Young Munster completed a stunning finish to the Ulster Bank League's regular season as they squeezed through to the Division 1A playoffs by beating table-toppers Lansdowne 15-5 at Tom Clifford Park.
John Staunton's men, who were struggling in ninth place in late February, took advantage of the sin-binning of Lansdowne prop Adam Boland to go in 7-0 at the break – the home pack drove over the line for replacement Paul Allen to touch down.
Winger Diarmaid McCarthy raced clear from near halfway for a fine opportunistic score early in the second half. Scrumhalf Paddy O’Driscoll got over in the corner to reduce the arrears for Lansdowne to 12-5, but Munsters made sure of their fourth-place finish with a well-struck 77th-minute penalty from centre Gearóid Lyons.
Ironically, Young Munster and Lansdowne will meet again in two weeks’ time in the semi-finals where Mike Ruddock’s side will have home advantage, while the other play-off tie on Saturday, April 25th is an all-Dublin affair between Terenure College and Clontarf.
Ballynahinch, who entered the final round in fourth spot, must be sick of the sight of Clontarf. The north Dubliners won the sides' recent Bateman Cup semi-final and they returned to Ballymacarn Park on Saturday for a 33-18 bonus point league victory. Prop Liam Hyland scored the only try as UCD held onto their Division 1A status with a well-earned 10-3 triumph away to Cork Constitution, who face Clontarf in next weekend's Bateman Cup decider.
St Mary’s will contest the promotion/relegation play-off against Division 1B runners-up Garryowen on April 25th, as their 45-18 thrashing of already relegated Dolphin made no difference to their final league placing of ninth.
At Anglesea Road, Old Belvedere's push for the play-offs came up just short despite a hard-fought 18-8 win over second-placed Terenure. Belvedere finished fifth overall – a single point behind Munsters – after winger Josh Glynn landed six of his seven penalty attempts.
Meanwhile, John “Luigi” Cleary was the toast of Crowley Park as his two-try haul helped Galwegians overcome Garryowen 17-13 and pip the Limerick side to promotion from Division 1B.
Galwegians lost their grip on top spot in the previous round, but they edged out Garryowen in Saturday's winner-takes-all clash in Glenina with veteran winger Cleary and young out-half Aidan Moynihan playing crucial roles.
Third-placed Dublin University finished just a point behind Garryowen after running in six tries, including two from USA international Tim Maupin, to beat Belfast Harlequins 41-20 at College Park.
Flanker Dominic Gallagher bagged a brace in Ballymena's 45-0 hammering of Buccaneers at Eaton Park, while Division 2A-bound Malone signed off with a spirited 37-34 victory at home to Shannon.
It was an emotional day for UL Bohemians fullback Mossy Lawler as he ended his playing career with a 24-19 success at home to relegated Corinthians. A try from Bohs replacement Joe Murray split the sides.
Semi-finals: Lansdowne (1st) v Young Munster (4th), Aviva Stadium back pitch; Terenure College (2nd) v Clontarf (3rd), Lakelands Park (both 2.30pm, Saturday, April 25th)
Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off: St Mary’s College (second-from-bottom in Division 1A) v Garryowen (Division 1B runners-up), Templeville Road, 2.30pm, Saturday, April 25th. Relegated (one automatic): Dolphin. Make-up of Division 1A for 2015/16 season: Lansdowne, Terenure College, Clontarf, Young Munster, Old Belvedere, UCD, Ballynahinch, Cork Constitution, Galwegians, St. Mary’s College or Garryowen
Division 1B champions: Galwegians; Promoted (one automatic): Galwegians
Relegated (two automatic): Malone and Corinthians. Make-up of Division 1B for 2015/16 season: St. Mary’s College or Garryowen, Dolphin, Dublin University, Ballymena, Belfast Harlequins, Shannon, Buccaneers, UL Bohemians, Old Wesley, Blackrock College