Belvo's cutting edge earns spoils
Old Belvedere 24
OLD BELVEDERE'S capacity to make good use of their opportunities was the decisive factor in their All-Ireland League Division 1A success over Garryowen at Anglesea Road on Saturday.
They are now three points clear at the top of the table and in a great position to secure one of the three play-off spots. But Saturday's encounter did serve as a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
It was only in the closing stages that they eventually pulled clear with two tries from No 8 Leo Auva'a and left-wing Dave Mongan, both of which were converted by out-half Andy Dunne. Prior to that, Old Belvedere were, at times, desperately holding on to a 10-3 advantage.
Garryowen belied their position at the bottom of the table to put Old Belvedere under real pressure, but, as so often happens to a side in their situation, little went their way. There's also the undeniable fact that they lacked that bit of extra craft to finish off their scoring opportunities.
If Garryowen were to cause an upset, they needed to take advantage of the strong wind in the first half. Instead, they found themselves 10-3 down at the interval.
Conal Keane gave Old Belvedere an early 3-0 lead with a penalty before out-half Declan Cusack equalised with a similar effort for Garryowen. Unfortunately, the Limerick outfit were then to provide their rivals with an attacking platform when they knocked-on from the kick-off.
Typically, the league leaders made them pay by scoring a superb try from the resulting scrum. Auva'a, scrum-half Simon Keogh and full-back Danny Riordan all handled before right-wing Eddie Devitt crossed in the corner.
To add to Garryowen's misery, Keane managed to land the conversion in the difficult conditions. Effectively, Garryowen's chance appeared to have gone when they were 10-3 behind at the break, but they somehow raised their game considerably when playing into the wind in the second half.
Had it not been for some smart defending on the part of Riordan, an excellent break from centre Corey Hircock would surely have provided Garryowen with a try. A number of Garryowen forwards also came close to breaking through, but Old Belvedere withstood the pressure and then showed just how to put away your opportunities.
A well-rehearsed line-out routine provided Auva'a with the chance to go over the the right of the posts. And this was added to a few minutes later when a flowing move ended with Mongan demonstrating his finishing skills by scoring a further try.
Both were converted by out-half and skipper Dunne. Garryowen coach Paul Cunningham summed it up by stating: "They took their chances; we didn't.
"We have a young side that played very well for long periods and the final scoreline didn't reflect the game at all."
Belvo coach Phil Werahiko admitted that his team had been made to work exceptionally hard, saying: "Garryowen were never going to allow us to play the game we wanted to play and the conditions were very difficult.
"We probably had just that bit more skill as opposed to physicality; that's what won it for us."
Old Belvedere -- D Riordan; E Devitt (K Hurrell 75), J Kennedy, C Keane (B Woods 55), D Mongan; A Dunne (Capt), S Keogh; V Soden, D Gilchrist (M Cooney 55), S Maguire, D Moore, D White, K Miller (R O'Sullivan 75), J Risdon, L Auva'a.
Garryowen -- L Bourke; L Kunz, C Hircock, C Doyle (Capt), C O'Shea (A Gaughan 67); D Cusack, C Murray-Aran Healy; J P Cooney, R Meyer (J Rael 75), D Lavery (B McNamara 75), F McKenna, A McCloskey (C Fitzgerald 78), P Neville, C Hartigan, A Kavanagh.
Ref -- D Phillips (IRFU).