Dream come true for Belvo

AN emotional and historic day at Donnybrook as Old Belvedere toppled champions Cork Constitution to claim the top prize in Irish club for the first time yesterday.

With the win Phil Werahiko’s side became the first Leinster winners since St. Mary’s College in 2000 and realised their ambition of securing the game’s biggest accolade.

Director of Rugby Werahiko admitted: “We’re relieved. We knew from the first-half when we spent a lot of time scrambling that we would have to push on and run it a lot more. We knew we had to get our hands on the ball and concentrate on the basics. We got a bit more ball to run with and we felt we had as many good attacking players as Con. Happily we managed to finish off enough chances to get the result.”

Constitution’s coach Brian Walsh was disappointed at his team’s failure to take full advantage of a marked territorial advantage in the first-half after a poor start.

“We had our chances in the first-half. We were very close to scoring a couple of tries and then we had that late penalty miss. Some things go for you, some things don’t. It was disappointing, but credit to Belvedere for taking their opportunities.”

Belvedere set the bar for this exciting final with a brilliant eighth minute try. David Mongan finished off a marvellous move created by John Kennedy and involving Danny Riordan. Andy Dunne, who missed a third minute penalty attempt, added the extras.

Yet, within seconds, Belvedere yielded some of that advantage by conceding a penalty to Gerry Hurley who made no mistake from 38 metres and he cut the deficit further with his second effort on 19 minutes. Constitution began to get a grip on the game and were unlucky not to take the lead after Martin Gateley knocked on when trying to score a try in the 37th minute.

After Old Belvedere prop forward Stewart Maguire was sin-binned, Constitution, with a third penalty, secured the lead for the first time and retired at the break two points to the good (9-7).

Belvedere hit the ground running on the restart, snatching a sensational try after 90 seconds from centre Kennedy, after Simon Zebo had brought off a wonderful goal-line tackle on Danny Riordan.

Dunne missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty as Con stormed back in search of scores. Brian Hayes was just held up over the line before consistent pressure yielded that second try when Sean Scanlon was sent over in the corner to push Constitution back into a two points lead.

Their advantage didn’t last long though with replacement Conal Keane knocking over a penalty just seconds after his introduction for Andy Dunne and the game swung back in Old Belvedere’s favour.

They enjoyed the rub of the green when claims for a knock on were waved away by referee Dudley Phillips; Constitution lost possession on their own lineout throw and a counter-attack ended with Kennedy racing in for his second try for a 20-14 lead. But moments later Hurley slotted a penalty to cut the gap to three points and set up a grandstand finish.

However, three minutes from time Belvo replacement Kevin Buckley went off his feet at a ruck but Hurley was unable to land the equaliser.

Belvedere played down the clock brilliantly, using their forwards to protect possession and keep the holders scrambling for possession.

The champions had a scoring opportunity when Scott Deasy nearly made the breakthrough but lost possession. Belvedere finished on the offensive with Eddie Devitt denied a try before clinching the win when awarded a last gasp penalty. Keane launched his kick into the Bective end of the stadium and seconds later the whistle blew.

OLD BELVEDERE: D Riordan, E Devitt, J Kennedy, B Woods, D Mongan, A Dunne (captain), S Keogh, V Soden, D Gilchrist, S Maguire, R Leyden, B Marshall, J Slattery, L Auva’a, J Risdon.

Replacements: K Buckley for Gilchrist, C Keane for Keogh, C Keane for Dunne (all 61), B Moore for Marshall (66).

CORK CONSTITUTION: S Scanlon, R Lane, C Jouve, I Dinneen, S Zebo, S Deasy, G Hurley, M Gateley, D Fogarty, S Archer, B Hayes, I Nagle, B Holland, F Cogan (captain), B Holland.

Replacements: D Williams for Joubert, R Quinn for Fogarty (both 44), P O’Mahony for Cuttriss (60)

Referee: D Phillips (IRFU).

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