They emerged worthy winners of a fine final against Ardscoil Rís and thrilled their fans in the 7,000 strong attendance with a performance of physical superiority that was too much for the courageous and committed display of their Limerick rivals.
It was bitterly disappointing for Ardscoil to lose a second successive final but they battled bravely throughout, cutting the gap to three points with a splendid converted try five minutes before the finish.
However, Rockwell struck back in devastating fashion and a second try by the outstanding Bryan McLaughlin put the issue beyond doubt and moved them within two of Cork giants CBC and PBC in the honours list.
“I’ve been watching Rockwell teams since around 1995 and I can’t remember a team with as many dominant players across the pitch,” said forwards coach Denis Leamy, the former Munster and Ireland back-row forward.
“We have a very talented core group. It means a lot to me, I lost one in 2000 and that remains a game with a lot of regrets for me. I thought our number 7, Bryan McLaughlin, was huge. It is probably wrong to single out individual players but there are a few exceptional players, like Sean O’Connor the captain, Bill Johnston at out-half, Mike Casey at eight, Lee Molloy at 13. These are all very good players.”
Ardscoil were hard hit by injury having to start without prop Tommy Walsh and back-row Jerry McCabe and they suffered another setback when centre Jack O’Donnell had to retire after 13 minutes.
They fell behind when Bill Johnston landed a penalty after 25 minutes but the ever reliable Conor Fitzgerald quickly equalised.
Johnston’s restart was so pinpoint that Rockwell forced a line-out on the Ardscoil 22. From that, Sean O’Connor gathered Ben Murray’s throw, Bryan McLaughlin burst away from a perfectly constructed maul and Mikey Wilson pounced for the try.
Johnston added the points and Rockwell led 10-3 at the break.
Ardscoil were on the back foot for much of the second half but a brilliant counterattack involving Peadar Collins, Darren Gavin and Nathan Randles almost produced a try for the Limerick outfit. Fitzgerald cut the lead to four (10-6) with a second penalty but two Johnston penalties quickly edged the Tipperary boys 16-6 clear.
Undaunted, Ardscoil struck for the game’s best try by outstanding flanker Ian Brown on 65 minutes that Fitzgerald converted to leave three points separating the teams.
A third get-out-of-jail result in-a-row was even more so on the cards for the Limerick boys when Johnston was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on but, to their credit, Rockwell maintained their composure and put the issue beyond doubt with a try by McLaughlin converted by Tom McHale.
ROCKWELL: T McHale; D Gallagher, L Molloy, C Cashman, K Moynihan; B Johnston, D Egan; N Campion, B Murray, J Kendrick, S O’Connor capt, J Binchy, M Wilson, B McLaughlin, M Casey.
Replacements: D Barron for Murray 55; C Beary for Campion 55; J Tierney for Kendrick 61; J Power for Binchy 70.
ARDSCOIL RíS: D Gavin; N Randles, J O’Donnell, P Collins, M McManemy; C Fitzgerald, H Bourke; A Coffey, T Chan capt, P Lyons, B O’Byrne, R Coffey, O Bernard, I Brown, D Ryan.
Replacements: P Ryan for O’Donnell injured 12; L Brock for McManemy half time; J Sexton for Lyons 60; L Moylan, D Scannell, E Cusack for O’Byrne, Bourke and Gavin all 68.
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU).