Rockwell edged a thrilling contest of two equally matched teams at Thomond Park yesterday to qualify for the March 27 final of the Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Junior Cup against holders St Munchins.
Their victory was just about deserved as they seek to capture the title for the first time since 1997. The quality of rugby on display was of an admirably high standard even if there were also a number of unforced errors, especially when it came to making decisive tackles at crucial stages.
Individually, too, both sides paraded young players of considerable potential. Few made as big an impression as Rockwell back-rows Tom Downey, Shane Neville, and number eight Brian Gleeson, while skipper Harry Buttimer and his centre partner Robert Wall ensured that the possession coming their way was put to fruitful use.
This was the case as early as the third minute when winger Darius Achimugu was released just inside the Crescent half, from where he sprinted away for a fine try that out-half Rory Collins converted.
Crescent, however, quickly demonstrated that they hadn’t been rattled by such an early bodyblow. Captain Conal Henchy was always lively and hooker Max Clein was constantly prominent. A 40-metre penalty by full-back Connor O’Halloran found the target and was followed on 20 minutes by a try for Joe McNamara who came off his wing to finish off a brilliantly manufactured movement in the left corner to put Crescent 8-7 ahead.
Crescent struck again on the stroke of half time when Clein took a short line-out, Henchy capitalising on the surprise element to crash over for an unconverted try, putting them 13-7 ahead. But Rockwell were to enjoy the better share of territory in the second half.
Collins missed a penalty from a favourable position but they retained the initiative. Eventually, strong pressure forced Clein to concede a penalty on his own line, costing him a yellow card. Rockwell took full advantage, Buttimer squeezing over at the posts for Collins to add the points that made the difference at the end.
C O’Halloran; J McMahon D O’Sullivan, E Duruji, B Nash; W Hoffman, J Duggan; M Duggan, M Clein, J Madden, R Quinn, C Kirby, J Lyons, C Clery, C Henchy capt. Replacements: L O’Grady, S Farrell, J Neilon, A Kirby, J Colgan, S Donnarumma, C O’Halloran, N Roche, J Sommers, K McCarthy.
C Hogan; D Achimugu, R Wall, H Buttimer capt, B Farrelly; R Collins, T Ross; D Moroney, C Meaney, J Browne, O Ediale, E Dunphy, T Downey, S Neville, B Gleeson. Replacements: J Lawrence, L Cummins, T Chanda, N Maher, C Jay Coleman, P McGarry, T Collier, D Clarke, Z Lynch, J Cronin. Referee: Tommy O’Donoghue.