Clontarf looking to extend lead

Club rugby returns to a Friday night slot this evening as the battle for Ulster Bank League honours intensifies in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Leaders Clontarf can put some daylight — at least temporarily — between themselves and fellow challengers St Mary’s College and Young Munster at Castle Avenue (7.30pm), both of whom have to wait until tomorrow to play.

Given the opposition — lowly Blackrock College — it would appear they will do that, although local rivalry tends to throw up some strange results from time to time especially when one of the contestants is fighting for survival, as Blackrock on 17 points and in ninth position just above Old Belvedere are.

At Thomond Park (7.30pm), old rivals Shannon and Garryowen go head-to-head. Neither team is in with a shout but the outcome is of far more importance to Shannon given their perilous position three points ahead of Blackrock in eighth. They, like Garryowen, have a game in hand over the other participants.

Cork Constitution’s title challenge has slipped away gradually as the season has progressed and Brian Walsh’s side is well off the pace in fifth place even though mathematically still capable of coming through.

Con host local rivals Dolphin at Temple Hill (7.30pm) and will be seeking a double having won the first round tie 17-10 in Musgrave Park back in October. But Steve Ford’s team, if not exactly in scintillating form, has produced some top results this campaign with victories over Clontarf, St Mary’s and Young Munster.

One more victory would undoubtedly guarantee them their place in the top flight (they lie seventh on 29 points, seven more than Shannon, 12 more than Blackrock and 18 more than Old Belvedere), so they’ll likely put it up to the home side.

The action continues tomorrow with Old Belvedere hosting Young Munster and likely facing another hard day at Anglesea Road (2.30pm), while the top match is at the Aviva Stadium (2.30pm) when Lansdowne take on St Mary’s in their most important game of the season.

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