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Clontarf Clinch Promotion To Division 1A

Clontarf Clinch Promotion To Division 1A

Clontarf continued their domination of Ulster Bank League Division 1B with a hard-fought 23-16 victory over Lansdowne on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch.

The victory saw 'Tarf secure their place in next season's 10-team Division 1A. With two rounds of matches left, Bernard Jackman's men are 14 points clear of third-placed Lansdowne, and only Buccaneers, who have a game in hand, can deprive them of top spot.

Despite the loss, Lansdowne are still in contention for promotion with Buccs losing to Galwegians, but the headquarters side will be concerned that in-form winger Matt Healy went off with a suspected broken leg late in the game.

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An early Eoghan Hickey penalty attempt drifted wide and it was Clontarf who made the best of the opening exchanges with flanker Eoin Cremen crossing after eight minutes.

It was a well-worked try from Clontarf, with Barry O'Mahony making the break into the Lansdowne 22.

Quick recycling along the line edged the visitors closer to the try-line and they managed to drive over with Cremen credited with the score. Out-half Noel Reid added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

But back came Lansdowne. From the restart, 'Tarf's Martin Garvey knocked on to give the home side the scrum. After a penalty award, Lansdowne hooker Tom Sexton made the hard yards and when the ball was recycled, winger Kieran Lewis was able to dot down in the corner after a brilliant flick pass by Hickey.

Hickey, the division's top scorer, added a difficult conversion from the touchline to level the sides. Garvey made up for his earlier mistake when he caught the restart and drove towards the Lansdowne 22.

Hooker Aaron Dundon made a break and Lansdowne conceded a penalty to give Reid the easiest of opportunities to nudge Clontarf in front. His penalty needed the assistance of the post to give the north Dubliners a three-point cushion at 10-7.

Again Lansdowne responded almost instantly through the boot of Hickey. He punished 'Tarf for going offside and then added another penalty, in the 19th minute, for a lead of 13-10.

Neither side was able to get a rhythm going as knock ons and penalties meant the game was a stop-start affair.

There is a reason why Clontarf are top of the table and their director of rugby Jackman, the former Leinster and Ireland hooker, would have been proud as Dundon broke through for their second try.

Lansdowne lost flanker Trevor Conneely to the sin-bin and three successive scrums later, the Clontarf fowards powered over the line for Dundon to score. The conversion by Reid gave the visitors a 17-13 interval lead.

Into the second period, Hickey was unable to close to gap with an early penalty, when the wind held the ball up midway inside the Clontarf 22. As the half wore on, referee John Carvill spoke to both front rows after further scrum resets.

Clontarf gained the upper hand in the possession stakes, but to the credit of Lansdowne's valiant defence, Jackman's charges were held at bay.

Clontarf replacement Martin Dufficy hammered over a 45-metre penalty to create a seven-point gap, only for Lansdowne to reply.

A Hickey penalty again bridged the gap in the 68th minute to keep Lansdowne within striking distance at 20-16. Garvey then received a yellow card for with 10 minutes remaining, and Lansdowne upped their game.

First, after a long period of pressure, the home side played the ball wide to Hickey who was unable to gather the ball, and knocked on to allow Clontarf relieve the pressure.

Then, with options out wide David Hewitt, whose pace had caused Clontarf a few problems, opted to kick in behind the 'Tarf defencee but they called for the mark and cleared the danger.

Lansdowne had prop Colum Murphy sin-binned late on and Dufficy took the opportunity to add the three points and seal a battling derby win for Clontarf, who now have a 12-point advantage at the top of the table.

Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)