Cork secure bonus point and home semi-final

Defeat at Con leaves Galwegians relegated and gives Ballynahinch hope in playoffs

Clontarf’s Rob Keogh kicks a conversion during their Ulster Bank League Division 1A game against UCD at Castle Avenue on Saturday. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho.

Clontarf’s Rob Keogh kicks a conversion during their Ulster Bank League Division 1A game against UCD at Castle Avenue on Saturday. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho.

 

There will be two provincial derbies in next Saturday’s Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-finals, while Galwegians were relegated on a dramatic final day of the regular season.

Already assured of top spot and a home semi-final, tries from Evan Ryan, Mick McGrath (his 13th of the campaign) and young replacement Neil Reilly steered Clontarf to a 25-12 home win over UCD.

The league leaders will host the fourth-placed students again at Castle Avenue next weekend, with the other semi-final being all-Munster affair between Cork Constitution and Young Munster.

Munsters had home advantage in their grasp with a 22-3 defeat of dethroned champions Lansdowne, which included a 12-point haul from centre Gearoid Lyons, however Cork Con pipped them to second place.

Decisive bonus point

Aaron SpringNiall Kenneally

It was a disastrous result for Galwegians who fell to bottom spot and were automatically relegated. Ballynahinch pulled off the first part of a possible “great escape” by hammering Garryowen 59-5 to move above ’Wegians on scoring difference.

’Hinch had a lot of work to do when leading 14-0 at half-time, but they took advantage of three yellow cards for the Light Blues as they tallied up nine tries in all, including three from influential half-backs Aaron Cairns (2) and Sam Windsor.

The Co Down side still have an uphill task on their hands, though, as they must defeat Buccaneers and also the winners of Dublin University v Ballymena in the relegation/promotion play-offs to hold onto their top flight status.

Terenure College, beaten semi-finalists last year, avoided the relegation dogfight with an eighth-place finish, copper-fastened by their 36-14 bonus-point success against Old Belvedere. Jake Swaine and Robert Duke scored two tries apiece.

Meanwhile, round 18 was equally as eventful in Division 1B where Buccaneers claimed the final promotion play-off place despite going down 23-12 at Shannon.

Buccs benefited from Old Wesley’s 24-23 loss at home to UL Bohemians, holding onto fourth spot to join ’Hinch, Trinity and Ballymena in the play-offs. Outhalf Rick McKenna’s 14-point kicking haul proved crucial for Bohs.

Blackrock College will have to beat Division 2A opposition to stay in the second tier after finishing second-from-bottom, their confidence dented by a 55-21 hammering from Trinity whose Ireland under-19 fullback Colm Hogan scored two tries on his league debut.

Relegated Belfast Harlequins gave departing head coach Adam Larkin a winning send-off with a six-try 36-26 dismissal of Ballymena, while the ever-accurate left boot of Barry Keeshan accumulated 19 points as Dolphin stayed up with a rousing 29-8 win over champions St Mary’s.

Playoff fixtures

Division 1A playoffs: Semi-finals – April 23rd (2.30): Clontarf (1st) v UCD (4th), Cork Constitution (2nd) v Young Munster (3rd).

Relegation/Promotion playoffs – April 23rd: Ballynahinch (9th, Div 1A) v Buccaneers (4th, Div 1B), Dublin University (2nd, Div 1B) v Ballymena (3rd, Div 1B).

Winners play each other to decide final Division 1A team for next season.

Relegated: Galwegians.

Division 1B play-offs – Champions /Promoted: St Mary’s College. Relegation/Promotion play-offs – Saturday, April 23rd (2.30): Blackrock College (9th, Div 1B) v Cashel (4th, Div 2A), Banbridge (2nd, Div 2A) v UCC (3rd, Div 2A).

Winners play each other to decide final Division 1B team for next season.

Relegated: Belfast Harlequins.

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