The home side, even without Munster’s new loose head prop Dave Kilcoyne and talented centre JJ Hanrahan, who picked up an injury in training on Thursday night, looked a first-class side well capable of holding their own in any company. Whether Limerick has the capacity to support four teams in the top division, however, may prove to be another matter.
Harlequins travelled as leaders of Division 1B, four points ahead of UL Bohs with Dungannon wedged in between them. When it became apparent that Dungannon were in big trouble in Dublin against UCD, the prize at stake for Quins and UL Bohs became ever greater.
Colm Tucker is in his first year as head coach at UL Bohs and quite rightly referred to the opening eight minutes as “the kind of start you dream of in a game like this”. Even though they were playing into the teeth of a very cold wind, the home side cruised 14-0 ahead thanks to fine tries by wingers Rory White and Darren Moroney both converted by Ben Martin.
However, after 40 minutes a Michael Allen try, a penalty try and successful conversions by Stuart Olding had the sides level. Crucially, Martin, an Australian and a dual status player who also lines out with Clonmel, immediately went in for a third Bohs try to make it 21-14 at the break.
Martin went on to complete a great afternoon for himself and his club by landing two more penalties and converting a late try by Sean Rennison for a personal contribution of 19 points as UL Bohs romped home, leaving Quins with the consolation of a play-off against Old Belvedere for the one remaining spot in the premier division.
“We blooded a lot of young fellas this season and it worked,” enthused Tucker. “We’ve won eight of the last nine games and taken bonus points out of four of the last five.
“There was a lot at stake today so it was a nervous game for both sides. Obviously the tries we got in the first half when playing into the wind were massively important. It was a great way to finish off the year and a great day for the club.”
UL BOHEMIAN: B Martin; R White, N Kenneally, M McPhail, D Moroney; E Torrie, C Sheridan; K Flanagan, S Henry, G Walsh, E Kelly capt, C Kindregan, E Rossiter, K McManus, S Rennison.
Replacements: B Walsh, D Frawley, R Cunningham, D Harris, F Ahern.
BELFAST HARLEQUINS: G McLaughlin; M Allen, M Kettyle, W Stewart, M. Holmes; S Olding, D Creighton; R Lutton, N Annett, T Fraser, G Rourke, M Ferguson, A Gillespie, L Babe, N. McComb.
Replacements: A Heatlie, O McMurray, S Annett, P Greenwood.
Referee: D Wilkinson (Ulster).