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Monday 11 December 2017

Rugby: MADE IT!

Magnificent Michael's through to the Junior Cup final after putting 'Rock to sword in semi

St Michael's are right on course to complete their first Leinster Senior-Junior Cup double following an explosive second-half comeback (24-7) against their sister school Blackrock College at Donnybrook on Tuesday.

There is nothing to inspire Blackrock like the tag of the underdog.

It is almost an insult to their tradition and standing in the province. Yet, the pre-Cup campaign indicated they would have to work against all odds.

It didn't look that way in the first-half when the 'Rock forwards manically scavenged for the ball and their out-half Gavin Tynan guided them into the right areas of the pitch.



Hard

"It was Blackrock College. You can't take a semi-final against them lightly. They came at us hard," reflected St Michael's coach Robbie O'Flynn.

"We knew we were favourites and we wanted the guys to play confidently. It just didn't happen for a long time. We nearly got in for a try in the first minute. That would have made it a lot easier for us."

It certainly would. From a scrum, 'Rock number eight Ray Crotty took the ball off the back for a gain of 10m. Blindside Raef Tyrrell took the ball on and prop Oliver Jager made it the rest of the way. Tynan's conversion made it 7-0 in the 31st minute.

At that stage, the confidence was coursing through the Blackrock players and seven points looked like a big lead given the lack of chances in the first-half.

The experience of out-half Ross Byrne -- he played JCT last year -- began to tell as he picked the right areas of the pitch in launching a variety of kicks to turn the pressure back on Blackrock.

"He knows what he is doing. It is about playing rugby in the right part of the pitch.

"Sometimes when you are in your own half, you have to go for position rather than running it out from that far back. We've tried to teach the guys to be clever in how they play the game."

Once St Michael's had established territorial domination, they were able to send their big runners onto the ball with less than 20m to go to the line.

Number eight Conor Duffy surged over from a flat pass from scrum-half Nicholas McCarthy.

Byrne secured the lead from a 50th-minute penalty.

Once there, flanker Michael Craig made a strike against the head by taking Duffy's pass to the line and fullback Cian Kelleher powered over for their third try, Byrne converting all of them from close in.

It leaves St Michael's in the comfort zone of waiting on the outcome of this afternoon's second semi-final between the holders Terenure and Clongowes Wood, also gunning for the Senior-Junior double.

"We have played both of them. They are both very good sides," said O'Flynn.

"We played Clongowes twice and Terenure the once. We will wait and see what happens between them on Thursday."

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