It was another eventful weekend in AIB League Division Three as Galway club Corinthians secured their long-awaited promotion to Division Two, Old Wesley and Queen’s University maintained their promotion challenges and Banbridge edged away from the relegation play-off spot with a win over Nenagh.
We have to start at a sunny Corinthian Park where a huge crowd turned up to see the home side, coached by Rick Evans and Leon Jordaan, score a 15-7 win over promotion rivals Queen’s University.
The two-try victory has guaranteed Corinthians’ place in Division Two next season after 13 long years in the third tier of the AIB League.
The Galway men played into the wind in the opening half and laid the groundwork for the win with an unconverted try from Wayne Williams, in addition to staving off Queen’s attempts to score before half-time.
David Clarke, one of the best young players in the division, knocked over an excellent drop goal to move the hosts into an 8-0 lead early in the second half.
However, Queen’s made a real fight of it when Andy Linton broke through for a try which former Ireland Under-20 international Ian Porter converted.
The game’s defining score arrived when scrum half Mike Roche inspired a lightning attack and Aurelian Casanova and team captain Pat Cunningham carried the ball on before flanker Sean Gerrity broke free to touch down.
Gerrity was man-of-the-match on the day and it was fitting that the openside grabbed the clinching try, which Clarke converted.
The final whistle sparked mass celebration as Cunningham and his men saluted the crowd and toasted their promotion and booking of a home semi-final spot.
Promotion to the second division just adds to what has already been a fantastic season for Corinthians, following on from the successful return of the Glynn Cup competition, the winning of the Connacht Junior League, qualification for the Connacht Junior Cup final and the Under-20s’ good run in the All-Ireland League.
Queen’s, back in fourth place, still have a mathematical chance of achieving promotion, but it looks like all they will be left with is an away semi-final.
Both Midleton (third) and Old Wesley (second) have nudged past them in the table ahead of next weekend’s final round of matches.
Midleton showed no mercy against an already relegated Waterpark side as they enjoyed a thumping 92-0 win at Towns Park.
Jeff Hitchmough finished as the game’s top scorer with 37 points (three tries and 11 conversions), while Junior Sifa collected four tries for the rampaging Corkmen.
Old Wesley got off to a flying start at Parsonstown in their game against Barnhall, as flanker Rory Gleeson gobbled up a loose ball before passing for full-back Alan Large to charge over from inside his own half for a fifth-minute try.
David Smith floated the touchline conversion through the uprights but a kick chase enabled Barnhall’s Mana Harrison to get over for a five-pointer in reply.
On balance, Wesley had the better of the play in the opening half but they turned around with an 8-7 deficit to overcome, following a penalty from right winger Leo Quinn.
Quinn missed a couple of penalty attempts as Barnhall pressed in the third quarter but the Kildare side were rewarded for their positive play when lock Greg Boland crossed the whitewash.
But some clever tactical substitutions got Wesley back on the front foot a Smith penalty cut the gap to 13-10.
The Dublin 4 outfit moved ahead in a tense finale when winger Ross Johnson seized possession and crossed in the corner for an unconverted effort.
Large and Smith both missed penalty attempts and Barnhall were also off target with a final effort as Wesley held on to move up to second place in the standings ahead of their final match against Sunday’s Well.
The Well’s battle against relegation looks set to go to a play-off against the second-placed team in the All-Ireland Round Robin series after they went down 19-3 to Suttonians.
Tries from Darragh Mulligan, Daire Higgins and Paddy Maguire saw the Dubliners take the spoils.
In a tightly-contested Leinster derby at Oak Park, County Carlow’s final hopes of reaching the play-offs were dashed when Naas beat them 19-13.
A decisive try from centre Johnny Delaney, converted by 14-point kicking hero David Aherne, helped Naas overturn a 13-9 half-time deficit and vault up to ninth position in the table.
Former table-toppers Portadown suffered a late collapse in their Ulster derby against Ards at Chambers Park.
Tom Overy’s second try of the game put Portadown in front with ten minutes remaining, but a Michael Lawton penalty and a David Armstrong try inspired Ards to a exciting 23-22 comeback win.
Meanwhile, at Rifle Park, Banbridge looked to have guaranteed their senior status for another year thanks to a 20-13 victory over Nenagh Ormond.
Bann’s final game is against relegated Waterpark and they will be confident of chalking up the match points next Saturday.
Watched by former Ulster and Ireland prop Simon Best, the Down side were 13-5 down at half-time following a try from Nenagh’s Vima Tuidraki and eight points from the boot of John Lillis.
But Bann improved on the restart and tries from the influential Richard Finlay and Andy Brown saw them to a much-needed four points.
AIB LEAGUE DIVISION THREE RESULTS: Saturday, April 11
Banbridge 20 Nenagh Ormond 13, Rifle Park
Barnhall 13 Old Wesley 15, Parsonstown
County Carlow 13 Naas 19, Oak Park
Corinthians 15 Queen’s University 7, Corinthian Park
Midleton 92 Waterpark 0, Towns Park
Portadown 22 Ards 23, Chambers Park
Suttonians 19 Sunday’s Well 3, John J McDowell Memorial Grounds