Cork Constitution’s quest for a home draw in the upcoming Ulster Bank League play-offs remains alive after today’s tight 15-13 triumph over dethroned champions Lansdowne.
Results on Friday night ensured that Brian Hickey’s men will finish the regular season in the top four of Division 1A, and although they were made to work for this away victory over the headquarters club, a 10-point salvo from in-form full-back Tomas Quinlan helped them take the spoils.
The deadlock remained unbroken in wet conditions until the 26th minute. With centre Niall Kenneally having almost powered his way over, a five-metre scrum from Cork Con led to right winger Aaron Spring crashing in under the posts.
Quinlan added the routine conversion, but former Con favourite Scott Deasy, now the Lansdowne captain, opened the hosts’ account with a penalty just before half-time.
Indeed, with Leinster prop Peter Dooley added to their front row, Lansdowne went ahead when the fast-breaking Cian Kelleher caused the initial damage and he offloaded for winger Eoghan Quinn to squeeze over out wide, making it 8-7.
The Leesiders were quick to respond, though, with Quinlan angling over a penalty and then finishing off the visitors’ second try, following up on excellent approach work from lock Brian Hayes and out-half Darragh Lyons.
Trailing 15-8, Lansdowne hit back with a second unconverted effort. This time flanker Tadhg Beirne’s impressive 56th-minute break provided the platform for centre Mark Roche to dot down ahead of the retreating defence.
Unfortunately for Mike Ruddock’s side, Deasy was unable to tag on the extras and draw Lansdowne level, and Constitution, with Quinlan and Lyons leading by example, stood firm for their ninth win of the league campaign.
Meanwhile, it is advantage Terenure College in the scrap to avoid the relegation play-off spot in the lower reaches of Ulster Bank League Division 1A.
‘Nure now have a four-point lead over second-from-bottom Galwegians heading into the final round on April 16, following a hard-earned 14-10 success away to the westerners.
‘Wegians were left kicking themselves after losing their grip on a 10-7 advantage in Glenina. The game’s pivotal moment came in the 74th minute when a stray pass was intercepted by Terenure winger Jake Swaine who had the pace to finish off and convert his own try.
The hosts had fallen behind in the first half, Terenure’s first real attack resulting in a try in the left corner by current Ireland Under-20 international Matthew Byrne, which fellow winger Swaine converted.
However, ‘Wegians were back level by half-time (7-7). Alan McMahon, who had replaced injured centre Brian Murphy following an accidental clash with James O’Donoghue, collected a chip from Aidan Moynihan to touch down, with the latter adding a superb conversion.
Defences were on top in a very tight third quarter, but out-half Moynihan led by example for the Blues, getting a block in to increase the pressure on the Dubliners and then nailing a 66th minute penalty for a narrow lead.
But Matt Brown’s charges were undone by Swaine’s intercept effort and ‘Nure, playing down the clock, doggedly held on for what could prove to be their most important win of the season.
Bottom side Ballynahinch got the better of title contenders UCD, winning a closely-fought Division 1A encounter 15-10 at the Belfield Bowl this afternoon.
First half tries from backs Robin Harte and Chris Quinn inspired ‘Hinch to a vital win, which has them five points behind second-from-bottom Galwegians heading into the final round on April 16.
Derek Suffern’s men can still mathematically avoid automatic relegation, however they need to hammer Garryowen on the last day and hope that ‘Wegians go down heavily at Cork Con. ‘Hinch have a -141 scoring difference compared to ‘Wegians’ -97.
Ulster’s Sam Windsor pulled the strings at out-half for ‘Hinch, a nice flat delivery releasing centre Harte for the opening try 18 minutes in.
Windsor’s opposite number, Ross Byrne, responded with a well-struck penalty and then set up his half-back partner Bobby Holland for a try. Holland crossed after a well-judged block, break and offload from former Ireland U-20 star Byrne.
However, ‘Hinch full-back Manihera Eden inspired a superb break that ended with winger Quinn dotting down just before the interval, making it 12-10 to the Ulstermen.
A series of individual errors robbed UCD of decent possession and territory in the second half and a penalty from Windsor, with little over ten minutes remaining, proved to be the match-winning score for ‘Hinch.
Fourth-placed UCD were already assured of their play-off spot before kick-off, and they travel to Clontarf in two weeks’ time in what looks a dress rehearsal for the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, Young Munster took a considerable step closer to a home semi-final in Division 1A by overcoming local rivals Garryowen on a 14-8 scoreline.
This keenly-contested Limerick derby was watched by the biggest crowd of the season at Dooradoyle where the hosts’ latest defeat knocks them out of the running for the play-offs.
The game was only three minutes’ old when Ireland Sevens international Gearoid Lyons landed a penalty for second-placed Munsters, but it was all-square after 21 minutes when Neil Cronin was on target off the tee for Garryowen.
Four minutes into the second half, out-half Lyons fired over his second successful penalty and he added a third with 74 minutes on the clock.
Just when it looked like Lyons would be the match winner for the Cookies, the biggest cheer of the night greeted Michael Vaughan’s 76th-minute try as the Munsters winger raced in from halfway following an intercept.
Lyons’ Ireland Sevens colleague Alex Wootton replied with a consolation try for Garryowen in injury-time, but there was no denying David Corkery’s charges as they ended the Light Blues’ title hopes.
Clontarf’s livewire back-line proved too hot to handle, sharing out four tries as the Division 1A leaders claimed a 27-21 bonus point win at Old Belvedere on Friday.
Andy Wood’s men, who lost last year’s final to Lansdowne, ensured home advantage in the upcoming Ulster Bank League play-offs with their fifth successive victory.
‘Belvo were good value for their 16-13 interval lead, setting the early tempo at Anglesea Road with a well-taken converted try from hard-working centre Aidan Wynne.
The visitors trailed 10-0 at one stage, but unconverted efforts from Mick McGrath (33 minutes) and Matt D’Arcy (37) got them back in touch before referee Leo Colgan’s half-time whistle.
Leinster winger McGrath’s 12th try of the campaign launched a terrific spell for the north Dubliners either side of the break, as young centre Conor O’Brien – fresh from his recent exploits with the Ireland Under-20s – forced his way over ‘Tarf’s third try.
Joey Carbery converted and also added the extras to a second score from Mullingar native O’Brien who, like Carbery, looks an excellent prospect.
The subsequent sin-binning of number 10 Carbery invited Belvedere forward again and winger Simon Killeen’s 66th-minute try set up a grandstand finish.
However, sixth-placed ‘Belvo were unable to manufacture a match-winning seven-pointer in a gripping conclusion as their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs were eventually extinguished.