Roche driving force in solid 'Nure start
It was hardly a performance to send shivers up the spine of every other competing team but there was still enough on view at Donnybrook to suggest this Terenure squad has all the relevant components to go the whole way.
It could best be described a solid opening effort rather than a spectacular one as outsiders Belvedere battled tooth and nail from first whistle to last and fittingly crossed for the try of the game in the process.
The Great Denmark Street School started encouragingly by way of a really solid scrum in the opening minutes but almost immediately some quick handling between Tim Schmidt, Niall O'Sullivan and Paddy Thornton resulted in a clearly kickable penalty for Billy Dardis but, instead of going for goal, Ronan Church's deft left foot took play up to within five metres of the Belvo line.
Impressive lock Rob Lalor gobbled up Andy Roche's throw and a concerted drive saw the 'Nure pack pile over with the hooker the last to emerge with ball in hand. It made for the perfect start but far from opening the floodgates Belvo responded in the most appropriate way.
In fact, had Neil Hubbard managed to hold on to the ball in the 23rd minute, following some loose and reckless passing by the 'Nure midfield, the way was clear for a romp to the posts. Indeed if one was to be critical of Terenure on this performance it would be the lack of precision in passing allied to a needless tendency to put boot to ball in the tightest of spaces.
Against that is a strong, talented and well-tutored pack. The Belvo eight were no shrinking violets but when the 'Nure eight rumbled and drove with purpose and cohesion, not even the dogged resilience of Eamonn Heneghan, James McGauran and the rest could prevent the inevitable.
Fifty-three minutes in they got their reward by way of a second well-engineered push-over try almost a carbon copy of the first. Again a penalty was kicked for the corner. Roche found his jumper, this time Mike Murphy, and as with the first try, the subsequent drive resulted in the all-action hooker again touching down.
Certainly on this early evidence, such is the quality of the maul, that anywhere inside the opposition '22' a score is close to inevitable. Dardis added a successful penalty in the 61st minute following good approach work by Church, Stephen O'Neill and Matthew Madigan and at 13-0 the pre-tournament favourites seemed home and hosed.
But this Belvedere squad is made of the right stuff and just four minutes later the most delicately timed and delivered Ross McDermott pass to Ger Young at full tilt on a clever inside angle cut the much-vaunted Terenure midfield apart. It made for a brilliant try and no more than Young and Belvo deserved as the impressive centre added the extras to cut the lead to six.
They gave it their all in the final minutes but, frustratingly, well away from the Terenure line. It made for a losing performance of which they could be justifiably proud. However, the better side emerged victorious but with much fine-tuning still to be done between now and the quarter-final. Would Des Thornton want it any other way?
Terenure – B Dardis; M Madigan, H Brewer, S O'Neill (capt), J Lynch; R Church (J Swaine 61), T Schmidt (C Weakliam 55); S Borza (K Colgan 45), A Roche (J Carroll 65), T Creagh (C Trenier 45); R Somerville (M Murphy 45), R Lalor; N O'Sullivan, P Thornton, D Doyle.
Belvedere – J Egan; C Clifford, J Hitchcock (capt), G Young, N Hubbard (R McDermott 50); M White (S McCullagh 50) , M Dempsey; I Soroka, D Butler (J Hutchinson 70) , S McDonnell (B Lysaght 70); R Fenlon, J Kelly (I Guerin 50); J Doyle, J McGauran, E Heneghan.
Ref – B McNeice (Leinster Branch)