LANSDOWNE 13-15 CORK CONSTITUTION, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Cork Constitution's quest for a home draw in the upcoming play-offs remains alive after a tight 15-13 triumph over dethroned champions Lansdowne.
Results on Friday night ensured that Brian Hickey's men will finish the regular season in the top four of the division, and although they were made to work for this away victory, a 10-point salvo from in-form full-back Tomás Quinlan helped them take the spoils.
The deadlock remained unbroken in wet conditions until the 26th minute. With centre Niall Kenneally having almost powered his way over, a five-metre scrum from Con led to right winger Aaron Spring crashing in under the posts.
Quinlan added the routine conversion, but former Con favourite Scott Deasy, now the Lansdowne captain, opened the hosts' account with a penalty just before half-time.
Indeed, with Leinster prop Peter Dooley added to their front row, Lansdowne went ahead when the fast-breaking Cian Kelleher caused the initial damage and he offloaded for winger Eoghan Quinn to squeeze over out wide, making it 8-7.
The Leesiders were quick to respond, though, with Quinlan angling over a penalty and then finishing off the visitors' second try, following up on excellent approach work from lock Brian Hayes and out-half Darragh Lyons.
Trailing 15-8, Lansdowne hit back with a second unconverted effort. This time flanker Tadhg Beirne's impressive 56th-minute break provided the platform for centre Mark Roche to dot down ahead of the retreating defence.
Unfortunately for Mike Ruddock's side, Deasy was unable to tag on the extras and draw Lansdowne level, and Constitution, with Quinlan and Lyons leading by example, stood firm for their ninth win of the campaign.
GALWEGIANS 10 TERENURE COLLEGE 14, Crowley Park
It is advantage Terenure College in the scrap to avoid the relegation play-off spot in the lower reaches of Division 1A.
'Nure now have a four-point lead over second-from-bottom Galwegians heading into the final round on 16 April, following a hard-earned 14-10 success away to the westerners.
'Wegians were left kicking themselves after losing their grip on a 10-7 advantage in Glenina. The game's pivotal moment came in the 74th minute when a stray pass was intercepted by Terenure winger Jake Swaine who had the pace to finish off and convert his own try.
The hosts had fallen behind in the first half, Terenure's first real attack resulting in a try in the left corner by current Ireland Under-20 international Matthew Byrne, which fellow winger Swaine converted.
However, 'Wegians were back level by half-time (7-7). Alan McMahon, who had replaced injured centre Brian Murphy following an accidental clash with James O'Donoghue, collected a chip from Aidan Moynihan to touch down, with the latter adding a superb conversion.
Defences were on top in a very tight third quarter, but out-half Moynihan led by example for the Blues, getting a block in to increase the pressure on the Dubliners and then nailing a 66th-minute penalty for a narrow lead.
But Matt Brown's charges were undone by Swaine's intercept effort and 'Nure, playing down the clock, doggedly held on for what could prove to be their most important win of the season.
UCD 10 BALLYNAHINCH 15, Belfield Bowl
Bottom side Ballynahinch got the better of title contenders UCD, winning a closely-fought encounter 15-10 at the Belfield Bowl.
First-half tries from backs Robin Harte and Chris Quinn inspired 'Hinch to a vital win, which has them five points behind second-from-bottom Galwegians heading into the final round.
Derek Suffern's men can still mathematically avoid automatic relegation, however they need to hammer Garryowen on the last day and hope that 'Wegians go down heavily at Cork Con. 'Hinch have a minus 141 scoring difference compared to 'Wegians' minus 97.
Ulster's Sam Windsor pulled the strings at out-half for 'Hinch, a nice flat delivery releasing centre Harte for the opening try 18 minutes in.
Windsor's opposite number, Ross Byrne, responded with a well-struck penalty and then set up his half-back partner Bobby Holland for a try. Holland crossed after a well-judged block, break and offload from former Ireland U-20 star Byrne.
However, 'Hinch full-back Manihera Eden inspired a superb break that ended with winger Chris Quinn dotting down just before the interval, making it 12-10 to the Ulstermen.
A series of individual errors robbed UCD of decent possession and territory in the second half and a penalty from Windsor, with little over ten minutes remaining, proved to be the match-winning score for 'Hinch.
Fourth-placed UCD were already assured of their play-off spot before kick-off, and they travel to Clontarf in two weeks' time in what looks a dress rehearsal for the semi-finals.
