BUCCANEERS 10 GARRYOWEN 22, Dubarry Park
Buccaneers went down fighting against Garryowen but the Pirates' relegation to Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League was confirmed with a 22-10 defeat at Dubarry Park.
Not even the presence of returning winger Jordan Conroy, whose prolific try-scoring exploits were key to Buccs' promotion last season, could inspire Darin Claasen's struggling side who now cannot catch second-from-bottom St. Mary's College.
In-form Ireland Under-20 hooker Diarmuid Barron picked up his second successive brace of tries for Garryowen, who remain in possession of the final semi-final berth and take a one-point lead over fifth-placed Clontarf into next weekend's final round.
The Light Blues had opened up a 10-point gap on Buccaneers by the interval, Conroy's 20th-minute try cancelling out an early Neil Cronin penalty before the Limerick men rattled off two late first half tries from forward pressure.
Flanker Tim Ferguson proved unstoppable in the 35th minute, muscling over close to the posts after Garryowen had initially got the nudge on at a five-metre scrum. Cronin converted and then added the extras to a similar Barron score from close range.
A 49th-minute penalty from Connacht's Conor McKeon kept Buccaneers in the hunt at 17-10 down, but their fate was sealed by Barron's fifth try in four league games, which arrived with 17 minutes remaining.
BUCCANEERS: Luke Carty; Darragh Corbett, Callum Boland, Ben Carty, Jordan Conroy; Alan Gaughan (capt), Conor McKeon; Martin Staunton, John Sutton, Conan O'Donnell, Simon Meagher, Dan Law, Cian Romaine, Evan Galvin, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Rory Grenham, Conor Kenny, Ruairi Byrne, Graham Lynch, Frankie Hopkins.
GARRYOWEN: Andrew O'Byrne; Liam Coombes, Hugh O'Brien-Cunningham, Dave McCarthy, Bryan Fitzgerald; Bill Johnston, Neil Cronin (capt); Niall Horan, Diarmuid Barron, Andy Keating, Sean O'Connor, Dean Moore, Tim Ferguson, Jack Daly, Sean Rennison.
Replacements: Liam Cronin, Ben Rowley, Mikey Wilson, Darren Ryan, Jamie Gavin.
CORK CONSTITUTION 30 TERENURE COLLEGE 27, Temple Hill
Cork Constitution heaved a collective sigh of relief as a late missed drop goal from Terenure College saw the Leesiders hold on for a breathless 30-27 win at Temple Hill.
It was a hugely important result for Constitution who are now second in the table - level on 56 points with a leapfrogged Terenure - and a nose in front in pursuit of home advantage in the semi-finals.
However, the defending champions have to go to play-off-chasing Clontarf next Saturday in a repeat of last year's final, knowing that they must at least match Terenure's result at home to Dublin University.
While Lansdowne are now home and hosed as table toppers, the battle for second place intensified this afternoon with Con looking to overhaul 'Nure, who had Joe Schmidt's eldest son Tim starting at scrum half.
Hooker Vincent O'Brien's 10th-minute try, to the left of the posts, and a brace of penalties from key out-half Tomas Quinlan (20 and 27 minutes) had Con leading 13-0. However, Terenure were back within five points by half-time, flanker Robert Duke stretching out for a well-taken try and Mark O'Neill landing a penalty.
Again though, the home side were quickest out of the blocks on the restart. Ireland Sevens international Alex McHenry nipped over for try number two, and captain Conor Kindregan gleefully ran in an intercept effort for a 27-8 scoreline.
To their immense credit, Terenure came back from the dead with three tries - two of them converted - to draw level by the 70-minute mark. There was some excellent interplay as O'Neill, Jake Swaine and full-back Matthew Byrne all touched down.
The momentum appeared to be with James Blaney's free-running charges as they sought a fitting end to their second half comeback. However, Quinlan had other ideas and his coolly-struck 35-metre penalty, with seven minutes left on the clock, proved to be the match-winning score.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Liam O'Connell; JJ O'Neill, Alex McHenry, Niall Kenneally, Greg Higgins; Tomas Quinlan, Gerry Hurley; Brendan Quinlan, Vincent O'Brien, Ger Sweeney, Conor Kindregan (capt), Brian Hayes, Joe McSwiney, Ross O'Neill, Luke Cahill.
Replacements: David McCormack, Dylan Murphy, Evan Mintern, Jason Higgins, Joseph White.
TERENURE COLLEGE: Matthew Byrne; Jake Swaine, Marc Hiney, Robbie Carroll, Sam Coghlan Murray; Mark O'Neill, Tim Schmidt; Schalk Jooste, Robbie Smyth (capt), Oisin Heffernan, Michael Melia, Alex Thompson, Robert Duke, Cathal Deans, Eoin Joyce.
Replacements: Adam Clarkin, Cian Madden, Paddy Thornton, Kaleikumaka Konrad, James O'Donoghue.
