An excellent second half performance paid dividends for Old Belvedere as they secured a much-needed triumph against Lansdowne in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.
Following their magnificent success in last season's Ulster Bank League decider against previous champions Clontarf, there has been a huge turnover in playing personnel at Lansdowne. This had led to some mixed results for Mike Ruddock's charges, but at the start of round 14, they were still very much in the reckoning for a play-off place.
They finished on level terms (16-16) with Garryowen at Dooradoyle in their most recent league encounter, and this was preceded by consecutive victories over UCD, Clontarf and Ballynahinch.
Old Belvedere began Saturday just one place behind Lansdowne in the Division 1A table (seventh), but a run of four straight defeats meant that they trailed their local rivals by all of eight points.
Lansdowne are known for making whirlwind starts on their home patch, and this hard-fought clash was no different. Out-half and captain Scott Deasy – returning from Ireland Club international duty – made a powerful break from deep, and with just 40 seconds on the clock, he touched down by the 'Belvo posts.
Deasy converted his try but despite suffering a nightmare opening to the proceedings, Belvedere responded in a positive fashion. From just outside the Lansdowne 22, inside centre Steve Crosbie split the posts with his first effort from the kicking tee, and even though the hosts continued to pose an attacking threat, 'Belvo defended well.
Indeed, they were beginning to cause problems for the Lansdowne defence as the first half progressed. In the 14th minute, a neat offload by scrum half Aaron Sheehan provided the platform for Crosbie to touch down on the right flank.
His successful conversion put 'Belvo into a 10-7 lead, but Lansdowne moved back into the ascendancy just three minutes later. An initial break by Foster Horan forced the visitors onto the back foot, and thanks to fine approach work by Tom Daly, Joe O'Brien and Jack McKenna, Deasy's Ireland Club XV colleague Mark Roche dotted down in the right corner for an unconverted score.
It was an extremely open contest during the first quarter, and although both sides tightened up considerably in the latter stages of the half, Lansdowne lock Tadhg Beirne almost claimed his side's third try in the 25th-minute. The Kildare native knocked on just shy of the line, though, and courtesy of a simple three-pointer by the influential Crosbie, 'Belvo held a slender advantage.
However, the tricky wind at the Ballsbridge venue meant that Crosbie was off-target with a brace of penalty attempts in the 33rd and 35th minutes respectively, and owing to an expertly-struck Deasy place-kick just before half-time, Lansdowne edged their way into a 15-13 lead.
Belvedere were still firmly in contention after the restart, however, and Crosbie edged them in front once again when he registered another three points on 45 minutes. In fact, they placed immense pressure on Lansdowne for the majority of the third quarter, as Connor Owende and Shane McDonald both went perilously close to touching down from an extended spell in the opposition 22.
Lansdowne conceded a series of five-metre scrums at this juncture, before they eventually turned over possession after 58 minutes. They were hoping that this would turn the tide in their favour, but Deasy's latest penalty attempt was blown from the left hand side to the far angle and away from the target.
'Belvo also had some difficulty from the tee during the closing stages with Crosbie wide of the mark from another brace of difficult kicks. However, further indiscipline by Lansdowne enabled him to register his fourth successful penalty of the day just four minutes from the end.
The onus was now on Lansdowne to come out and attack, but after an attempted pass went astray, Belvedere out-half Willie Staunton gleefully raced free for a decisive breakaway try.
Replacement scrum half Charlie Rock, who played for the Ireland Under-20s last season, was on hand to add the extras and complete an excellent afternoon's work by Paul Cunningham's 'Belvo side.
Referee: Mark Connolly (IRFU)