This was a cracking game with Rockwell clearly intent on exploiting the perfect conditions to run the ball at every opportunity. Christians adopted a more pragmatic approach and the outcome was a contest of constant movement and incident, a degree of controversy and a pulsating climax.
A couple of penalties by Darragh McNamara for Christians and Brian Haugh for Rockwell left the sides level at half-time.
The Cork side lost out-half Brendan Monohan through a leg injury after 24 minutes and this meant a reshuffle in their forces which brought McNamara from full-back to number 10 where he continued to perform with aplomb.
He nudged his side 9-6 in front with a third penalty after 45 minutes before the game took a major swing in Rockwell’s favour three minutes later.
Referee Dave O’Flynn ruled that a high tackle by Christians captain Kevin Slater was serious enough to warrant a yellow card, a decision that angered them deeply given that Rockwell had been twice penalised earlier for similar infringements only to escape on each occasion with the awarding of a penalty against them.
Christians knocked on at a subsequent line-out and from the resultant scrum 30 metres out, Rockwell’s towering number eight Luke Cahill charged at the depleted defence and burst his way through for the decisive try that Haugh converted.
Considerable debate ensued as to whether the rules allowed Rockwell to scrum down eight forwards against seven although Christians were more than relieved on 61 minutes when a pass from Cahill to full-back Donagh McGillicuddy, who cut through for what would have been a superb try, was ruled forward.
Rockwell still had the opportunity to play down the remaining time but instead continued to use their backs at every opportunity when it might well have been more prudent to play the corners.
When one of these attacks was broken up by a superb Christians defence, the play swung to the other end where Rockwell had to fight for their lives to keep their line intact.
To their credit, they held out well for a victory that means their captain and loose head prop Cian O’Donnell will be contesting his third cup final on St Patrick’s Day and seeking his first medal.
But it also came at a cost with the likelihood that outstanding second-row Sean McCarthy will miss the decider, having suffered a wrist injury that caused his retirement in the 59th minute.
ROCKWELL: D McGillicuddy; S Horgan, H McNulty, K Kiely, R Jermyn; C Holland, B Haugh; C O’Donnell capt, D Mulcahy, MJ Murphy, S McCarthy, A O’Sullivan, R Moran, L Cahill, S Dwyer.
Replacements: A Sweeney for McCarthy (59); E Phelan for Murphy (68).
CBC: D McNamara; J McCarthy, K Slater capt, C Barry, C O’Halloran; B Monohan, C O’Regan; P McCabe, C Scannell, J Quirke, Y Browne, C Frost, I Whelan, S Glynn, D Nolan.
Replacements: C Slowey for McCabe (temp); D O’Riordan for Monohan (24); J Sullivan for Quirke (47); C Keogh for Frost (59); Slowey for Sullivan (65).
Referee — Dave O’Flynn (Munster)