GARRYOWEN 8 YOUNG MUNSTER 14, Dooradoyle
Young Munster took a considerable step closer to a home semi-final in Division 1A by overcoming local rivals Garryowen 14-8 on Friday night.
This keenly-contested Limerick derby was watched by the biggest crowd of the season at Dooradoyle where the hosts' latest defeat knocks them out of the running for the play-offs.
The game was only three minutes' old when Ireland Sevens international Gearoid Lyons landed a penalty for second-placed Munsters, but it was all-square after 21 minutes when Neil Cronin was on target off the tee for Garryowen.
Four minutes into the second half, out-half Lyons fired over his second successful penalty and he added a third with 74 minutes on the clock.
Just when it looked like Lyons would be the match winner for the Cookies, the biggest cheer of the night greeted Michael Vaughan's 76th-minute try as the Munsters winger raced in from halfway following an intercept.
Lyons' Ireland Sevens colleague Alex Wootton replied with a consolation try for Garryowen in injury-time, but there was no denying David Corkery's charges as they ended the Light Blues' title hopes.
OLD BELVEDERE 21 CLONTARF 27, Anglesea Road
Clontarf's livewire back-line proved too hot to handle, sharing out four tries as the league leaders claimed a 27-21 bonus-point win at Old Belvedere on Friday night.
Andy Wood's men, who lost last year's final to Lansdowne, ensured home advantage in the upcoming Ulster Bank League play-offs with their fifth successive victory.
'Belvo were good value for their 16-13 interval lead, setting the early tempo at Anglesea Road with a well-taken converted try from hard-working centre Aidan Wynne [above].
The visitors trailed 10-0 at one stage, but unconverted efforts from Mick McGrath (33 minutes) and Matt D'Arcy (37) got them back in touch before referee Leo Colgan's half-time whistle.
Leinster winger McGrath's 12th try of the campaign launched a terrific spell for the north Dubliners either side of the break, as young centre Conor O'Brien - fresh from his recent exploits with the Ireland Under-20s - forced his way over 'Tarf's third try.
Joey Carbery converted and also added the extras to a second score from Mullingar native O'Brien who, like Carbery, looks an excellent prospect.
The subsequent sin-binning of number 10 Carbery invited Belvedere forward again and replacement Simon Killeen's 66th-minute try set up a grandstand finish.
However, sixth-placed 'Belvo were unable to manufacture a match-winning seven-pointer in a gripping conclusion as their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs were eventually extinguished.
BALLYMENA 22 DOLPHIN 23, Eaton Park
Dolphin dug deep to edge out promotion hopefuls Ballymena 23-22 in a real cliffhanger of a game at Eaton Park.
The Corkmen are hoping to avoid finishing second-from-bottom and entering the four-team relegation/promotion play-offs with the second, third and fourth-placed sides from Division 2A.
The battle to retain their Division 1B status outright will go right down to the final round on April 16, with just two points currently separating Blackrock College (ninth), UL Bohemians (eighth), Dolphin (seventh) and Shannon (sixth).
Dolphin host newly crowned Division 1B champions St Mary's in two weeks' time and they proceed to that 'must win' fixture with confidence after squeezing past the third-placed Braidmen.
The Division 1A relegation/promotion play-offs are on the horizon for Ballymena, who bookended the first half today with tries from Ulster hooker John Andrew and Ireland Club international Rodger McBurney.
But that was only enough to trail 13-12 at the interval and despite a second try from barnstorming full-back McBurney, who now has 10 touchdowns overall, it was Dolphin who took the verdict in the end.
They crossed the whitewash at crucial stages, scrum-half Daryl Foley in the first half and full-back Rob O'Sullivan late in the second, and veteran out-half Barry Keeshan produced the goods once again with an important 13-point kicking contribution.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE 21 SHANNON 19, Stradbrook
Blackrock College consigned Shannon to their fifth defeat in a row as the hosts triumphed 21-19 at Stradbrook.
Both of these sides are yet to confirm their place in Division 1B for next season, so it was no surprise that the first half was a tight and edgy affair.
Rock led 9-8 at half-time thanks to three penalties from goal-kicking scrum-half Jack O'Carroll, who struck the ball really well in the heavy conditions.
