Stakes high as Lansdowne host Terenure in intriguing AIL clash

Champions are seeking an eighth successive victory following a slow start to the season

Terenure College's Adam Lagrue scores a try despite the efforts of Lansdowne's Andy Marks during the Division 1A clash at Lakelands Park in Terenure in November. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Just five rounds remain in the Energia All-Ireland League, and with just four points covering the top four in Division 1A, the stakes are increasing.

Nowhere is this more evident in the 14th round on Saturday afternoon than the meeting between third and fourth, when Lansdowne and Terenure College face off on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 2.30).

While the winners will take a significant stride toward the playoffs and retain designs on a coveted home semi-final, the losers could feel the breath of fifth-placed Ballynahinch should they beat Trinity, although the last-placed students will be equally desperate for points.

Terenure beat Lansdowne 20-18 in the semi-finals two seasons ago and by 24-13 at Lakelands Park last November thanks to a late penalty by Caolan Dooley. Last season’s player of the year and man of the match in their final win over Clontarf when scoring 30 points, he has since moved to Chicago Hounds along with influential backrower Conall Boomer.


The champions still have Harrison Brewer and Jordan Coghlan, with the former now captaining the team from the second row. An injury to former captain Stephen O’Neill is offset by the return of Peter Sylvester. With Henry McErlean called up for his Leinster debut at the RDS, Adam LaGrue starts at fullback.

Terenure are seeking an eighth successive win following a slow start to the season when perhaps suffering a hangover – figuratively speaking anyway – from their first AIL title success and ensuing tour to Argentina.

Lansdowne, themselves on a four-game winning streak, have lost only once on their all-weather home pitch this season (against leaders Clontarf). They welcome back standout centre Andy Marks, while James Kenny is preferred to Jack Matthews at scrumhalf and captain Cillian Redmond continues his return from a knee injury on the bench.

All the clashes between the leading quartet have been quality affairs and this should be no different.

The top two, Clontarf and Cork Constitution, will be expected to complete doubles away to City of Armagh and at home to Shannon respectively following 35-17 and 43-24 wins in the reverse fixtures last November.

St Mary’s have all but secured a return to the top flight, but can mathematically seal first place in 1B with four games to spare by winning in Highfield.

With just five points between Old Belvedere (2nd) and Naas (7th), the six-way scramble for three playoff spots is hugely competitive. The derby between Blackrock (3rd) and Old Wesley (4th) at Stradbrook, to be followed by the Blackrock-Wicklow women’s league tie, looks particularly significant.

Instonians host Wanderers in a Division 2B summit meeting, with the former seeking a remarkable 32nd bonus-point win in succession since returning to the AIL. But no one has pushed them harder in that time than Wanderers, who extended them in a thrilling 39-38 win for the Belfast side at Merrion Road last November.

Saturday’s games

Energia All-Ireland Men’s League (2.30)

Division 1A: Ballynahinch v Dublin University, Ballymacarn Park; City of Armagh v Clontarf, Palace Grounds; Cork Constitution v Shannon, Temple Hill; Lansdowne v Terenure College, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Young Munster v UCD, Tom Clifford Park.

Division 1B: Blackrock College v Old Wesley, Stradbrook; Buccaneers v Queens, Dubarry Park; Garryowen v Naas, Dooradoyle; Highfield v St. Mary’s College, Woodleigh Park; UCC v Old Belvedere, The Mardyke.

Division 2A: MU Barnhall v Greystones, Parsonstown; Navan v Malone, Balreask Old; Nenagh Ormond v Ballymena, New Ormond Park; Old Crescent v Banbridge, Takumi Park; UL Bohemian v Cashel, Annacotty.

Division 2B: Belfast Harlequins v Galway Corinthians, Deramore Park; Dolphin v Rainey, Virgin Media Park; Instonians v Wanderers, Shaw’s Bridge; Malahide v Sligo, Estuary Road; Skerries v Dungannon, Holmpatrick.

Division 2C: Ballina v Midleton, Heffernan Park; Clogher Valley v Bruff, The Cran; Galwegians v Bangor, Crowley Park; Omagh Academicals v Clonmel, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields; Tullamore v Enniscorthy, Spollanstown.

Energia All-Ireland Women’s League (5.0)

Ballincollig v Cooke, Tanner Park; Blackrock v Wicklow, Stradbrook; Railway Union v Galwegians, Park Avenue; UL Bohemian v Suttonians, UL Arena.

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Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times