Wednesday 17 January 2018

Wootton's late try sends Belvedere down

Garryowen 26 Old Belvedere 19

Garryowen’s Neil Cronin and Dara Shanahan tackle Old Belvedere’s Stephen McDonald. Photo: James Crombie
Garryowen’s Neil Cronin and Dara Shanahan tackle Old Belvedere’s Stephen McDonald. Photo: James Crombie

Alex Wootton's late try proved hugely significant as Garryowen outgunned Old Belvedere 26-19 in yesterday's battle of the bottom two sides at sun-kissed Dooradoyle. The defeat has condemned Belvedere to relegation with one round still left to play in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, while Wootton's precious bonus-point score had given the Light Blues a shot at avoiding the relegation play-off spot.

Garryowen, Dublin University and Terenure College are all level on 35 points - now seven clear of Belvo - with next Saturday's final round set to decide who ends up in the play-offs alongside three promotion hopefuls from Division 1B.

Trailing Garryowen by three points, the pressure was on Belvedere to deliver in Limerick and the omens were not good when Steve McMahon crossed for the hosts' opening try after 15 minutes.

Garryowen had a disrupted start with rising Munster star David Johnston going off injured after barely a minute, while opposing opensides Mikey Wilson and Paul Pritchard both saw yellow for a bout of fisticuffs in the ninth minute.

Conan Doyle's men ended the first quarter with a 14-0 lead, their scrum half and captain Neil Cronin converting his own try, but an unconverted Jonathan Slattery effort and two penalties from full-back Shane McDonald saw resilient Belvo cut the gap to 14-11 by the break.

A third successful penalty from McDonald had the Dubliners level in the 63rd minute, and a superb comeback win was on the cards when lock Jack Kelly touched down in the 75th minute following a mammoth 16 phases of pick-and-goes. However, the home side had been saving their best for last and they left Belvo reeling with two closing tries. They were undone by the pace of winger Liam Coombes on 80 minutes, and Wootton who had returned for Munster 'A' last week following a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Terenure College turned on the style to give Division 1A leaders Lansdowne a 36-17 beating in sunny conditions at Lakelands.

The bonus-point win keeps 'Nure on course to finish outside of the bottom two, but James Blaney's men might still need to win away to Dublin University next Saturday.

They flew out of the blocks against a Lansdowne side that badly missed sidelined out-half Scott Deasy. 'Nure number 10 Mark O'Neill nipped over for the opening try after just 90 seconds.

The hosts' tails were up as they exploited a number of gaps in a breathless start, young centre Ted O'Donoghue crossing for a second converted try and Jake Swaine adding a penalty.

Lansdowne showed just why they are challenging for the title with a much-improved second quarter, levelling matters at 17-all with a Josh O'Rourke touchdown and a penalty try. Deasy's replacement, Fergal Cleary, converted both tries and also kicked a penalty.

Terenure wrestled back control with a timely third try from full-back Swaine and were denied a bonus point score, just before half-time, by crossing.

Lansdowne fell out of contention in the third quarter - a 49th-minute penalty try, followed ten minutes later by a Robbie Smyth five-pointer, sealed the home win.

It leaves a really congested top four with just a single point separating the leading quartet. Lansdowne are still top of the pile.

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