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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 22 February, 2019
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The Ulster Bank League semi-finals features one big surprise after a dramatic final day

Young Munster elbowed their way into the playoff picture right at the end.

Clontarf beat Ballynahinch to deny them a playoff spot.
Clontarf beat Ballynahinch to deny them a playoff spot.
Image: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

YOUNG MUNSTER COMPLETED a stunning finish to the Ulster Bank League’s regular season as they squeezed through to the Division 1A play-offs by beating table toppers Lansdowne 15-5 at Tom Clifford Park.

John Staunton’s men prevailed in a thrilling battle for the fourth and final semi-final spot, edging out four other clubs who had a mathematical chance of making it through on the last day.

Munsters really timed their run to perfection having been ninth overall in late February. They then embarked on a run of wins over Dolphin, UCD and St. Mary’s College before coming good against the league leaders when it mattered most.

Ironically, Young Munster and Lansdowne will meet again in two weeks’ time in the semi-finals where Mike Ruddock’s men will have home advantage on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch, while the other play-off tie on Saturday, April 25 is an all-Dublin affair between Terenure College and Clontarf at Lakelands.

The Cookies will go into that game with a degree of confidence after beating Ruddock’s side today and also testing them in a 28-21 defeat at headquarters back in November. Their latest clash was rather listless until late on in the first half when Lansdowne prop Adam Boland was sin-binned.

Boland was scarcely off the pitch when Young Munster’s powerful pack capitalised. With a combined effort, they drove over the Lansdowne line and prop Paul Allen touched down. Gearoid Lyons, the place-kicking centre, added the conversion for a 7-0 half-time lead.

The Young Munster faithful were delighted to see their side tag on another try early in the second half. Promising winger Diarmaid McCarthy raced clear from near halfway for a fine opportunistic score to give his side a 12-point advantage.

The return of Boland steadied Lansdowne and with 21 minutes left on the clock, they got back within striking distance thanks to an unconverted try in the corner from scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll.

However, with results elsewhere going their way, Munsters made sure of their fourth place finish with a well-struck 77th minute penalty from Lyons.

Meanwhile, Ballynahinch, who entered the final round in fourth spot, must be sick of the sight of Clontarf. The north Dubliners won the sides’ recent Bateman Cup semi-final and they returned to Ballymacarn Park for a 33-18 bonus point league victory.

UCD held onto their Division 1A status with a well-earned 10-3 triumph away to Cork Constitution, who face Clontarf in next weekend’s Bateman Cup decider.

The students may have finished two points away from a semi-final berth, but maintaining their presence in the top flight was all that mattered in a nervy encounter with the Leesiders.

In windy conditions, a lone penalty from returning Ireland Under-20 out-half Ross Byrne split the sides at half-time in Temple Hill. Neither side had won in the league’s past three rounds, so prop Liam Hyland’s second half try looked like being a vital score for the students.

That proved to be the case as Constitution could only answer back with a single penalty from young out-half Tomas Quinlan, as Tom Tierney’s side ended up finishing just one point above the promotion/relegation play-off spot.

St. Mary’s will have to contest that play-off, having home advantage against Division 1B runners-up Garryowen on April 25, as their 45-18 thrashing of already relegated Dolphin made no difference to their final league placing of ninth.

At Anglesea Road, Old Belvedere’s push for the play-offs came up just short despite a hard-fought 18-8 win over second-placed Terenure. ‘Belvo finished fifth overall – a single point behind Munster – after winger Josh Glynn landed six of his seven penalty attempts.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 1A – RESULTS:

BALLYNAHINCH 18 CLONTARF 33, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Steve Macauley, Michael Graham Rodger McBurney; Pen: Richard Reaney
Clontarf: Tries: Anthony Ryan, Conor O’Brien, David Joyce, Adrian D’Arcy; Cons: David Joyce, Rob Keogh; Pens: Rob Keogh 3
HT: Ballynahinch 8 Clontarf 17

CORK CONSTITUTION 3 UCD 10, Temple Hill
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Pen: Tomas Quinlan
UCD: Try: Liam Hyland; Con: Ross Byrne; Pen: Ross Byrne
HT: Cork Constitution 0 UCD 3

OLD BELVEDERE 18 TERENURE COLLEGE 8, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Pens: Josh Glynn 6
Terenure College: Try: Stephen O’Neill; Pen: James Thornton
HT: Old Belvedere 12 Terenure College 5

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 45 DOLPHIN 18, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Sean McCarthy, Stephen Bradshaw, Ciaran Ruddock, Conor Oliver 2, Ryan O’Loughlin, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Ray Crotty 4, Sean Kearns
Dolphin: Tries: Eamonn Mills, Niall Scannell; Con: Rory Scannell; Pens: Rory Scannell 2
HT: St. Mary’s College 14 Dolphin 13

YOUNG MUNSTER 15 LANSDOWNE 5, Tom Clifford Park
Scorers: Young Munster: Tries: Paul Allen, Diarmaid McCarthy; Con: Gearoid Lyons; Pen: Gearoid Lyons
Lansdowne: Try: Paddy O’Driscoll
HT: Young Munster 7 Lansdowne 0

Semi-finals: Lansdowne (1st) v Young Munster (4th), Aviva Stadium back pitch; Terenure College (2nd) v Clontarf (3rd), Lakelands Park (both 2.30pm, Saturday, April 25)

Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off: St. Mary’s College (second-from-bottom in Division 1A) v Garryowen (Division 1B runners-up), Templeville Road, 2.30pm, Saturday, April 25

Relegated (one automatic): Dolphin

Make-up of Division 1A for 2015/16 season: Lansdowne, Terenure College, Clontarf, Young Munster, Old Belvedere, UCD, Ballynahinch, Cork Constitution, Galwegians, St. Mary’s College or Garryowen

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