While much of the club scene’s focus is on the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final this weekend, there are still some relegation and promotion issues to be ironed out across Divisions 1A, 1B and 2C. Check out our play-off previews.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, April 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DIVISION 1A RELEGATION/PROMOTION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
BALLYNAHINCH (9th, Div 1A) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd, Div 1B), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLWWLLLLWWW; Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWWLWWWWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 133; Tries: Aaron Cairns 6; Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 190; Tries: Tim Maupin 11
Preview: Ballynahinch’s ‘great escape’ all comes down to this fixture, a home tie with Dublin University, the Division 1B runners-up who were a single win shy of automatic promotion.
The ambitious students have been knocking on the top flight’s door for two successive seasons, so this winner-takes-all clash gives top-scoring out-half Jack McDermott (190 points) and his team-mates a gilt-edged opportunity to make the breakthrough.
But ‘Hinch will be far from welcoming hosts, their recent run of three wins on the bounce giving them a shot at saving their Division 1A status. The return of fit-again number 10 Sam Windsor has been huge, and the former Trinity clubman could have a big say in the outcome of this game.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 26, 2013: Ballynahinch 26 Dublin University 22, Wallace High School, Lisburn; Saturday, April 6, 2013: Dublin University 21 Ballynahinch 28, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
DIVISION 1B RELEGATION/PROMOTION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th, Div 1B) v UCC (3rd, Div 2A), Stradbrook
Preview: Another attack-minded university side are hunting for promotion to Division 1B and like Trinity, UCC’s entertaining style of rugby has earned them a play-off final trip to Blackrock.
In the midst of summer exams, the Cork students stunned Banbridge, who were Division 2A’s leading lights for some time, with a 41-21 win at Rifle Park last week. Ireland Under-20 centre Paul Kiernan scored two tries, as did workhorse number 8 Eddie Earle.
Blackrock saw off Cashel’s hopes (24-7) a week ago, with key backs Jack O’Carroll and Sean Coughlan playing big roles. They limited Cashel to just seven points and a similarly tight defensive performance will be required in the second leg of their bid to stay up.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win
DIVISION 2C RELEGATION/PROMOTION PLAY-OFF:
SLIGO (9th, Div 2C) v ENNISCORTHY (2nd, Provincial Qualifying League), Hamilton Park
Preview: Survival for Sligo or a new era of All-Ireland League rugby for Enniscorthy? This showdown in Standhill is set to be a humdinger, as Ross Mannion’s home side seek to hold onto their senior status.
It was a tough campaign for Sligo with only five wins in 18 games, but they did end the regular season with three successive victories over Boyne, Kanturk and Navan, so they can a good deal of momentum forward from those performances.
Reigning All-Ireland Junior Cup champions Enniscorthy, who were seven-try 45-5 winners over Westport last time out, finished just behind Bangor in the Provincial Qualifying League table. This play-off offers Declan O’Brien’s side another shot, with the head coach admitting: “We played well (against Wesport) but it’s disappointing not to win the Round Robin and we have no one to blame only ourselves. We still have a chance even though we now have the long journey to Sligo who will be fresh.”
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Enniscorthy to win