Cork club Midleton will be playing Division 2 rugby next season after they confirmed their promotion with a 13-5 home win over Banbridge. Elsewhere in Division 3 over the weekend, County Carlow’s brave bid to stay in the senior ranks ended with a 25-21 loss to Connemara at Oak Park.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3 RESULTS: Saturday, March 27
Ards 44 Suttonians 11, Hamilton Park
County Carlow 21 Connemara 25, Oak Park
Instonians 10 Wanderers 16, Shaw’s Bridge
Midleton 13 Banbridge 5, Towns Park
Naas 20 Barnhall 12, Forenaughts
Navan 16 Portadown 14, Balreask Old
Nenagh Ormond 11 Rainey Old Boys 3, New Ormond Park
Queen’s University 34 Sunday’s Well 13, Dub Lane
Midleton notched their twelfth win in 14 AIB League games to ensure their promotion, alongside Division 3 table toppers Queen’s University. Hamish Adams’ charges outscored Bann by two tries to one as they ran out 13-5 victors at Towns Park.
The result has seen Banbridge drop from third to fourth in the standings, but a win over Navan in their final game of the regulation phase would be enough to see them reach the semi-finals.
Speaking after the game, Banbridge team manager Roy Stevenson said: “The players put in a really gutsy display against what was a physically superior Midleton side.
“After a first half when we were really on the rack, the lads battled back to take the game to Midleton after the break.
“Shandon Scott had an excellent debut, initially at full-back and for the last quarter of the game at out-half, after Ashley Finlay had taken a number of late hits.
“But all the team played well and I am confident we can win our last game and deservedly take our place in the play-offs.”
Midleton’s powerful pack got on top in the opening quarter and the hosts would have had a bigger lead than 8-0 at the interval – but for strong tackling from Bann brothers Matthew and Stephen Irvine.
Tries from Aidan McCarthy and Robert Smith, allied to a Jeff Hitchmough penalty, did the business for the east Cork outfit, shooting them into a 13-0 lead, before the visitors bagged a try through elusive winger Dale Black.
The other big news in Division 3 is that after 13 seasons in the All-Ireland competition, County Carlow have bowed out of the league. Jason Jones’ side will finish bottom of the pile following their four-point loss to Connemara.
Incredibly, Carlow lost the services of 32 players since the end of last season, but there is hope for the future with the likes of 16-year-old Thomas Daly, who is away with the Ireland Under-18 Clubs squad this week in Italy, and his Leinster Youths team-mate Eoin Stynes hopefully pushing through into the senior squad in good time.
Leaders Queen’s proved too strong for Sunday’s Well in Saturday’s clash at Dub Lane, with the Belfast students crashing through the 500-point barrier in some style.
They ran in six tries in all, with pacy full-back David McIlwaine helping himself to a hat-trick.
Ulster’s Jonny Shiels was a try scorer for Queen’s in the opening half as they turned around with a 19-10 buffer. Scrum half Thomas Parker touched down for the ‘Well.
But an intercept try from winger Stuart Campbell broke the Cork side’s resistance, and two more McIlwaine efforts saw Robbie Moore’s men canter home.
Speaking afterwards, Moore said: “We were denied the game we wanted to play and we haven’t played anybody as physical as that in a number of weeks, but the result was what we wanted and we’re league champions.
“You can’t complain if you get six tries and that number of points.”
Elsewhere, right winger Michael Lawton had a day to remember as he scored 29 points – 3 tries, 4 conversions and 2 penalties – in Ards’ impressive 44-11 hammering of Suttonians at Hamilton Park.
A Stephen Carey try and two David Delaney penalties helped Nenagh Ormond to a battling 11-3 home win over Rainey Old Boys, with the result sealing their place in the semi-finals. They will finish third if they manage to stay ahead of Banbridge, who are three points below them with just one round to go.
Meanwhile, a late drop goal from number 10 Ryan Roberts denied Portadown as mid-table Navan picked up their sixth win of the campaign.
The relegation-threatened Ports had built up a 14-8 lead, early in the second half, with ever-ready flanker Stuart Douglas (try) and centre Craig Woods (3 penalties) doing the damage.
However, Navan dug deep in departing coach Brad Harris’ last game at Balreask Old, and despite missing a couple of late penalty opportunities, Roberts nailed his drop goal attempt to steal a 16-14 victory for the Meath men.
That leaves second-from-bottom Portadown with the prospect of a relegation-promotion play-off with the side that finishes second in the AIB League Provincial League play-offs.
Hika Reid’s charges could avoid the play-off scenario if they post a big bonus point win over relegated Carlow in their final league game, and Naas, who are third-from-bottom, fail to pick up a point in Connemara. Then scoring difference would come into play.
Wanderers moved into sixth in the standings, on the back of a 16-11 triumph over Instonians at Shaw’s Bridge. Out-half Michael Boland kicked three penalties and converted full-back Shane Robertson’s try for the Dubliners.
Saturday’s Kildare derby at Forenaughts went the way of Naas on a 20-12 scoreline. Andy Wood’s men shot out of the blocks with prop David Kerin going over for an early try, converted by full-back David Aherne.
Barnhall centre Dean Jamieson finished off an excellent try down the right as the visitors hit and they led by two points at the break (12-10), with scrum half Daryl Furlong also sniping over for a try.
However, Naas raised their game at crucial stages of the second half and Aherne’s second successful penalty was followed by a converted try from influential hooker Andy Shirley, which clinched his side’s fourth win of the league run.
Best on the day for Naas was number 8 and captain Johnny Holmes whose lung-bursting run in the lead-up to Shirley’s score typified his side’s determination.