Defending champions Clontarf became the third team to qualify for the Division 1A play-offs when they beat Cork Constitution 43-28 in a high-scoring Ulster Bank League clash this afternoon.
Clontarf are now guaranteed to finish third in the table, joining Lansdowne and Terenure College in the semi-finals, with Ballynahinch leading the race for fourth spot ahead of the final round of games on April 11.
The north Dubliners outscored play-off rivals Cork Constitution by six tries to four at Castle Avenue, with the visitors losing their grip on an 18-15 interval lead. The Leesiders’ only consolation was a try-scoring bonus point via efforts from wingers Rob Jermyn and Ned Hodson and a brace from lock Cathal O’Flaherty.
Matt D’Arcy, the Ireland Club international captain, was again in talismanic form for Clontarf, running in two tries either side of half-time to nudge the hosts ahead (23-18). Andy Wood’s men were cruising when the Leinster-capped Collie O’Shea touched down and winger Max McFarland completed his brace.
Yellow cards for Rob Keogh and Adrian D’Arcy brought ‘Tarf back down to earth and after Michael Brown’s inviting offload put number 8 Anthony Ryan over for the hosts’ final try, Constitution salvaged some pride with two late unconverted scores.
Meanwhile, a strong second half performance saw Ballynahinch overcome Dolphin on a 35-28 scoreline at Irish Independent Park, with the defeat meaning the Cork club are now relegated from the top flight.
Converted tries from Will Hanley and Niall Scannell, the second after ‘Hinch lock Jonny Madden was sin-binned, had bottom side Dolphin 14-0 to the good. Ross Adair (pictured below) and Eamonn Mills then swapped tries before two Richard Reaney penalties cut the gap to 21-11 before half-time.
But Ballynahinch really owned the third quarter, seizing control thanks to a run of tries from dangerous backs Rodger McBurney, Jordan Grattan and Adam Craig. Rory Scannell converted a John Madigan score in response, only for busy winger Adair to run in his second try and condemn Dolphin to Division 1B rugby next season.
The five-point return, coupled with Cork Con’s loss, has ‘Hinch two points clear in fourth place. Derek Suffern’s charges will need to defeat Clontarf at home in two weeks’ time to advance to the play-offs.
The top of the table meeting of Terenure and Lansdowne was a bit of a dead rubber, but Mike Ruddock’s men claimed a 29-20 verdict at Lakelands Park to complete a season’s double over second-placed ‘Nure.
Lansdowne ended Terenure’s incredible 29-match winning streak back in November with a late penalty from Conor McKeon. And the former Ireland Under-20 international was influential again in this rematch, kicking four crisply-struck penalties.
Three McKeon efforts, along with a 39th minute try in the corner from promising centre Tom Farrell, had Lansdowne leading 14-5 at the break but Terenure turned around with the advantage of a big wind.
However, the visitors crucially added eight more points to their lead via an early McKeon penalty and Tadhg Beirne’s 44th-minute try which owed much to Farrell’s strong running and a neat support line and offload from prop Peter Dooley.
Successive tries from Terenure centres Stephen O’Neill and Harrison Brewer, who also touched down in the first half, reduced the arrears to 22-20 with 18 minutes to go and Lansdowne prop Ian Prendiville in the sin-bin.
However, Ruddock’s charges replied within five minutes through elusive winger Ian Fitzpatrick and experienced replacement Scott Deasy coolly converted into the wind to take the losing bonus point away from ‘Nure.
Old Belvedere pulled off a tremendous 23-20 comeback win over UCD at Belfield thanks to Daniel Riordan’s 65th-minute try and two late clutch penalties from Josh Glynn.
Young winger Glynn held his nerve to split the posts in the 72nd and 79th minutes as ‘Belvo extinguished a 20-7 half-time deficit and secured a galvanising victory which has them sixth overall – three points behind ‘Hinch – and still very much in the play-off picture. Paul Cunningham’s men host Terenure in the final round.
Today’s 18-13 success at home to St. Mary’s also has Young Munster dreaming of a top four finish. They are now fifth, two points worse off than ‘Hinch, and have a home game against Lansdowne to come.
Munsters seized the initiative at Tom Clifford Park with a Willie Staunton penalty and a maul try from influential number 8 Sean Rennison (pictured above). Mary’s bounced back with an intercept effort from out-half Cathal Marsh which made it 8-7 for half-time.
A Ray Crotty penalty, three minutes into the second half, was cancelled out by two tries from the Cookies – young winger Diarmaid McCarthy ran in a very well-taken score and centre Kolio Hifo added his bulk to an advancing lineout maul to touch down from close range.
Marsh answered back with a 73rd minute penalty to set up a tense finish with Mary’s very much on the offensive. But a losing bonus point was the Dubliners’ only reward in the end, leaving them in the promotion/relegation play-off position ahead of a final round meeting with Dolphin at Templeville Road.