Relegation dogfight goes down to final day in All-Ireland League
Four of the five teams that face drop from Division 1A will meet in final round
Patrick Thornton of Terenure College holds on to Clontarf’s Jack Power during the All-Ireland League Division 1A game at Castle Avenue. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
A nifty bit of soothsaying by the IRFU fixture planners has conjured up some mouth-watering showdowns in next Saturday’s final round of the All-Ireland League, with four of five relegation-threatened teams in Division 1A set to play each other and Lansdowne and Clontarf going head-to-head for a home semi-final.
Defending champions Lansdowne now hold a three-point lead in second place, having run in seven tries in a 54-26 bonus-point victory over Garryowen. Their 20-year-old winger Peter Sullivan continues to impress at the top of the division’s try-scoring charts, bagging a brace on Saturday to take his season’s haul to 14.
A dramatic injury-time penalty from James Thornton guided Terenure College to a vital 16-15 win at Clontarf. Thornton kicked 11 points in all, moving Terenure level with third-from-bottom UCC. The Cork students visit UCD, who are three points better off, in round 18, at the same time as Terenure host Young Munster, who are level with UCD on 34 points.
Ballynahinch were the big winners in Division 1B as they moved three points clear at the summit, ahead of a home clash with St Mary’s. Scrumhalf Rhys O’Donnell’s seventh try of the campaign helped the Co Down side prevail 27-19 at City of Armagh. Old Wesley were knocked off top spot following a 30-24 defeat at neighbours Old Belvedere, who had a 13th try of the season from winger Jack Keating.
Naas are still in title contention thanks to a 47-24 bonus-point success at relegated Ballymena, with outhalf Peter Hastie finishing with 16 points. Banbridge preserved their Division 1B status courtesy of a 24-20 win at Buccaneers, who are resigned to the dreaded relegation playoff spot. Mary’s were outscored by six tries to five by Malone but still triumphed 38-26 thanks to Conor Dean’s 13-point kicking haul.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Well went down 54-19 to Belfast Harlequins and were relegated from Division 2B, while Ballina’s 47-27 home win over Tullamore earned them the Division 2C title just a year on coming up from junior rugby. Two tries each from David Murphy and Ivan Jacob saw Enniscorthy thrash Clonmel 46-5 in the round-robin qualifiers and close in on promotion.