The AIB League Division Three final will be a Connacht-Leinster affair between promoted duo Corinthians and Old Wesley. The Galway-based table toppers had a walkover win over Midleton in their semi-final on Saturday, while Wesley got the better of Queen’s in a free-scoring clash at Donnybrook.
Corinthians qualified for the Division Three play-off final without a ball even being kicked, after Midleton unfortunately had to concede Saturday’s semi-final as they travelled without a full front row.
This was on a day in which the Corinthians committee honoured club stalwart Jimmy Joyce for his work in setting up the underage section in the 1970s.
The juvenile changing area at Corinthian Park will be named in his honour.
Corinthians and Midleton decided to go ahead and play a friendly with uncontested scrums which Corinthians won 29-14.
This now means that the only team in Division Three that Corinthians have not defeated this season is Old Wesley, with the Dublin 4 side ironically their opponents in the May 9 final at Dooradoyle (kick-off 12pm).
Corinthians have two big games to round off their senior campaign – this Friday’s Connacht Senior Cup final against Connemara at the Sportsground (kick-off 6.30pm) and the league decider against Welsh on Saturday week.
Meanwhile, Old Wesley gained their fifth straight league win with a 38-25 dismissal of a lively Queen’s University side at Donnybrook.
In an expansive game, played in sunny conditions, the second and third-placed teams in the division shared out ten tries – five apiece – with a 13-point kicking haul from centre Barry McLoughlin providing the difference.
After some good approach work by hooker John Kearns, McLoughlin broke free to score the opening try, but Queen’s were quick to reply with an unconverted effort from scrum half Ian Porter.
Indeed, the Belfast students failed to convert any of their tries on the day, leaving them with an uphill task as they tried to keep in touch in the second half.
The hosts, led impressively by lock Philip Hosie, were 17-10 in front at the break following a converted try from full-back Alan Large and a McLoughlin penalty.
Chris McClean, Alan Thompson, winning the race to his own kick, and Large all touched down in the second period as head coach Dan van Zyl, who once again donned the number 10 jersey, steered his side to an unassailable lead.
Queen’s, whose other try scorers were Gareth Megaw (2), James Reekie and Luke McDowell, were missing out on a place in the Division Three final for the second successive year. They also finished third in the table last season.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Queen’s director of rugby Robbie Moore said: “Coming down here was a big ask. They had changes and we had changes and they made the most of it.
“The referee, the bounce of the ball whatever you say, they fully deserved their win.”
Looking to next term already, Moore added: “There’s a number of people leaving and there will be a lot of other clubs talking to some of our guys, but I think there are a lot staying apart from those moving away because of their job or their studies.
“Certainly there are a number of positions we’d have to build on where we have had weakness during the season.”