Old Belvedere director of rugby Phil Werahiko was satisfied that his side edged above rivals Young Munster after they gained a 33-12 bonus-point victory over Buccaneers to go one point clear at the top of AIB League Division 1B.
Despite dropping off the pace towards the end and conceding two tries, Old Belvedere had the game pretty much wrapped up after 48 minutes when flanker Richie Leyden bagged the bonus point try after a nice line break.
In-form winger David Mongan was once again talisman for ‘Belvo, scoring two tries which moves his tally for the current league campaign to 14.
Without the services of centre Fergus McFadden who was on duty for Ireland ‘A’, John Kennedy slotted in nicely at centre and managed to score the try of the match with a brilliant individual effort that saw him run more than half the length of the pitch.
Coming into the crunch time of the season, every point is vital in AIB League Division 1B, with the first-placed side qualifying for the play-offs and the top two both earning promotion to Division 1A for next season.
The battle for top spot between Old Belvedere and Young Munster has developed into a real dogfight with both teams scrapping for every point.
Old Belvedere director of rugby Phil Werahiko has no doubts that Young Munster will keep up their form for the rest of the season, saying: “Young Munster aren’t a side who are going to make it easy, I really believe that they’re not going to lose a match for the rest of the season. They may not win by margins but they’re going to win.
“We were under a bit of pressure today because Young Munster had won against Dungannon yesterday (Saturday), but I’m delighted that we got the win and to get the bonus point is very important.”
Conceding two tries within the final ten minutes was certainly not in the game-plan for Werahiko and he clearly needs his team to keep their focus for the full 80 minutes, particularly at this time of the season.
“We always want to keep things up until the last minute but unfortunately the momentum dropped away and Buccs played with pride right to the end. If they had taken a few more opportunities, it could have been a whole different game.”
With four games left in the season and a tight battle ensuing with Young Munster, Werahiko still sees room for improvement if the Anglesea Road outfit want to become a Division 1A side.
“We definitely need to up our intensity. You’re always building because this is not just about trying to win one league, it’s also about next year.
“We’ve got to show that we can play Division 1A rugby and if we get to the finishing line, we know it’s going to be a lot harder next year, so we’ve got to keep building.”
The services of winger Mongan will be crucial for ‘Belvo’s aspirations but Werahiko made it clear that the forwards have to keep setting the platform.
“The lads up front have to provide a platform and they give Dave that bit of space. He’s in good form, his confidence is high and he’s always looking for the try-line. So for us to provide him with those opportunities, we’ve got to get it right up front.”
Buccaneers coach Neal Culliton was justly disappointed with the result since his side did put it up to ‘Belvo for much of the game.
Speaking to IrishRugby.ie after the match, Culliton said: “We played some good rugby in the first half but unfortunately with the first play of the game we let Belvedere in for a try.
‘I mean the guys absolutely gave 100%, they emptied the tank but when you’re fighting an uphill battle against a really good team, it’s always difficult.”
Regardless of an unsatisfactory season which see Buccs at the bottom of the Division 1B table, Culliton has seen some recent improvement.
“We’ve had three games, three weeks in a row now. The first one against Ballymena we performed well below standard, the last one against Galweigans we played really well and we were the wrong side of a one-point game.
“Today again I felt there was a lot of courage and some phases of good play but I suppose it was just not enough,” he explained.
For Culliton’s charges, the next two games in the battle to escape relegation will be crucial.
“We’ve a lot of ground to make up but the next two games are real ‘eight pointers’ against Dungannon and Ballinahinch, so we really have to target those.
“If we could win those two, it opens things up at the bottom of the table and it maybe takes a bit of pressure off.”
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