ST MARY'S COLLEGE 30 CLONTARF 45, Templeville Road
Clontarf had too much firepower for struggling St. Mary's College, outscoring their hosts by seven tries to three in a 45-30 bonus point victory at Templeville Road.
It was a day to remember for the Clontarf forwards who bagged five of those scores, while the club’s Under-20s were also victorious, winning their Fraser McMullen All-Ireland Cup quarter-final away to Garryowen (37-30).
Tarf’s seniors, who lost to Garryowen last time out, laid the foundations for this crucial away success in the first half, with strong-running winger O’Donoghue scoring the pick of their four tries on the way to a 24-9 lead.
Number 8 Michael Noone also helped himself to a try double, while young front rowers Dylan Donnellan and Iva Soroka also touched down along with Leinster-capped blinside Tony Ryan.
St Mary’s, whose top-flight status hinges on the upcoming relegation/promotion play-offs against Division 1B opposition, salvaged some pride with a much-improved second half display. Full-back Sean Kearns finished with 15 points from the tee, converting tries from Matt Timmons, Cathal O’Flaherty and Conor Toolan to add to his trio of earlier penalties.
ST MARY'S COLLEGE: Sean Kearns; Conor Gilsenan, Marcus O'Driscoll, Myles Carey, Craig Kennedy; Conor Dean, Paddy O'Driscoll; Emmet Ferron, Richard Halpin, Adam Coyle, Ciaran Ruddock (capt), David O'Connor, David Aspil, Hugh Kelleher, Nick McCarthy.
Replacements: Hugo Kean, Jack Aungier, Cathal O'Flaherty, Robbie Glynn, Conor Toolan, Ryan O'Loughlin, Matt Timmons.
CLONTARF: Jack Power; James McKeown, Sean O'Brien, Matt D'Arcy, Cian O'Donoghue; David Joyce, Hugh O'Sullivan; Ken Knaggs, Dylan Donnellan, Ivan Soroka, Tom Byrne, Ben Reilly (capt), Tony Ryan, Neil Reilly, Michael Noone.
Replacements: Jonathan Larbey, Cormac Daly, Niall Carson, Andrew Feeney, Ariel Robles.
YOUNG MUNSTER 24 LANSDOWNE 27, Tom Clifford Park
Lansdowne guaranteed a table-topping finish and booked a home semi-final in Division 1A after edging out Young Munster 27-24 in a bruising encounter at Greenfields.
Mike Ruddock's men did almost all of the damage in a 24-point first half salvo, which included a brace of tries from influential hooker Tyrone Moran, but the Cookies pushed them all the way with Scott Deasy’s 66th-minute penalty just enough to get the headquarters club over the finish line.
Munsters found it tough to halt the Lansdowne pack's driving play and carrying early on, the visitors gaining the upper-hand as Moran crossed for two tries, the first after 17 minutes, and Deasy's boot did the rest, putting a significant 17 points between the sides.
Openside Diarmaid Dee answered back for Young Munster with a galvanising 31st-minute score, converted by Shane Airey, and even though Lansdowne centre Mark O'Keefe managed to slip through for his ninth try of the campaign, tighthead Colm Skehan responded for the Limerick men just before half-time.
The Cookies' 24-14 deficit was eaten into just four minutes after the break, their teenage winger Luke Fitzgerald - one of a number of talented young backs at Gearoid Prendergast's disposal - showing his finishing skills for a five-pointer out wide.
Despite Deasy's three-pointer in response, the game was back in the melting pot after further pressure from Munsters, which led to a yellow card for Lansdowne full-back Eamonn Mills, yielded a 76th-minute bonus point try for Fitzgerald's fellow wing Conor Hayes, who played for the Ireland Under-19s last week.
With the conversion missed, the gap remained at a frustrating three points for Young Munster as Lansdowne, who also lost scrum half Alan Bennie to a late sin-binning, hung on in determined fashion. Sixth-placed Munsters can still make the play-offs, but they trail Limerick foes Garryowen by five points and need a dream set of results in next Saturday's final round.
YOUNG MUNSTER: Alan Tynan; Conor Hayes, Jack Harrington, Evan O'Gorman, Luke Fitzgerald; Shane Airey, Jack Lyons; Peter Meyer, Ger Slattery, Colm Skehan, Tom Goggin, Mike Madden, Marc Kelly, Diarmaid Dee, Ben Kilkenny (capt).
Replacements: Mark O'Mara, Conor Bartley, Alan Ross, Rob Guerin, Jason Kiely.
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills; Tom Roche, Jake Howlett, Mark O'Keefe, Adam Leavy; Scott Deasy, Alan Bennie; Martin Mulhall, Tyrone Moran, Ian Prendiville (capt), Josh O'Rourke, Jack Dwan, Jack O'Sullivan, Aaron Conneely, Willie Earle.
Replacements: Adam Boland, Greg McGrath, Barry Fitzpatrick, Gareth Molloy, Conor Murphy.