We now know three of the semi-finalists in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, and the fourth will be decided during what is sure to be an action-packed final round. There is also the matter of who fills the promotion/relegation play-off spot at the other end of the table.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 11
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (4th) v CLONTARF (3rd), Ballymacarn Park
Preview: The final bell is sounding in the race for the Division 1A play-offs and Ballynahinch’s current two-point cushion could be all important come Saturday’s sprint finish.
Mathematically, five clubs are still in the running to claim that coveted fourth spot, but ‘Hinch know that a win of any kind against Clontarf will set up a semi-final trip to first-placed Lansdowne.
Easier said than done as the Co. Down outfit have lost their last three games against Clontarf. However, with a Bateman Cup final and league semi-final in the next fortnight, the north Dubliners could field a much-changed side.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 19, 2014: Clontarf 27 Ballynahinch 13, Castle Avenue; Saturday, November 22, 2014: Clontarf 27 Ballynahinch 16, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (7th) v UCD (8th), Temple Hill
Preview: The added value of the reintroduced play-offs is summed up by this fixture. It is still all to play for as seventh-placed Cork Constitution and UCD (eighth) shoot for that last semi-final berth.
They can pounce if they get the required result here and the teams above them falter while, conversely, the jaws of the promotion/relegation play-off spot, below them, remain open too.
Tellingly, though, neither Cork Con or UCD have won in the league since February 21, enduring three successive defeats. The Leesiders, with home advantage, look better placed to end that barren run.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Cork Constitution 14 UCD 6, Temple Hill; Sunday, November 23, 2014: UCD 25 Cork Constitution 25, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd), Anglesea Road
Preview: Old Belvedere are building for a strong finish to the league campaign, their superb comeback win over UCD showing just how clinical they can be.
They will need more of the same against second-placed Terenure if they are to jump from sixth to fourth place and make the play-offs. A big Dublin derby on home turf should bring out the best in ‘Belvo’s key men Daniel Riordan, Josh Glynn, Kieran O’Gorman and captain Jonathan Slattery.
‘Nure were 34-27 winners when the sides met in November and although they are assured of second spot, James Blaney’s charges will want to give themselves some momentum heading into the semi-finals.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 22, 2014: Terenure College 34 Old Belvedere 27, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Templeville Road
Preview: Dolphin only have pride to play for after their relegation was confirmed last time out. Their hosts this week, St. Mary’s, are still fighting to avoid the dreaded promotion/relegation play-off spot.
Second-from-bottom Mary’s are four points worse off than UCD and five behind Cork Con. Those two teams meet in the final round, and bonus points could have a big say at Temple Hill and Templeville Road.
Rallying the troops for a big final push, Mary’s captain Kevin Sheahan said: “This is an extremely important game for the club. It’s been a challenging year but we can still get out of the position we’re in, if we win well and other things go our way.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 22, 2014: St. Mary’s College 20 Dolphin 7, Templeville Road; Saturday, November 22, 2014: Dolphin 18 St. Mary’s College 27, Irish Independent Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (5th) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Tom Clifford Park
Preview: For Young Munster to qualify for the play-offs, they must claim the scalp of table toppers Lansdowne and hope that Ballynahinch fail to deliver a result against Clontarf.
John Staunton’s men are certainly capable of beating Lansdowne. They ran them close in November and reserve their best rugby for Greenfields, as the likes of ‘Hinch and ‘Tarf have found out this season.
It is a big weekend for Lansdowne with their Under-20s contesting the Fraser McMullen Cup final on Sunday, and the seniors will not lack motivation as they chase league win number 15.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 1, 2014: Young Munster 24 Lansdowne 21, Tom Clifford Park; Sunday, November 23, 2014: Lansdowne 28 Young Munster 21, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win