Old Belvedere RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1B
Ollie Campbell Park
19th February 2022.
A belvedere is a fine viewing point, or scene or viewpoint, and from our point of view to be 10-23 up and looking dominant, with an hour gone and to lose 24-23 is a big disillusion, not a pretty sight and most painful to recall. Whatever the reason, whether the tsetse fly struck, or that subconsciously a slight lack of concentration crept in, is not clear. However, what is clear and is to their credit, a team of Belvedere’s cast did not need an invitation and they came thundering back with two deserved tries, and a brilliant coup de grace.
Conor Dean’s absence caused some disruptive rearrangement of the backline, although Mick O’Gara, star player that he is, stepped into 10, and had a particularly fine game; as indeed did Ryan O’Loughlin who came in at centre. On a day like today it was mainly a forward joust and, as it turned out our pack were well up to it. Our set pieces were granite. Up to the last quarter the defence was almost impenetrable. The carrying and rucking were also notable, with one man, David Aspil outstanding. As is his wont, he never stopped working in defence and attack, from the start to the end. Often his clever defensive positioning was crucial. He received the SoftCo MoM Award.
This is quality young pack, the only deficit may be avoirdupois, but that said, this was not a factor today. Daniel Leane, is a young man with immense potential and that has been growing with every match. Today you could see, working alongside the commendable Liam Corcoran, he was impressive, sailing up for balls and protecting them securely. His work-rate is also incremental; today his defensive effort was relentless.
Old Belvedere are developing a promising young squad, the work done over the last number of years by great Belvo men like Paul Cunningham, is showing. Today they were worthy opposition and were ready and able to take the opportunities when they arose. They have an impressive captain, Connor Owende, who played a captain’s part. Clearly, they will consolidate this season and push on next. St Marys and Belvo have close friendships that go back many years; and interestingly, players who have faced one and other over those ages remain close today. That was clear to see, today in the post-match packed bar, from the two presidents, Steve O’Leary and Patrick Crawford, down.
St Marys hang on to third place on the table, with 40 points, from Naas on points difference and behind flagging, Highfield on 43. Highfield were beaten by high-flying Old Wesley on 54. Shannon are on fifth with 38 points and they come visiting Templeville Road next Saturday. It is obvious that Shannon’s visit will be critical to our season and we require the same response we gave on our visit to Thomond Park. Our charismatic captain Richie Halpin will be aware of the exigencies and no doubt, will respond appropriately. It will be high alert for all. Steve, Sean and Jamie will work incessantly in all regards and no doubt the unseen preparatory work of Modser and of course Paudge and colleagues will be meticulous. We will all be there to help his lads along. We are at a challenging juncture.
The game could not have started better for the visitors, after kick off a scrum led to a penalty and kick to corner, a maul and over with supper skipper Richie getting the touch down. 0-5. On 22 minutes we extended lead, when playing well and with pace, a penalty from Mick O’Gara, made it 0-8. Then 35 minutes gone, Belvo got 3 points from a penalty. Before half time a penalty from Mick, hit the posts and bounced back. The follow up, beset the line and after a maul Richie tapped it down again and after Mick’s conversion made it 3-15. It was a handsome half time lead and Marys were looking in control.
The second half was five minutes old when a Belvo mauled try made it 10-15. Mick hit a good penalty on 53 minutes, 10-18. On 63 minutes it was to improve further, when Marys assailed the line with strong picks and drives, building momentum and surge, ones and twos and threes, hit up hard, Belvo stood firm. On and on we drove, testing each metre of the Belvo line, across the field, then a stall and mountain of pressure gave alert Myles Carey the chance to pounce, and pounce he did with ball in hand across the line, 10-23. Could it get better? Well yes, but not for the visitors. It was about 75 minutes and Belvo came calling. Marys stood firm then a momentary lapse and Belvo evaded clasping hands to score under the posts and convert. Now it was 17-23. Still Marys could not be caught, or so it seemed, but only to those on the wrong side of the pitch. Belvo came back on the hunt and on 77 minutes, won a penalty that was driven into the corner and a mauled lineout gave them an emphatic whoosh over the line. It was far out and on the wrong side for a left footed kicker. Centre Justin Leonard, lined it up and started his run. The ball wobbled and rolled off the tee. The chance now seemed gone. Not so, Justin coolly continued his run. He picked up the ball and hit a dropkick, it soared out in front of the posts, and then, the wind gently floated it in and over the posts. What a remarkable young man and what a finish. That finish taught two lessons one to kickers; and one to defenders. The first is clear, the second shows how important it is to sprint with venom to attempt to block the kick or at least distract the kicker. Enough said. Final score 24-23.
Today Shannon put over 60 points on Navan. Ominous as that may be, we have a team that is well up to the task, as we have shown already on our memorable visit to Limerick, earlier in the season. No doubt the coaching team will be working out ways to improve further and ensure a full 80 minutes focused concentration. It is hoped Conor Dean, Nick McCarthy and Hugo Conway will be available for selection.
Last time you were implored to come and help out, you all did, and in style. Please, this is the business end of the league and if your team is going to fulfil its potential, then you are going to have to continue playing your part. So cram the terraces, light the torches of drive, chant the invocations, and rip into Marys-Marys-Marys.
Come on give Richie a Halpin hand.
Team (12 changes)
15 D Fanagan, 14 M Timmons, 13 R O’Loughlin, 12 M Carey, 11 C Kennedy, 10 M O’Gara, 9 C Reilly, 8 R Watters, 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin (Capt.) 1 N McEniff. S O’Brien D Lyons, P Starrett, C Corcoran, M Fogarty, A O’Neill, P Dundon,