Lansdowne continue to look the team to beat in Ulster Bank League Division 1A after winning at Tom Clifford Park for the first time since 2011, while defending champions Cork Constitution have leapfrogged Terenure College in pursuit of the second home semi-final berth.
Despite outscoring Lansdowne by four tries to three, Young Munster fell to a 27-24 defeat at the hands of Mike Ruddock’s table toppers. Teenage wingers Luke Fitzgerald and Conor Hayes both touched down for the Cookies, who will miss out on the play-offs unless results go their way in Saturday’s final round.
As ever, former Munster out-half Scott Deasy played a key role for Lansdowne, converting first-half tries from influential hooker Tyrone Moran (2) and centre Mark O’Keefe (his ninth of the campaign). It was the Corkman’s 66th-minute penalty which proved decisive.
Buccaneers’ relegation from the top flight was confirmed by their 22-10 loss at home to fourth-placed Garryowen. It was a first Dubarry Park run-out of the season for returning winger Jordan Conroy, and the Ireland Sevens speedster delivered an explosive 20th-minute try, but scores from Tim Ferguson and in-form Ireland U20 hooker Diarmuid Barron (2) took the Light Blues out of reach.
Like Lansdowne, Cork Con were similarly outscored by four tries to three by Terenure, who launched a stirring second-half fight-back at Temple Hill, but Tomas Quinlan’s kicking haul of 15 points ensured the Leesiders triumphed 30-27.
The sides are now level on 56 points in the table, with Con, who travel to Clontarf in the final round, ahead on scoring difference.
Alex McHenry and captain Conor Kindregan, with a well-taken intercept effort, both crossed the whitewash in the third quarter to add to Vincent O’Brien’s early try. Trailing 27-8, Terenure roared back with three successive tries, including one from Joe Schmidt’s son, scrum-half Tim, but Quinlan’s 73rd-minute penalty from 35 metres proved decisive.
St. Mary’s College, whose Division 1A status now hinges on the relegation/promotion play-offs, went down 45-30 to a Clontarf side who are locked in a three-way battle for the last semi-final spot.
Strong-running winger Cian O’Donoghue and number 8 Michael Noone scored two tries each in ‘Tarf’s seven-try success, which moved them within a point of Garryowen in fourth.
A dramatic set of results in Division 1B has propelled Shannon to the top of the standings, leaving Tom Hayes’ charges just 80 minutes away from winning the title.
First-half tries from Conor Fitzgerald and Ty Chan steered Shannon to a 12-7 victory at Old Belvedere.
Ballynahinch were knocked off the summit after their (14-14) draw with Old Wesley, Conall Boomer’s try bringing them level but Richard Reaney missed the subsequent conversion. Anyone of Shannon (59 points), ‘Hinch (58) and Banbridge (57) could still be crowned champions, and all three are at home on Saturday - Shannon v UCC, Ballynahinch v Old Belvedere and Banbridge v UL Bohemians.
Retiring league legend Barry Keeshan kicked 12 points in his final home game for relegated Dolphin, who were beaten 43-27 by Ballymena who are still scrapping to avoid finishing second-from-bottom. UL Bohemians currently fill that position, although they boosted their hopes with a 29-20 win over Naas which owed much to out-half Robbie Bourke’s 19 points from the tee.
UCC secured a top-four finish and a shot at the promotion play-offs thanks to a brilliant 32-31 bonus point success against Banbridge. Their captain Paul Kiernan ran in his seventh try in five games and John Poland, Cian Bohane and John Hodnett also dotted down. Losing for the first time in six rounds, Bann did at least pick up two bonus points.
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