Old Belvedere and Young Munster have both secured promotion to AIB League Division 1A, with two games left in the regulation season.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 6
DUNGANNON 17 OLD BELVEDERE 22, Stevenson Park
Scorers: Dungannon: Tries: Derek Hall, Paul Magee; Cons: James Shiells 2; Drop: James Shiells
Old Belvedere: Tries: Mark Cooney, Jason Risdon, Max Rantz-McDonald; Cons: Andy Dunne 2; Pen: Andy Dunne
Division 1B leaders Old Belvedere battled to a 22-17 win over relegation-threatened Dungannon at Stevenson Park on Saturday, and are now 14 points clear of UCC in third place.
Second half tries from hooker Mark Cooney, marauding flanker Jason Risdon and winger Max Rantz-McDonald helped the Dubliners extinguish Dungannon’s hopes of making a comeback.
The Tyrone side are now bottom of the table after slipping to their seventh straight league defeat and desperately need to take something from their next league outing – a trip to Ulster rivals Ballymena on March 27.
Having trailed 3-0 at half-time courtesy of an Andy Dunne penalty, ‘Gannon, who had winger Craig Gilroy sin-binned for a high tackle, started the second half on the offensive. But breaks by David Spence and Gilroy came to nothing.
Suddenly, five minutes in, ‘Belvo broke through for the game’s opening try. Leinster scrum half Chris Keane chipped ahead, collected the ball on the hosts’ ten-metre line and a quick-witted move ended with hooker Cooney scoring wide out on the left.
Dunne swung over a terrific conversion and ‘Belvo’s confidence on the ball was obvious. Dunne had his progress halted by Chris Cochrane but with backs and forwards combining, Rantz-McDonald was set free on the left for a 50th minute try, which Dunne converted for 17-0.
A decent spell of possession came to nothing for ‘Gannon and they fell further behind on 62 minutes as a couple of individual errors allowed New Zealander Risdon to cross for his side’s third try.
Stung into action, Dunganno did show signs of their quality when grabbing tries through flanker Derek Hall and centre Paul Magee – but they scored all of their 17 points in the final ten minutes.
A quick steal by Neville Magee and strong carry by Cochrane preceded centre Magee’s try, wth Shiells providing the try-scoring pass and drop-kicking the conversion.
Into injury-time, ‘Belvo coughed up possession when Hall intercepted a pass on the ten-metre line and the blindside flanker brother through an initial tackle before racing through for the score.
Eight points in arrears, the hosts really took the game to ‘Belvo as they regained possession and had a final cut in search of a losing bonus point.
Their endeavour was reward in the final moments. Neville Magee was hauled down as he threatened in the visitors’ 22, before Shiells popped over a drop goal to gain what could prove to be a vital losing bonus point for the Tyrone side.
‘Belvo’s firepower proved too much though during that critical third quarter as Phil Werahiko’s men earned the win they needed to guarantee top tier rugby next season.
They will now chase a league semi-final spot, with remaining games against Ballynahinch (home) and UCC (away).
DUNGANNON: Conor Gaston; Craig Gilroy, Paul Magee, Glen Telford, Chris Cochrane; James Shiells, David Spence; Justin Fitzpatrick, Richard Carleton, Glen Sinnamon, Michael Rainey, Neville Magee, Derek Hall, Mark Riddell, Tim Smith.
Replacements: Mark Farquhar, Rowan Halsall, Stuart McKenzie, David Parkhill, Ethan Allen.
OLD BELVEDERE: Kieran Hurrell; Max Rantz-McDonald, John Kennedy, Conal Keane, David Mongan; Andy Dunne (capt), Chris Keane; Vinnie Soden, Mark Cooney, Stewart Maguire, Richie Leyden, Alan Trenier, Jonathan Slattery, Jason Risdon, Leo Auva’a.
Replacements: Thomas Sexton, Nermin Lovic, Paul Spivey, Brian O’Neill, Kevin Barden.
Referee: Trevor Collins (IRFU)