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Ulster Bank League: Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Final Previews

Ulster Bank League: Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Final Previews

The final ‘ups and downs’ in this season’s Ulster Bank League will be confirmed tomorrow afternoon, with excitement, thrills, spills and tension guaranteed in five all-or-nothing promotion/relegation play-off clashes.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, April 29

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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GARRYOWEN (9th, Div 1A) v UL BOHEMIANS (3rd, Div 1B), Dooradoyle

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWWLLLWWWLLLWLLLWLW; UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLLLWWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 160; Tries: Liam Coombes, Steven McMahon 6 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 117; Tries: Harry Fleming 8

Preview: An all-Limerick tussle to decide the last team to complete the Division 1A jigsaw for next season. It would be a third successive year in the top flight if Garryowen prevail, while UL Bohemians are bidding to break back into 1A for the first time since 2012/13.

A number of Munster Academy and sub-Academy players will be involved at Dooradoyle, with versatile back Steven McMahon impressing for the Light Blues with a try in each of his last three games. UL Bohs will be without Angus Lloyd, who is away in Treviso with Munster, but fellow back Rick McKenna is in fine form with the boot.

It could come down to a place-kicking duel between Kiwi centre McKenna and Garryowen captain Neil Cronin, but their 31-point second half haul against Old Wesley last Sunday suggests that Cronin’s side will get the job done again here.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 7, 2014: UL Bohemians 6 Garryowen 11, Thomond Park; Friday, February 27, 2015: Garryowen 37 UL Bohemians 14, Dooradoyle

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win


DOLPHIN (9th, Div 1B) v NENAGH ORMOND (3rd, Div 2A), Irish Independent Park

One more win – their sixth in quick succession – would preserve Dolphin’s Division 1B status for another year, a terrific outcome for the Cork club considering they were teetering on the brink in January/February.

They can expect a ferocious challenge from Nenagh Ormond who return to Cork just a week on from their Clayton Stewart-inspired 13-9 win at Highfield. The Kiwi out-half converted his own try and kicked two penalties.

Stewart’s battle at number 10 with Dolphin assistant coach Barry Keeshan could be game-defining, while two high quality back rows include Dolphin’s top try scorer Ryan Murphy (7 tries) and Lemeki Vaipulu, the Tongan powerhouse at the back of a powerful Nenagh scrum.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win


ARMAGH (2nd, Div 2B) v OLD CRESCENT (4th, Div 2B), Palace Grounds

Having relegated Sunday’s Well last week with a tremendous 46-21 away win, Old Crescent are on the road again as they look to book a Division 2A berth just a year on from winning the 2C title.

They travel to Armagh who showed their battling qualities in a 20-15 extra-time victory over Wanderers. It was a real squad effort, with replacement winger Kyle Faloon scoring the match-winning try.

Alex McCloy is set to retain the same matchday squad for Armagh, who won the sides’ two regular season meetings (21-9 at home and 30-19 in Limerick). The play-off final is another chance for elusive wingers Andrew Willis and Val McDermott, two of the clubs’ best attacking talents, to add to their try hauls.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Armagh to win


RAINEY OLD BOYS (3rd, Div 2C) v TULLAMORE (4th, Div 2C), Hatrick Park

The respective seasons of Rainey Old Boys and Tullamore will be defined by the result here, as Rainey look for a quick return to Division 2B and Tullamore have a second bite at the cherry after losing to Wanderers in last season’s play-off final.

That was an heartbreaking finish to the 2015/16 campaign for Tullamore but they bounced back to finish fourth and were 22-15 semi-final winners at Bective, recovering from a 12-0 deficit as brothers Karl and Conor Dunne kicked 17 points and replacement Ben Ridgeway crossed for their only try.

Rainey showed their mettle to overcome second-placed Sligo last week, with full-back Scott McLean starring with 54-point kicking haul across his last four appearances. The Magherafelt men won both league games against Tullamore, 25-21 at Spollanstown and 25-22 at home.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Tullamore to win


BOYNE (9th, Div 2C) v OMAGH (2nd, Round Robin Qualifiers), Shamrock Lodge

Boyne head coach Graeme Eastwood has issued a rallying call for the club’s supporters to make Shamrock Lodge a fortress tomorrow. “The squad has done tremendously well over the last four games with two wins, a draw and a narrow defeat. The support from the sidelines has played a massive part in our success over the past two months,” he said.

His Omagh counterpart Phil Marshall oversaw a hard-fought 25-13 home win over Clonmel which confirmed their runners-up finish in the Round Robin qualifiers, setting up what is their 33rd match of an extremely long but rewarding season.

Back rowers and regular try scorers James Catterson and Mervyn Edgar, in particular, have led the charge for Omagh, but Boyne, with Niall Kerbey and captain George Cooney playing key roles, should have too much in the tank.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Boyne to win