron will be the only starter from last year unless

David Hawkshaw can recover from a shoulder injury in the first round. The ‘Rock boys will have revenge on their minds and they have the all-round talent to get the job done. Captain Liam Turner has been important in the midfield, while wings Harry Donnelly and Liam McMahon both struck for a double in the 42-15 semi-final domination of St Mary’s. Cerainly, the four changes made by coach Justin Vanstone made an impact as number eight Ed Brennan, prop Donnacha Mescal and McMahon all returned from injury, while Louis O’Reilly was promoted to scrumhalf. There is a fair argument to be made that the more direct avenues taken by Belvedere will suit the bigger, heavier Blackrock pack, who also have more threats out wide. Paths to the final First round: Belvedere 11 Gonzaga 10; Blackrock 46 Castleknock 20. Quarter-finals: Belvedere 23 Newbridge 7; Blackrock 19 St Gerard’s 17. Semi-finals: Belvedere 20 St Michael’s 19; Blackrock 42 St Mary’s 15.

Blackrock College blitz Belvedere in first half to win 69th senior cup

Defending champions were down 28-7 at the interval at the RDS Fri, Mar 23, 2018, John O’Sullivan at the RDS Tom Maher and Seán Molony celebrate Blackrock College’s win at the final whistle of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final against Belvedere College at the RDS. Blackrock College 35 Belvedere College 12 Blackrock College’s 69th Leinster Schools Senior Cup title was achieved in an impressive and emphatic manner against the two-time and defending champions, a game that was effectively decided in the opening 35 minutes. Belvedere were rocked to their core as Blackrock produced passages of scintillating rugby, incorporating backs and forwards, subtle changes of emphasis and sheer bullocking power with which their opponents simply could not cope. There was so much to admire in the collective patterns, embellished by individual contributions from Liam McMahon, Seán O’Brien, Michael McGagh and Josh Dixon to single out four; albeit that seems a little invidious given how well the team played.

Belvedere will rue their first-half performance, an aberration, when weighed against the second 35 minutes and in players like the outstanding David Hawkshaw, David Lacey, Alistair Loughrey, Gerard Hill, Aaron Coleman, Ted Walsh, Luke Harmon and Ruadhan Byron were belatedly able to properly represent the ability in the team. Blackrock were methodical and unflustered as they patiently pummelled Belvedere on the fringes, where tight pods, with props Donnacha Mescal and Thomas Clarkson generally in the van, surged over the gainline, providing their team with picture perfect, front-foot ball that allowed quicksilver scrumhalf Louis O’Reilly to choose the next pressure point. The winners rolled over their opponents, waves of blue and white that poured through every crack and crevice in the Belvedere defence. The latter didn’t help themselves at times, too often going high in the tackle, slow to realign and looking leg weary from early on in the game. Belvedere’s defence was in marked contrast to the energy and vision that was a hallmark of some of their attacking patterns. Blackrock College celebrate their Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final win over Belvedere College at the RDS. There was much to admire in the way that Blackrock ripped Belvedere asunder, an amalgam of power and pace, creating space and then exploiting with clever variations to race into a 21-0 lead with tries from McGagh, McMahon and James Tarrant, with the latter adding two conversions while fullback Stephen Madigan landed one. Belvedere’s loosehead prop James Gleeson barged over for a try after secondrow James Murphy snaffled a Blackrock throw at a lineout close to the winner’s line, batting the ball towards Gleeson. David Lacey kicked the conversion but McMahon’s second try four minutes before the interval, a beautifully worked move that involved Dixon, was brilliantly finished under the posts by the Blackrock right wing. Tarrant’s conversion made it 28-7 and not even the most ardent Belvedere supporter would have relished another 35 minutes, if it was to be framed in a similar fashion to the first half. Belvedere came out repackaged as the defending champions after the interval and brought that quality to their patterns, taking the contest to Blackrock with a greater dynamism and persistence that could have yielded a couple of tries in the first eight minutes of the second half; that they didn’t was down to spirited Blackrock defence and maybe taking a different option here and there.

It’s a minor cavil because the game had become a contest. A problem for Belvedere given the scoreboard pressure was that they needed to score quickly to try and make inroads into the deficit but it wasn’t until the 51st minute that they managed to begin that journey with a try from replacement Cian Scott. He was the beneficiary of a tightly constructed lineout maul that eventually battered a way to, and then over, the Blackrock line. Lacey saw his conversion come back off a post. Belvedere had dominated possession and territory and continued to do so before succumbing to the classic sucker punch. Belvedere had sufficient numbers when Blackrock number eight Ed Brennanreceived possession just inside his own half but he bounced a tackler, ran 30 metres before linking with Tom Maher and after pounding away through several phases on the Belvedere line, replacement scrumhalf Ross Barronscampered over unopposed under the posts. Tarrant’s conversion made it 35-12, and while the nature of the try must have been hugely deflating, Belvedere finished the match like champions. They continued to press, kept playing and might have pinched one more score but ’Rock were unyielding, epitomised by captain Liam Turner’s late touchline tackle that prevented a likely score. It was difficult to reconcile Belvedere’s performance in the opening 35 minutes with the quality of their post-interval resurrection; it will be a small regret. Blackrock though were worthy winners, playing a superb brand of rugby, bright, accurate, well-drilled with some outstanding individual contributions in what was an excellent collective effort, saving their best performance of the competition for the final, a fitting epitaph to their efforts. SCORING SEQUENCE – 6 mins: McGagh try, Tarrant conversion, 14: 7-0; McMahon try, S Madigan conversion, 14-0; 20: Tarrant try, Tarrant conversion, 21-0; 28: Gleeson try, Lacey conversion, 21-7; 31: McMahon try, Tarrant conversion, 28-7. Half-time: 28-7. 51: Scott try, 28-12; 58: Barron try, Tarrant conversion, 35-12. BELVEDERE COLLEGE: D Lacey; A O’Grady, M Grogan, S Barry, A Loughrey; D Hawkshaw, T Walsh; J Gleeson, M Harmon, C Cagney; N Howard, J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman, R Byron. Replacements: M Galinski for Gleeson, J Bell for Cagney, C Scott for Howard, P Lysaght for Walsh (all 46 mins); J Meagher for Loughrey, J O’Grady for Barry (both 59); J Haughey for Harmon, M Daly for Murphy (both 65).

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David Lacey, Alex O’Grady, Matthew Grogan, Cailean Mulvaney, Alistair Loughrey, Justin Leonard, Ted Walsh; James Gleeson, Luke Harmon, Conor Cagney, Alekseiy Soroka, James Murphy, Gerard Hill, Aaron Coleman, Ruadhan Byron (captain) Andrew Synnott, Jonathan Bell, Mark Daly, Neil Howard, Cian Scott, Patrick Lysaght, John Meagher, Gareth O’Brien.

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