Terenure College and Garryowen were the big winners on the final day of Division 1A’s regular season, setting up semi-final clashes with defending champions Cork Constitution and table-topping Lansdowne respectively.
Cork Con will be on the road to Terenure on Saturday week (April 28) after suffering a confidence-denting 43-12 loss at Clontarf, whose seven-try salvo was not enough for a play-off berth. Centres Matt D’Arcy (2) and Sean O’Brien contributed three tries.
Terenure capitalised on the Con result to snatch second place and a home semi-final, James Blaney’s men sauntering to a 50-12 victory over an already-safe Dublin University. The ‘Nure attack is looking the sharpest of all in the top tier, with Sam Coghlan Murray, Matthew Byrne and James O’Donoghue all bagging braces.
Lansdowne already had top spot sewn up but try doubles from hooker Adam Boland and scrum-half Alan Bennie saw them post a closing 26-17 win over relegated Buccaneers. Mike Ruddock’s side will return to the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch for that last-four date with Garryowen.
The Light Blues, coached by Conan Doyle, qualified for their first league semi-final since 2009 with a 48-21 success at home to St Mary’s College. In-form Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes notched a hat-trick to end the regular season as the division’s top try scorer with 11.
A four-try second half from UCD saw them pip Young Munster 31-29 at Belfield where Munster’s long-serving hooker Ger Slattery played his final game after over 300 appearances. The 30-year-old recently coached St Munchin’s to a long-awaited Munster Schools’ Junior Cup title.
Shannon will be back playing Division 1A rugby next season after a five-year absence. They clinched the Division 1B crown and promotion with a 40-17 win over UCC. (See report below) Banbridge’s reward for edging out UL Bohemians 32-20 — centre Andrew Morrison took his season’s haul to 13 tries — is second place and home advantage against Ballynahinch in the Division 1A promotion/relegation play-offs. Fourth-placed UCC will travel to St. Mary’s in the other semi-final.
Callum Patterson’s late penalty, adding to Ireland Under-20 flanker Matthew Agnew’s hat-trick of tries, steered Ballymena past Old Wesley on a 22-21 scoreline, while Steve Crosbie kicked Old Belvedere to a 16-13 win over ‘Hinch, and prolific full-back Peter Osborne scored all of Naas’ points in their 33-17 dismissal of relegated Dolphin, whose retiring out-half Barry Keeshan bowed out by taking his league record points tally to 1726.
Meanwhile, tight title races in Divisions 2A and 2C were won by Malone and Sligo respectively. The Cregagh Red Sox were promoted after defeating Nenagh Ormond 43-19, while Ross Mannion’s Sligo side took the spoils 37-0 against Thomond in a winner-takes-all clash, adding league silverware to their first Connacht Senior Cup.
With 17 wins and a draw for a record 83 league points, Brendan Guilfoyle’s Old Crescent were runaway Division 2B champions, achieving an 18-match unbeaten run - the first across the league since Terenure’s 18 straight wins in Division 1B in 2013/14. Crescent’s 28-8 success against Rainey Old Boys saw them pick up a record 13th try-scoring bonus point thanks to scores from Kevin Doyle, Val McDermott, player-coach Guilfoyle and Jeffrey Coyne.
Buccaneers, Dolphin, Corinthians and City of Derry are all dropping down a division after tough and unforgiving campaigns, while Bective Rangers lost their senior status as Division 2C’s demoted team.
Wesley and Tullamore both avoided the bottom two by a whisker — staying up in their divisions on scoring difference. Galwegians also saved the best for last in their Division 2A survival mission, evergreen winger John ‘Luigi’ Cleary rolling back the years in a 50-15 win over Cashel.
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