Werahiko fears 'a long season'
TITLE holders Old Belvedere find themselves just one place off the bottom of the table after a second successive defeat at Anglesea Road.
It could have been worse. At one point on Saturday, Old Belvedere trailed 30-11 but they managed two tries in the final six minutes to rescue a losing bonus-point.
But those scores didn't disguise a very indifferent performance from a side that was much changed from the line-up which beat Cork Constitution in last season's final.
Coach Phil Werahiko didn't hide his disappointment afterwards.
"That was a very poor effort, other than the set-pieces. We struggled to gain any momentum and retain possession," he said. "We will have to pick it up hugely for our next game against Lansdowne. If we lose next week it could be a long season."
To be fair, Old Belvedere have lost key performers, notably Leo Auva'a who is now with Leinster, and Jason Rison, who has returned to New Zealand, in the back-row. But Werahiko still would have expected better from his team.
That said, they did lead 11-9 after playing with the breeze in the first half. Centre Aidan Wynne scored a try, while Conal Keane and Andy Dunne landed penalties.
But the young Garryowen side, playing the game at a greater tempo than their opponents, took control in the second half. So much so that they scored 21 points without reply to give them their 30-11 advantage.
Centres Alan Gaughan and Conan Doyle, plus left-wing Ronan O'Mahony, all scored tries. The remainder of Garryowen's points came from out-half Declan Cusack, who gave a superb goal-kicking performance to land three first-half penalties and convert the three second-half tries.
It was only when the match was lost that Old Belvedere managed to regain some self-respect with substitute winger Henry Bryce getting in for a try, which Dunne converted.
Then, with the final play of the game, they managed to get a losing bonus-point with centre Wynne going over for a try and Dunne again adding the extras.
In complete contrast to Werahiko, the Garryowen coach Paul Cunningham was very pleased with his team's performance.
"We responded well to last week's opening defeat to St Mary's," he said. "We are trying to play the game at a high pace and I thought we controlled the second half quite comfortably. Declan Cusack was excellent.
"Obviously his goal-kicking was a big factor, but I also thought his game management was outstanding. This is an important win for us, although ideally we might have secured a fourth try and a bonus point."
Old Belvedere -- D Riordan; K Hurrell (H Bryce (56), J Kennedy, A Wynne, D Mongan; C Keane (A Dunne 28), S Keogh; J Harney, M Cooney, S Maguire (B O'Dea 48), D Moore, A Trenier, M Mallon, B Smyth, R Leyden (capt).
Garryowen -- L Bourke; I Hanly, A Gaughan, C Doyle, R O'Mahony; D Cusack, F Lalor; J P Cooney (M Kennedy 70), J Real, D Lavery, F McKenna, M Melbourne, P Neville, K O'Gorman, L Via Pulu (K Hartigan 56).
Ref -- J Carville