With their side leading 6-3 as the clock ticked into the final five minutes of normal time in this engrossing Avonmore Milk Munster Senior Schools Cup final, the Rockwell College coaches vehemently instructed their side to kick for the corner.
Haugh had other ideas, though. The scrum-half, a deserving man of the match, confidently pointed to the posts and slotted a nerveless kick from more than 40 metres. It left Pres needing a converted try they couldn’t quite eke out, and left Rockwell coach Mark Butler searching for superlatives.
“We wanted to wind down the clock, maybe setup a maul, maybe go for a try to kill off the game,” he explained. “But Brian said, ‘If you let me kick it, I’ll kick it’. We have to give full credit to him, it was outstanding composure for a young guy.”
The dramatics didn’t end there. Rockwell had to survive a vicious PBC onslaught as the Cork school put together their best passage of play and regularly threatened to break through.
Outside backs Seamus Glynn and James Kiernan eventually did just that, engineering some space down the left before the latter passed inside for hooker Will Foley, who careered across the whitewash. But Rockwell flanker Sonny Dwyer was on hand to make a tackle he’ll remember for the rest of his career, somehow preventing a legal grounding of the ball.
PBC had been looking to pull ahead of local rivals CBC in the roll of honour as well as become the first side to successfully defend this crown in a over a decade.
But as Rockwell skipper Cian O’Donnell told PBC during his post-match speech, he felt their pain, having been on the losing side in the 2009 and 2010 deciders.
That’s 24 titles for Rockwell, a first since 2001 — and it was no more than they deserved. They practically had exclusive ownership of the ball in the opening half, refusing to kick for territory and forcing PBC to make over 50 tackles in the opening 20 minutes.
Number eight Luke Cahill and wing Shaun Horgan regularly appeared in midfield to barnstorming effect, while Neville Flynn, replacing injured talisman Sean McCarthy, stepped up to the plate superbly in the second row.
However, knock-ons and penalty concessions undermined their efforts until Haugh got them on the board with a 25-metre kick on 23 minutes.
A contentious penalty award against PBC gave Haugh a second opportunity three minutes before the break, and he gave his side a huge boost by landing a far more difficult effort from 42 metres.
Having tackled their legs off in the first half, with hooker Foley, flanker Jack Duffy — amazingly, now into his fourth senior cup campaign — and centre Ross Caplice outstanding, PBC finally got a foothold after the break.
Sadly for them, however, a lineout which had worked like clockwork in the first half faltered, with three losses on their own throw in the Rockwell 22 undoing good build-up work.
PBC continued to look more dangerous however, and managed to halve the deficit when Steve Dinan confidently bisected the uprights with a 54th-minute penalty, while Rockwell wing Rob Jermyn made a vital man-ball-and-all tackle on Caplice to shut down a 4-on-2 overlap.
Haugh stoked the fires by landing his third monster penalty on 65 minutes, before Jermyn was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on which prevented PBC scrum-half Chris Bannon from putting Dinan over in the corner.
That set Rockwell up for a backs-to-the-wall defensive effort, which saw them repel the Pres hordes for eight long minutes prior to that starling climax.
S Glynn; S Dinan, R Scannell, R Caplice, J Kiernan; E Mills, C Bannon; B Scott, W Foley, K Kingston; P Derham, J Fitzgerald; A Hudson, J Duffy, R Murphy (capt).
Replacements: B Fitzgerald for Hudson (47); D Horgan for Kingston (55), D Evans for Bannon (70+2).
D McGillicuddy; S Horgan, H McNulty, K Kiely, R Jermyn; C Holland, B Haugh; C O’Donnell (capt), D Mulcahy, MJ Murphy; N Flynn, A O’Sullivan; R Moran, S Dwyer, L Cahill.
Replacements: D Johnston for Kiely (68); A Lynch for Holland (70+2).
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (MAR)