Heroic Rockwell defence sees them through

A DEFENSIVE performance of heroic proportions was key to Rockwell’s surprise victory over St Munchins in the semi-final of the Avonmore Milk Munster Schools Senior Cup at Clanwilliam Park, Tipperary, yesterday.

They will meet the winners of the other semi-final between CBC and PBC in the decider at Musgrave Park on March 15, quietly confident of a first title since 2001.

Munchins were warm favourites going into the game after an impressive win over CBC in Cork but having fallen 14 points down inside 23 minutes, they seemed to run out of ideas when it came to redressing the imbalance in spite of dominating territorially.

Time and again Rockwell pinched Munchins possession and number 8 and captain Paddy Butle performed with such distinction in adverse circumstances that Rock supporters were recalling former greats in the position like Billy Cronin and Denis Leamy.

This was no one-man side, a point well made by Rockwell games master and fierce adherent of the college’s great rugby ethos, Tony Smith.

“The tackles put in by the likes of number six Stephen Maguire and centre Brian Smith were absolutely magnificent and typified the team’s performance,” he said. “In Paddy Butler, we had a fantastic forward and an inspiring captain. We are truly delighted to be involved in the final of the competition.”

Rockwell had the benefit of the strong wind in the first half and made excellent use of it. Out-half JJ Hanrahan jinked his way over for the first try after eight minutes and Paul McEvoy added the points.

But the game was turned on its head on 24 minutes when Hanrahan struck again, nipping in to intercept a pass on halfway and touch down. McEvoy converted and at 14-0, Rockwell were set for an upset.

Munchins tore back into the game to rule the closing 10 minutes of the half, scoring a try from hooker Eimhin Hogan after good work by Robert Guerin and Conor O’Driscoll.

However, there was no further scoring. Rockwell were more committed than ever, while Munchins found the Rockwell defensive system impossible to breach.

“Our mistakes cost us,” lamented coach David Quinlan. “The intercept try was a serious blow. Rockwell got an early lead and defended it well while things just did not happen for us. You can’t take anything away from Rockwell. It will take a hell of a team to beat them.”

ROCKWELL: P McEvoy; K O’Dwyer, G Ryan, B Smith, R Mullane; JJ Hanrahan, E Ahearne; T Doyle, L O’Donnell, B Cullinane, S O’Flynn, S Buckley, S Maguire, J Nolan, P Butler capt.Replacement: W O’Connor for Mullane, temporary, 20-23 mins; C O’Donnell for Doyle 54.

ST MUNCHINS: J Murray; Cian O’Hanlon, D Browne, D Turner, C Cunnane; R Guerin, C O’Driscoll; Ciaran O’Hanlon, E Hogan, A O’Brien, M Madden, S Duggan, M Healy, J Sherin, G Burke capt.

Replacements: K McManus for Sherin 54; C O’Neill for Browne 58; T Goggin for Duggan 63.

Referee: J Lacey (MAR).

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