The quartet of clubs all looking to secure the final place in Ulster Bank League Division 1A next season include Garryowen, the second-from-bottom finishers in the top flight, their Limerick rivals UL Bohemians and Leinster duo Old Wesley and Naas.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINALS: Sunday, April 23
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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GARRYOWEN (9th, Div 1A) v OLD WESLEY (4th, Div 1B), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWWLLLWWWLLLWLLLWL; Old Wesley: WWLWWWLDWLLLWDWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 139; Tries: Liam Coombes 6; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: David Poff, Paul Harte 6 each
Preview: Garryowen’s top flight status rests on stringing together back-to-back wins in these play-offs, with Old Wesley, who have not played the Light Blues in 20 years, plotting their downfall at Dooradoyle on Sunday.
Alex Wootton and Sean O’Connor, who will feature for Munster ‘A’ tonight, are the big absentees from Garryowen’s 40-17 defeat at Lansdowne last week. Much will rest on the shoulders of captain Neil Cronin who has scored 139 of their 325 league points.
Munster has not been a happy hunting ground for Wesley of late, with defeats to UL Bohemians and Dolphin and a draw with Shannon, but with Paul Harte joining David Poff on six tries apiece, they certainly have the firepower to give Garryowen a thorough test.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
NAAS (2nd, Div 1B) v UL BOHEMIANS (3rd, Div 1B), Forenaughts
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WLLWWWLWLWWWLWLLWW; UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLLLWWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 146; Tries: Peter Howard 7; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 103; Tries: Harry Fleming 8
Preview: These clubs were split by just two points in the final table, Naas finishing the stronger with back-to-back victories to claim second place while UL Bohemians stuttered with two losses in the last three rounds.
Johne Murphy’s men look deserved favourites here given they beat Bohs twice during the regular season and have home advantage. There were three-point winning margins in November and February, with Murphy landing a late drop goal in the first game and top scorer Peter Osborne kicking 12 crucial points in the rematch.
UL, the early season pacesetters, are more than capable of turning over last year’s Division 2A champions. They need a big collective performance from back rowers Noel Kinnane, Ian Condell and Brian Walsh in order to supply their back-line with quality possession.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2016: Naas 13 UL Bohemians 10, Forenaughts; Saturday, February 4, 2017: UL Bohemians 24 Naas 27, University of Limerick 4G pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win