The opening 20 minutes were dominated by Shannon, a 5th minute try from winger Donal O’Donovan and Tadhg Bennett’s 13th minute penalty had them 8-0 clear and seemingly set for an easy win.
From there to the end, however, Belvedere were the better side.
Two tries from flying winger Peter Woods, one of which was converted by experienced out-half Andy Dunne, who also slotted two penalties, had the visitors 18-8 ahead at the break, and Shannon in trouble.
The home team emerged for the second half fired-up but they couldn’t break the Belvedere line. They did manage a well struck Bennett penalty ten minutes in, but it wasn’t until the 61st minute that they breached the visitor’s defence with young full-back Luke O’Dea touching down.
In the final quarter it was Old Belvedere applying most of the pressure but the Shannon defence held firm, O’Dea twice with try-saving tackles, the all-action Paddy Butler also to the fore, along with player-coach Stephen Keogh. Mixed emotions for Shannon backs’ coach Eoin Cahill and Old Belvedere Director of Rugby Phil Werahiko.
Cahill admitted: “We were lucky to come away with two points but it’s still a good return from a team that played probably only about 35 minutes of an 80-minute game. We weren’t happy with half our performance. We didn’t play cleverly enough at times. We made silly mistakes that put us under pressure and you can’t afford that against a team like Belvedere. It gives us something to work on for the next few weeks.”
Much of that work will be on the pack who — the first 15 minutes apart — spent most of the game on the back foot, and in the 36th minute suffered the indignity of being pushed off their own ball in the scrum to concede the penalty.
“When we went 8-0 up we weren’t reacting as fast as we had been. We had a chat in the dressing-room at half-time and I was happy that we responded.”
Despite those words they still couldn’t muscle the ball across the goal-line in the second half and were far too slow in giving the ball to the backs.
Cahill countered: “White-line fever I suppose. When you’re five yards from the line you can get caught up in the moment. It is something else we’ve got to look at.”
That was the song being sung also by Werahiko who was happy to finally get a performance from the champions. “Relieved more than anything” he admitted when asked about his emotion. “You could say it’s a game we left behind, and we’ve been doing a lot of that, but this was an improvement in that we managed to get two points from it.
“We’ve certainly been creating enough opportunities to win games but our discipline today was the difference, probably the best it’s been all year. We also played better as a team, but I think we can improve on that again. Hopefully that will mark the start of a turnaround in our season.”
SHANNON: L O’Dea; D O’Donovan, M Lawlor, B Sargent, R Mullane; T Barrett (2P 1C), R Guerin; G McNamara, D Casey, K Griffin; D Heffernan, F Walsh; S Keogh, P Butler, D Quinlan.
Subs (interchange): J Cronin, L Hogan, K Hanley, A Bennie, A Spring.
OLD BELVEDERE: D Riordan, P Woods, J Kennedy, B Woods, E Devitt; A Dunne, S Keogh; P O’Regan, K Bradley, V Soden; B Marshall, A Trenier; R Lyden, B Smyth, L Auva’a.
Subs (interchange): M Rooney, B O’Dea, J Conan, M McAllister, A Wynne.
Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU).