Major battle looms as top three bolster title claims

Clontarf celebrated after an Ulster League bonus point victory over Blackrock College on Friday pushed up their points tally to 50 and helped them stretch their advantage over St Mary’s College and Young Munster, but there’s a massive title battle ahead.

All three major contenders will be looking over their shoulders in the four-match run-in, and it’s still very much all to play for as St Mary’s (49) and Young Munster (47) keep the heat on.

True, the two challengers had to fight for the required results over Lansdowne and Old Belvedere respectively, with St Mary’s involved in a huge battle with Lansdowne at the Aviva Stadium that ended in a 27-22 victory, a result that effectively ends Lansdowne’s challenge.

Old Belvedere reserved their best display of the season as Young Munster scraped past them 19-18.

Daniel Riordan and Stephen Crosbie had tries, with Crosbie adding a conversion and Aidan Wynne two penalties for the beleaguered champions who now set for a quick drop to Division 1B. But Young Munster shaded it with tries from Darragh O’Neill and Mark Doyle, two penalties and a drop goal from Willie Staunton.

If Young Munster lost a bit of ground to Clontarf, they’re still in control their destiny. It’s a tough run-in with two of their four remaining games against the teams above them.

They’re home to Clontarf on March 24, take on Lansdowne on March 31 in Dublin, Dolphin at home on April 14 and finish off away to St Mary’s, a match that could yet hold the key to the title. As if this intrigue isn’t enough, Clontarf and St Mary’s must also meet on April 14 at Castle Avenue and Lansdowne could also have a say when they meet Clontarf on April 21.

There were plenty of shock results in Division 1B, with the top three teams all losing. Belfast Harlequins lost to Buccaneers in a nine-try thriller at Dubarry Park, the home side winning 37-30.

Ballymena retain second place despite slumping to a home defeat by UL Bohemian whose four tries earned a bonus point 27-13 victory

Bruff helped make it a bad day for Ulster clubs when they secured a 13-8 win over Ballynahinch. It was enough to knock Ballynahinch from third to fourth but was also crucially important for the home side in their battle near the foot of the table. Galwegians did the Munster club a favour by hammering UCD at Crowley Park.

Dublin University continued their drive towards the Division 2A title with a facile win over Dublin University. Midleton secured an important 23-11 win over Bective Rangers to ease relegation worries.

Division 2B leaders Cashel came close to losing their perfect record and had to pull out all the stops to secure a 25-24 win over NUIM Barnhall, while Banbridge kept up their challenge defeating Connemara.

Highfield stay fourth, despite a 28-13 victory over Ards, but they’re now level with Barnhall. Siginficantly, their win has helped Cork rivals Sunday’s Well, who drew 19-19 with Navan and now have five points advantage over the Ulster club.


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