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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Semi-Final Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Semi-Final Previews

There are three former champions in the line-up for Saturday’s Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-finals, with Terenure College, who host defending champions Cork Constitution, the odd ones out. Garryowen are gunning for their first final appearance since 2008, tackling Bateman Cup winners Lansdowne.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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This season sees the introduction of the #UBLTry of the Month award with a prize of 250 euro for each monthly winner and entry into the Try of the Year award.

LANSDOWNE (1st) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Aviva Stadium main pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWWWWLWLWWW; Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWLLWWWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 196; Tries: Mark O’Keeffe, Alan Bennie 9 each; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 173; Tries: Liam Coombes 11

Preview: Garryowen will attempt an ambush of Lansdowne’s Ulster Bank League and Cup double bid, and captain Neil Cronin could be the man to knock Mike Ruddock’s men off their perch.

Goal-kicking scrum half Cronin, who has earned a one-year deal with Munster beginning in the summer, is a talismanic figure for Garryowen, leading them to Munster Senior Cup glory this season and their first Division 1A semi-final since 2009.

The Light Blues beat Lansdowne 24-16 at Dooradoyle in early February when Cronin kicked 14 points and helped to set up winger Liam Coombes’ clinching try – but doing it on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch tomorrow is the acid test.

With his hat-trick last time out against St. Mary’s, Munster Academy ace Coombes is the division’s top try scorer with 11 tries, while Ireland Under-20 hooker Diarmuid Barron and ex-Trinity tighthead Andy ‘Panda’ Keating – probably the best signing of the season – have starred up front.

‘Once you’re in a semi-final, anything can happen’ is Cronin’s view, and certainly the pressure will be on Lansdowne to maintain their table-topping form and back up last Saturday’s Bateman Cup final success.

Bookmakers have priced Garryowen (minus the Munster-tied Bill Johnston) at 4/1, while Ruddock’s powerful Lansdowne side, who have some unsung heroes up front in Josh O’Rourke and Willie Earle, are 1/7 favourites to progress to their first league decider since 2015.

Ruddock, who hopes to have skipper Ian Prendiville back from injury, said: “It’s a short turnaround to an immensely difficult game against Garryowen, who were one of only two teams we lost to in the league. So, feet on the ground, do our analysis and rack up for the semi-final.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 4, 2017: Lansdowne 32 Garryowen 22, Aviva Stadium main pitch; Saturday, February 3, 2018: Garryowen 24 Lansdowne 16, Dooradoyle

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd), Lakelands Park, 3pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWLWLWWWWLW; Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLWWLWLWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 116; Tries: Jake Swaine, Sam Coghlan Murray 8 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 149; Tries: Rob Jermyn 6

Preview: Terenure College will draw another bumper crowd to Lakelands for their first Division 1A semi-final appearance since 2015, with opponents Cork Constitution doubly determined to hold onto their league crown after losing the Bateman Cup final.

Terenure came through a sticky patch in the lead up to Christmas when losing four out of six games, and they look to have recaptured their early season form with an average of 35 points scored during the last four rounds.

Former Leinster winger Sam Coghlan Murray and Jake Swaine sit on eight tries each, with fellow back-three regulars, Matthew Byrne and James O’Donoghue, also impressing in the scoring stakes. A new second row pairing this season, Michael Melia and Alex Thompson have been so effective that they earned Ireland Club International honours together.

James Blaney’s ‘Nure had two tight tussles with Cork Con during the regular season, winning 39-35 at home and losing 30-27 away (just three weeks ago), with Con out-half Tomas Quinlan landing the decisive penalty in the latter game on Leeside.

Twelve months ago, Constitution won an away semi-final at Lansdowne and their abundant experience of play-off games is an obvious advantage in this match-up. Players like Brian Hayes, Luke Cahill, captain Niall Kenneally and Gerry Hurley need to produce big performances.

Asked about lifting his side for the Lakelands clash, Con boss Brian Hickey, who is without Munster call-up Shane Daly, said: “The thing about this time of the year is all the injuries are mounting up, the ground is a lot harder. So, it’s just a question of refocusing and trying to be right for Terenure.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 23, 2017: Terenure College 39 Cork Constitution 35, Lakelands Park; Saturday, April 7, 2018: Cork Constitution 30 Terenure College 27, Temple Hill

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win