AIB League Division 1B leaders Old Belvedere scored eight tries and conceded six in an incredible tussle with relegation-threatened Ballynahinch at Anglesea Road.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 27
OLD BELVEDERE 57 BALLYNAHINCH 38, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Penalty try, Richie Leyden 2, Max Rantz-McDonald, Dave Mongan, Mark Cooney, Nermin Lovic, Jason Risdon; Cons: Andy Dunne 7; Pen: Andy Dunne
Ballynahinch: Tries: Paddy McAllister, Stuart Morrow, Chris Stevenson, Aaron Ferris 2, Michael Graham; Cons: Ryan Bambry 3, Stuart Morrow
Old Belvedere did all the hard work in the first half, romping to a 36-7 half-time lead with their bonus point secured by the 26th minute.
This game of two halves saw Phil Werahiko’s men extend their lead at the top of the table to three points, with Young Munster their only challengers for a prized play-off spot.
It sets up a fascinating final round of matches as the already promoted duo hit the road in search of a semi-final-clinching win – Munsters are away to Buccaneers, while Old Belvedere face a trip south to UCC.
On Saturday afternoon, Old Belvedere were 36-0 to the good within 34 minutes as a devastating display of hard running and sharp counter attacking left Ballynahinch chasing shadows.
They got off the mark with a penalty try in the second minute, player-coach Andy Dunne landed a penalty and then Richie Leyden, Max Rantz-McDonald, David Mongan and Mark Cooney all crossed for tries.
Mongan’s 26th-minute effort gained a seventh try-scoring bonus point of the season for ‘Belvo, and it was also the Irish Colleges winger’s 15th try of a stunning league campaign.
The experienced Dunne converted four of those tries, and ‘Hinch hit back in the 37th minute to have the final say of a one-sided opening half. Prop Paddy McAllister bulldozed his way over, with out-half Ryan Bambry converting.
Werahiko opted to unload his bench for the second half and Ballynahinch almost inevitably came back into the game.
‘Belvo grabbed three more tries, through young prop Nermin Lovic, Leyden and Kiwi flanker Jason Risdon.
But, the County Down side had the better of the second period, helped by ‘Belvo losing a player to the sin-bin in the closing stages.
Stuart Morrow, Chris Stevenson, Aaron Ferris (2) and Michael Graham all touched down for ‘Hinch who are now bottom of the table, following Dungannon’s win at Ballymena.
Derek Suffern’s men tried their hearts out here in search of that losing bonus point. They will hope to beat Ballymena in their final game, and that other results go their way as they bid to avoid the drop back down to Division 2.