Old Belvedere stung Ulster Bank League Division 1A leaders Lansdowne with a 16-13 defeat on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch on Friday night.
Having done the double on Lansdowne last season, 'Belvedere are proving to be a bogey team for Mike Ruddock's men who struggled to find their usual rhythm. That is a credit to 'Belvo whose rugged pack produced an excellent display, particularly at set piece time and the breakdown, in a game that doubled up as the Leinster Senior League Cup final.
Out-half Willie Staunton, who had an awful day with the boot against Garryowen last week, was back in brilliant kicking form with an 11-point haul, including three settling penalties after 18, 21 and 33 minutes.
There were regular handing errors in the testing wet conditions and although Lansdowne gained ground from the first scrum and Scott Deasy probed with the boot, the Corkman pushed his opening penalty attempt narrowly wide in the fifth minute.
Belvedere full-back Daniel Riordan dashed onto a chip through from Staunton in the 11th minute, however the supporting Michael Oyuga was unable to hold onto Riordan's pass and the first try-scoring opportunity was lost.
Staunton, the eventual man-of-the-match, punished a Lansdowne offside to make it 3-0 from in front of the posts and he nailed two more place-kicks as the first half progressed, just reward for Belvedere's improved play.
Young Lansdowne winger Charlie McMickan went close with a thumping long range penalty, before Deasy opened the league leaders' account from closer in as half-time approached. McMickan, who pressed from a chip and chase, did split the posts with a late 45-metre kick, leaving just three points between the sides (9-6) at the break.
Lansdowne almost kept their run of scores going early in the second period. Their new scrum half Alan Bennie's tap penalty caught 'Belvo off guard and he covered 35 metres before being hauled down short of the try-line. Possession was retained but a gilt-edged chance was missed when the ball was fumbled out wide.
Luck was not on Lansdowne's side when Belvedere succeeded in holding them up past the whitewash and just as the hosts went for the jugular at a five-metre scrum that was reset twice, the ball popped out and McMickan was tackled into touch.
Crucially, Lansdowne had nothing to show for their dominance of the third quarter and Belvedere bounced back to score a 65th minute breakaway try. Former Ballynahinch flanker Paul Pritchard, who was sprung from the bench, got the touchdown after dribbling the ball over the line.
Staunton converted for a sudden 16-6 advantage and time was certainly not on Lansdowne's side. Despite some lineout issues, they managed to rally for a strong finish. Replacement Joe McSwiney used turnover ball at a 79th minute scrum to pounce for a try which Deasy converted.
It was back to a three-point game but Lansdowne's hopes were extinguished by a final knock-on, coming after a promising run from deep by full-back Eamonn Mills who carried up to the 'Belvo 10-metre line.
The losing bonus point was enough to keep the headquarters club at the top of the table (just ahead of Young Munster on scoring difference), while centre and captain John Kennedy gleefully lifted the provincial silverware afterwards on a memorable night for 'Belvo.
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)