All-Ireland League Division 1B: Old Belvedere V St Mary’s College – – November 7 2018

Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Eoin Sweeney, Jack Keating, Martin Maloney, Peter O’Beirne, Roman Salanoa; Cons: Steve Crosbie 2
St. Mary’s College: Tries: David Aspil, Tim MacMahon, Penalty try; Cons: Conor Dean 2, Pen try con; Pen: Conor Dean

HT: Old Belvedere 17 St. Mary’s College 10

Roman Salanoa’s injury-time try swung a dramatic Division 1B clash in favour of hosts Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road. Despite enjoying 14-point advantages in both halves, ‘Belvo were left reeling by the concession of back-to-back converted tries.

St. Mary’s College looked set to claim a share of the spoils, only for replacement prop Salanoa, who had only just returned from the sin-bin, to dramatically intervene. Mary’s were in confident mood ahead of their short trip to Ballsbridge and they broke the deadlock with just under three minutes on the clock.

A series of attacking phases led to a 35-metre penalty, which the reliable Conor Dean, who is now part of the Connacht Academy, converted with minimal fuss. Despite falling behind early on, Old Belvedere gradually grew in stature as the first half progressed.

Experienced full-back Daniel Riordan released winger Fergus Flood for an overlap on the left flank, although the retreating Mary’s defence was able to gather his kick up the line. The hosts looked set to cross over when Ben Carty charged down an attempted clearance, but the centre knocked on just shy of the whitewash.

However, when player-backs coach and out-half Steve Crosbie kicked a 15th minute penalty to touch, it was the catalyst for the game’s maiden try. A powerful lineout maul saw the hosts gobble up the yards and lock Eoin Sweeney applied the finishing touches for a 5-3 scoreline.

After Crosbie’s conversion rebounded off the near left-hand post, Belvedere remained on the front foot and the 25th-minute sin-binning of Mary’s lock Liam Curran offered them a gilt-edge chance to kick on. They turned down several kicks at goal before the decision to spread play out to the right paid off with Riordan releasing Jack Keating for the winger’s fifth try of the campaign.

Backed by their vocal home support, Andy Kenny’s charges stung Mary’s with a third try as Crosbie, who was beginning to dictate affairs from half-back, unlocked the defence with an incisive break to set up young flanker Martin Maloney for a well-crafted seven-pointer.

However, Mary’s found their rhythm in attack to close the gap to 17-10 in time for the break. Dean sent a penalty to the left corner and openside David Aspil was able to round off a concerted attack by touching down against the base of the post. Dean knocked over the straightforward conversion to leave just seven points between them.

Belvedere had the better of the exchanges on the resumption, and it took just 11 minutes to register their bonus point try. Scrum half Peter O’Beirne scored it after getting on the end of Riordan’s spectacular break on the left. Crosbie’s conversion, coupled with the sin-binning of Mary’s replacement Paddy O’Driscoll, strengthened the hosts’ hand.

Again though, Mary’s showed their battling qualities and stayed in the hunt in impressive fashion. The dynamic Dean identified some space in behind the ‘Belvo defence and his well-weighted kick past the try-line was grounded by replacement Tim MacMahon for another confidence-boosting converted score.

The Mary’s forwards were causing increasing problems for Belvedere, making the lineout option all the more enticing for number 10 Dean. The back-up hooker, Stephen O’Brien, led the latest charge in the 66th minute which ended with referee Oisin Quinn awarding a penalty try for an illegally sacked maul.

That meant the sides were level at 24 points apiece but, crucially, Mary’s could not take advantage of the yellow cards for Belvedere front row replacements John McKee and Solanoa. Instead it was under-strength ‘Belvo who largely controlled possession for the remainder. They were denied a kick at goal but the 21-year-old Salanoa had other ideas, grounding the ball under a pile of bodies right at the death.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, Jamie McAleese, Ben Carty, Fergus Flood; Steve Crosbie (capt), Peter O’Beirne; James Bollard, Ed Rossiter, Declan Lavery, Eoin Sweeney, Connor Owende, Martin Maloney, Eoin O’Neill, Colin Mallon.

Replacements: John McKee, Roman Salanoa, Michael Oyuga, Jack Kelly, Joe White, Adam Howard, Simon Killeen.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Tim MacMahon; Craig Kennedy, Myles Carey, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Mark Fogarty; Conor Dean, Cormac Foley; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Liam Curran, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Mark Fallon.

Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Colm McMahon, Nick McCarthy, Paddy O’Driscoll, Hugo Conway.

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