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Wood Quickly Turns ‘Tarf’s Focus Back To League Matters

Wood Quickly Turns ‘Tarf’s Focus Back To League Matters

Although admittedly ‘delighted’ with Clontarf’s qualification for the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final, their head coach Andy Wood said their focus is now straight back on Division 1A matters and their closing round clashes with Cork Constitution and Ballynahinch.

Defending league champions Clontarf are third in the Division 1A table at present, well positioned to join Lansdowne and Terenure College in the play-offs but they still have work to do before booking their semi-final berth.

‘Tarf host fourth-placed Cork Constitution this coming Saturday and a win over their Bateman Cup final opponents could prove enough to see them through to the play-offs.

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Mindful that the race to reach the play-offs may come down to the final round on Saturday, April 11, Clontarf head coach Andy Wood is preparing his troops for two ‘must win’ matches against Con (home) and Ballynahinch (away) in the final rounds.

Speaking after their semi-final win at Ballymacarn Park, Wood said: “This game must be seen in isolation, as it is the cup. We will be back here in three weeks’ time for the league game. First we have Cork Con, we have two games to go and we have a lot of respect of Con, they turned us over down in Cork (13-10 in November).

“We have that one first and that is where our focus will be. ‘Hinch are unbeaten at home in the league and I think they will want to maintain that, they are within a shout of getting into the top four. In fact, I think they are in fifth only on points difference, so their next match away to Dolphin is vital for them.

“Look, either way that (Ballynahinch v Clontarf) game in three weeks’ time is going to be important for us, and it going to be really important for them. It’s going to be all on the day again. It is another big 80 minutes of rugby, it will be nip and tuck and it’s all to play for in the next few weeks in the league.”

There have been no Leinster winners of the All-Ireland Cup or Bateman Cup since the All-Ireland competition was introduced in the 2005/06 season, so Clontarf will be hoping to make history for themselves and their province when they meet Cork Con in Bateman Cup decider on Saturday, April 18.

A late try from winger Michael Brown, adding to earlier efforts from second row Tom Byrne (2) and winger Rob McGrath, proved enough for the north Dubliners in Saturday’s semi-final as they edged out ‘Hinch on a 24-20 margin.

Reflecting on the game, Wood admitted: “I’m delighted. ‘Hinch have a very envious home record indeed, so without a doubt we’re delighted to come up here and get the result. In a knockout game all that matters is the result and the quality of the rugby from both sides today was very good, so we would have been more than happy with a one-point win to be honest.

“In terms of our performance we made a lot of mistakes in the first half and turned over the ball in strong attacking positions. The key for me was when we started to show a bit of patience, particularly when we were in the ‘Hinch 22 and we came away with the points when they were required.

“The touchline conversion by David Joyce of that last score (by Michael Brown) put us four points clear. It was critical, as we gave away a lot of penalties in those final four minutes.

“We always knew that if we played inside our 22 then a team like Ballynahinch will keep hunting and will go direct at you. To be honest it was only a last-ditch tackle by Joyce on their number 8 (Michael Graham) that put him into touch and ended the game. It was so critical because if play had gone just one more phase we were stretched and under pressure.”