Heavyweight contenders collide in today's Ulster Bank League 1A semi-finals

There are two cracking Division 1A games down for decision this afternoon in Dublin.

Max Abbott throws the ball into a line out Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A semi-finals (Kick-off: 2.30pm)

Lansdowne (1st) v Cork Constitution (4th) — Aviva Stadium back pitch

Season’s form


Top scorers

Lansdowne: Points — Scott Deasy, 165; Tries — Daniel McEvoy, 11
Cork Constitution: Points — Tomas Quinlan, 166; Tries — Conor Kindregan, 6

Recent league meetings

Saturday, 8 October, 2016 (Temple Hill): Cork Constitution 31 Lansdowne 13; Saturday, 11 March, 2017 (Aviva Stadium back pitch): Lansdowne 20 Cork Constitution 25

Scott Deasy Scott Deasy has contributed 165 points this season for Lansdowne. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Having lost the 2016 decider in dramatic circumstances, Cork Constitution have very much looked a team on a mission this season, winning five of their final six games to reach the last four. They will also return to Dublin for next Saturday’s Bateman Cup final against Old Belvedere.

The 2013 and 2015 league champions Lansdowne, who got back to winning ways against Garryowen last week, lie in wait today, looking to make the most of home advantage and the guile of former Temple Hill favourite Scott Deasy, who trails Con’s Tomas Quinlan by a single point at the top of the scoring charts.

Lansdowne’s backs, including the division’s leading scorer Daniel McEvoy (11 tries), have been the more potent force, but this clash is likely to be decided up front. Constitution won the sides’ two previous meetings this season, their 25-20 triumph on the Dubliners’ artificial pitch in March including lock Brian Hayes’ third try in as many games and a defiant late defensive stand.

Hayes and Conor Kindregan are the league’s most prolific second -ow pairing, with 10 tries between them, but the Ian Prendiville-led Lansdowne front-row has been just as influential, picking up a number of penalty tries via their powerful scrummaging. That could be a decisive area, with Con missing the Munster ‘A’-tied Rory Burke and Liam O’Connor.

Cian Bohane Cian Bohane in possession for Young Munster during their win against Clontarf last month. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Clontarf (2nd) v Young Munster (3rd) — Castle Avenue

Season’s form


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Top scorers

Clontarf: Points — Rob Keogh, 99; Tries — Matt D’Arcy, 8
Young Munster: Points — Alan Tynan, 97; Tries — Cian Bohane, Rob Guerin, 5 each

Recent league meetings

Saturday, 1 October, 2016 (Tom Clifford Park): Young Munster 20 Clontarf 18; Saturday, 25 March, 2017 (Castle Avenue): Clontarf 11 Young Munster 13

Andy Wood Clontarf head coach Andy Wood. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

An equally tight encounter looks likely here. Only scoring difference separated Clontarf and Young Munster in the final standings, with the Cookies notably claiming a brace of regular-season wins over the reigning champions (20-18 at home and 13-11 at Castle Avenue).

Young place-kickers David O’Mahony and Alan Tynan shone in those matches, the latter nailing a decisive late drop goal away to ‘Tarf, and the Tipperary starlet will relish another out-half duel with David Joyce, the league’s Rising Star of the Year award winner in 2014.

Munsters have suffered narrow semi-final defeats these past two seasons, going down to Lansdowne and Cork Constitution, so will it be a case of third time lucky? Of huge frustration is the scheduling clash with the British & Irish Cup final which had five Cookies involved for Munster ‘A’, including centre duo Dan Goggin and Cian Bohane.

Clontarf boss Andy Wood is well used to getting his side to peak at play-off time. The scoring form of the likes of Conor O’Brien, Michael Brown and Michael Noone, who have tallied up 10 tries between them in the last six rounds, suggests that they will be playing for a third league title in four years on Sunday, 7 May.

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