Cunningham praises game-changing effort from Robb as Belvedere stay on Clontarf's tails
Ulster bank ail round-up
CLONTARF and Old Belvedere continue to lead the way in Division 1A after hard-fought victories against Ballynahinch and Garryowen on Saturday.
Going into the Christmas break, Clontarf remain a point in front of Old Belvedere. Defending champions Lansdowne are now in third spot, seven points further back, after demolishing an understrength Dolphin 61-11 on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
Clontarf and Old Belvedere, by contrast, found themselves in really tough encounters, despite playing the two bottom sides in the table.
The 'Tarf eventually emerged victorious 16-12 away to Ballynahinch, while Old Belvedere had a somewhat flattering 15-5 home success over Garryowen.
Both had to come from behind. Clontarf scored two first-half tries through prolific right-wing Mick McGrath and hooker Cian Culliton, but were 12-10 adrift at the interval because Richie Lobb landed four penalties for Ballynahinch.
It then took a dogged second-half performance from Clontarf to secure their seventh successive victory, with out-half David Joyce kicking two penalties, the second of which came late in the game.
Bottom side Garryowen really put it up to Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road, but they were guilty of wasting far too many opportunities after dominating most of the first half.
The one chance they took saw centre Andy O'Byrne go over for a try to give them a 5-0 advantage.
But that was wiped out at the end of the half when Old Belvedere's 19-year-old centre Peter Robb crashed over for a try, which out-half Shaun Berne converted.
It was a decisive moment as Old Belvedere were down to 14 men at the time. Although they continued to play with great spirit, Garryowen never quite recovered and they fell 10-5 behind when Berne added a penalty.
The same player subsequently completed an excellent day's work by scoring a try, which he converted himself, to make sure of victory for Old Belvedere.
Their coach, Paul Cunningham, who formerly coached Garryowen, admitted his side had been fortunate at times.
"Sure, we got a bit of luck. Garryowen played with great pride and passion," he said.
"If they perform like that for the remainder of the season, they will have a real chance of moving up the table. But Robb's try just before half-time definitely turned the game."
If Garryowen were wasteful, the same could most certainly not be said of Lansdowne who crossed for nine tries in their 61-11 success over Dolphin, with three of them coming from No 8 Ron Boucher.
Their back division also ran riot against a Dolphin team missing some key players because of the British & Irish Cup.
UCD had the same problem for their visit to Clifford Park to face Young Munster. In the circumstances, they were unable to prevent the Limerick side securing a 22-16 victory, with Brian Haugh kicking 17 points.
The result means that Lansdowne, UCD and Young Munster are all on 23 points.
Cork Constitution come next after recovering from a 15-3 deficit to beat St Mary's College 22-18 at Templeville Road, with tries from James Ryan, Jerry Hurley and Rob Jermyn.
Terenure College are nine points clear at the top of Division 1B following a crushing 63-7 win over Dungannon at Lakelands Park. They scored 10 tries to register their eight straight success.
Second-placed Buccaneers went down to a 31-16 away defeat to UL Bohemians, while third-placed Corinthians defeated Belfast Harlequins 21-19 at Deramore Park.
Elsewhere, Dublin University moved off the bottom by beating Blackrock College 20-13 and Shannon defeated Malone 19-18.