John Fairley, Liam Turner, Tom Roche (two), and Ross Deegan touched down in an accomplished display, and ‘Rock will now be seeking to add to their 68 titles at this grade when they face the defending champions at the RDS on March 17.
Gonzaga were seen as rank outsiders heading into this contest, but after their magnificent quarter-final triumph against 2015 winners (and 2016 finalists) Cistercian College Roscrea, there was no fear of complacency in the Blackrock camp.
Indeed the underdogs opened the scoring, as Michael O’Kennedy confidently split the posts from a seventh-minute penalty. However, their lead proved to be short-lived as ‘Rock second-row John Fairley grounded after an extended attacking spell in the 11th-minute.
O’Reilly converted and he extended his team’s advantage with a well-struck place-kick from close-range. O’Kennedy was off-target for Gonzaga from a similar opportunity, but they received a boost when Blackrock scrum-half Patrick Patterson was sin-binned for an infringement close to his own posts.
Yet, Gonzaga couldn’t take advantage of their numerical supremacy, and when outside centre Liam Turner broke free for a converted try, Justin Vanstone’s charges were 14 points clear (17-3) at the end of the opening period.
This presented Gonzaga with an uphill task when the action resumed, and after a sweeping 43rd-minute move was finished off on the right-flank by ‘Rock full-back Tom Roche, it looked like placing the outcome beyond doubt.
Turner was withdrawn from the action three minutes after the restart, and it was his replacement — Ross Deegan — who dived over for ‘Rock’s fourth try of the game. This fine team effort was supplemented by another O’Reilly bonus-kick, but Gonzaga finally interrupted this scoring sequence with 22 minutes remaining on the clock.
After claiming a neat off-load from Sean Galvin, full-back David Lynch evaded the retreating ‘Rock defence to touch down on the right-wing. This only offered a temporary respite to the Ranelagh school, though, and Blackrock completed the scoring with a second try from Roche at the beginning of the final-quarter.
T Roche 2 tries, J Fairley, L Turner, R Deegan try each, P O’Reilly pen, 3 cons.
D Lynch try, M O’Kennedy pen.
T Roche; T Maher, L Turner, J Moriarty, D Heavey; P O’Reilly, P Patterson; G Coyne, S McLoughlin, J Byrne; J Farley, A Murphy; M McGagh, A Francis, C Reilly.
T Clarkson for Byrne (h-t), R Deegan for Turner (38), S Molony for McLoughlin (44), C Delaney for Coyne, J Burke for Francis (both 59), R Fahy for Patterson (61), M Carroll for McGagh, G Jones for Heavey (both 65).
D Lynch; H Twomey, B O’Donnell, E Barr, S Galvin; M O’Kennedy, J Kenny; M Gleeson, C Gleeson, S Clear; E Buggy, C Fassbender; I O’Grady, M Keegan, R Kidney.
J Veale for Keegan (47), M Meagher for M Gleeson (52), F McHugh for Barr, C Goulding for Fassbender (both 54), E Allen for Twomey (62), J Connolly for McHugh (63), C Goulding for Kidney (65), M Holly for O’Grady (67).
H O’Reilly (LRR).