Shannon's left winger Greg O'Shea tore clear to score an excellent individual try, and he completed his brace out wide early in the second half.
However, despite a combination nine-point tally from penalties converted by Ronan McKenna and replacement Tadhg Bennett (2), missed kicks came back to haunt Shannon in the end.
McKenna and out-half Shane Airey both misfired on a couple of occasions and that allowed Blackrock to build pressure again. Their well-organised maul forced a penalty which was converted for 16-13.
Bennett squared things up for Marcus Horan's men and added another penalty in the closing stages, but in between, flanker Sam Cooke burst free on the left wing to run in the game's decisive try.
Just two points in arrears, Shannon missed another shot at the posts in the dying minutes and Rock held on for a gritty victory. A similar result will be needed away to Dublin University on 16 April, as Emmet Farrell's charges actually slipped to ninth place following UL Bohs' bonus-point success against Belfast Harlequins.
BUCCANEERS 25 OLD WESLEY 9, Dubarry Park
Buccaneers outscored Old Wesley by three tries to none as they won out 25-9 at Dubarry Park to move back into the top four of Division 1B.
The clubs placed second to fourth enter the Division 1A relegation/promotion play-offs come the end of the regular season, so this was a vital result for the midlanders.
Buccs have swapped places with Wesley in the table, moving into fourth spot with a three-point advantage ahead of their final round trip to Shannon. Wesley will be targeting a bonus-point win at home to UL.
The sides were quite evenly matched, as expected, during the opening exchanges with place-kickers Ian Cassidy and Conor McKeon swapping penalties.
However, after Cassidy's second strike, Buccs showed their try-scoring threat when McKeon's cross-field kick was gathered by winger Eoghan O'Reilly and he had the pace to burst clear and make it 8-6.
Following McKeon's first half departure, Alan Gaughan extended the Pirates' advantage before Cassidy landed his third and final penalty of the day for the Dubliners.
Down the home stretch, Brett Wilkinson's picked off a couple of well-executed tries to put the result beyond any doubt. Former Ireland Under-20 international Cian Romaine crossed in the 69th minute and another young talent, centre Conor Finn, added the final gloss off a turnover in injury-time.
UL BOHEMIANS 34 BELFAST HARLEQUINS 0, Annacotty
UL Bohemians enjoyed a five-try rout of relegated Belfast Harlequins, but will need more of the same in order to avoid the relegation play-offs themselves.
Despite this runaway 34-0 success, Bohs are eighth in the table and will need to win away to Old Wesley in two weeks' time in order to preserve their Division 1B status.
They were far too strong for bottom side Quins, breaking into a 22-0 lead by half-time thanks to tries from Rory White, Colin Ryan and Rick McKenna, who converted two tries and also landed a penalty.
Ireland Sevens international Cian Aherne and second row Noel Kinane added further touchdowns to secure the bonus point for the Red Robins, who have now won four of their five league matches.
ST MARY'S COLLEGE 9 DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 5, Templeville Road (played on Friday)
Three first-half penalties from Sean Kearns proved decisive at Templeville Road on Friday as St Mary's College were crowned Division 1B champions with a 9-5 defeat of Dublin University.
Kearns' nine-point haul had the hosts in the driving seat by half-time, and even though Trinity narrowed the gap with a Tim Maupin try on the resumption, Mary's held out to secure automatic promotion straight back to Division 1A for next season.
Mary's had started this top of the table clash in determined fashion, and just eight minutes in, an excellent long-range penalty from young out-half Kearns broke the deadlock.
The influential number 10 doubled his side's advantage after 14 minutes, but the home side then suffered a setback when full-back Steve Toal-Lennon was forced out of the action through injury - with Terry Kennedy taking his place.
Trinity's Tommy Whittle missed an excellent opportunity to narrow the gap, though, and thanks to a third successful penalty from Kearns, the 2012 Ulster Bank League champions brought a 9-0 lead into the interval.
Trinity kept Mary's on the back foot for large spells after the restart, however, and even though Whittle's 48th-minute place-kick rebounded off the woodwork, they finally breached the stern Mary's resistance 16 minutes from time.
After the ball was recycled to the right flank, American international winger Maupin squeezed through in the corner for his 11th try of the season. The unconverted score set-up a tension-filled finale, but with Mary's largely controlling the tempo of the play, they finished with four points to spare over the second-placed students.