OLD BELVEDERE are back on top of Division 1A by virtue of a late Dave Mongan try -- converted by skipper Andy Dunne -- to cruelly deny Blackrock at Anglesea Road on Saturday.
Old Belvedere coach Phil Werahiko admitted that his side were blessed to take the four points, as bottom-of-the-table Blackrock should have pulled off one of the shocks of the season.
Blackrock had seemed in disarray following a woeful performance against Dolphin the previous week and a major row within the club concerning the later starting time for this game. Yet they held the upper hand until those dramatic closing minutes.
Blackrock acquitted themselves much better in the atrocious conditions. The game was a throwback to the 70s, with players indistinguishable because of the mud and it didn't make life easy for referee John Lacey, the teams, or the spectactors.
But Blackrock weren't at all bothered as they moved 9-3 clear by half-time. When centre Rob Keogh got an easy chance -- just to the left of the posts -- to kick his fourth penalty 12 minutes from time, the match seemed to be over. But somehow, he missed.
Giving the hosts further hope, Blackrock then had second-row Alex Dunlop sin-binned. Sensing their opportunity, Old Belvedere at last managed to set up a try-scoring chance with just three minutes remaining.
After No 8 Leo Auva'a drove through off the back off a scrum, the ball was moved quickly for left-wing Mongan to show his finishing power, beating two men to cross to the left of the posts. Dunne calmly added the conversion to give Old Belvedere victory.
"Blackrock played very well, and adapted to the conditions much better than us," admitted Old Belvedere coach Werahiko. "Had they gone 12-3 ahead with that last penalty, I could not have seen us coming back. We needed one piece of quality rugby and, thankfully, managed to produce it with the late try.
"But we were very fortune. I feel sorry for their coach Andy Wood because Blackrock deserved more than what they got."
Either way, Old Belvedere have won a match they could so easily have lost, while their two main rivals Cork Constitution and St Mary's College both went down to surprise defeats. It leaves them in a great position to secure one of the three play-off spots.
But they will hope to play better when they face improving Young Munster at home next weekend.
Missing Simon Keogh, Old Belvedere moved Andy Dunne to scrum-half with Conal Keane starting at out-half. But they never functioned until the closing minutes -- managing just one penalty from Keane.
Blackrock, for their part, did everything right in the conditions. Unfortunately for them, getting two players yellow-carded proved critical and they will rue the missed penalty.
Old Belvedere -- D Riordan; E Devitt, J Kennedy, B Woods (G Flanagan 63), D Mongan; C Keane (K Bardon 69), A Dunne (capt); V Soden (D Buckley 58), M Cooney (D Gilcrist 58), S Maguire, R Leyden, A Trenier (D Moore 58), K Miller, J Risdon, L Auva'a.
Blackrock College -- S Lennon; D Rowan, L Ellison, R Keogh, J Byrne; D Fitzpatrick, S Treacy (C Crowley 40); J Barretto, C Culleton (R Fisher 39), A Lyons (K Cahill 67), A Dunlop, M Carroll, P Graham, P Ryan (S O'Donnell 66), M Noone.
Ref -- J Lacey.