Ulster Bank League Round Up

by Conor Donnelly

With four games remaining in the chase for the championship, Clontarf have opened up a one point gap atop Division 1A. The Dublin side recorded an impressive 42-3 bonus point victory on home soil against a struggling Blackrock last Friday night. The result added extra pressure on Clontarf’s nearest rivals Young Munster and St.Marys going in to their respective games on
Saturday. Indeed, the added pressure of knowing only a win would do very nearly saw both clubs suffer crippling blows to their title aspirations. Young Munster survived a major scare as they eventually saw off bottom side Old Belvedere by the thinnest of margins a 19-18 victory. While fellow Clontarf chasers St.Marys, had to overcome a 10-6 deficit at half time against Lansdowne to keep their title hopes alive with a 27-22 victory.

Thanks to a gift from the fixture scheduling gods, the league title will most certainly be decided by games between the top three if they avoid any slips up. Of the four remaining rounds of UBL fixtures, three see a different combination of the title contenders face off against each other
in what effectively amounts to a series elimination games.

The first of these games takes place when league action resumes on the 24th of March. Tarf travel to Young Munster knowing a win against the Munster side all but eliminates them from the race. However, a Young Munster win could see them reverse league positions with Clontarf depending on what St.Marys do against Blackrock that same day. There is a real possibility that come full time on March 24th Clontarf could drop down to third place in the league table.

The second sees Clontarf face off against St.Marys at home in the penultimate round on April 14th. If Clontarf beat Young Munster and Garryowen then a win against Marys on this date could well see Clontarf crowned champions in front of their home fans. A win for St.Marys assuming Clontarf had beaten Young Munster would mean Marys would go in to the last round of fixtures a win away from the league title.

The third and most tantalizing prospect for the UBL hierarchy and sponsors, yet a nerve jangling one for the fans is a potential last day of the season winner take all match between Young Munster and St.Marys at Templeville Road. Whoever emerges victorious from this gruelling gauntlet will have certainly earned themselves the title of champions.

Around the Leagues

Whilst the Fixture computer won’t always spit out such picture perfect end of season match ups the decision to scrap the playoffs in favour of awarding the League title to the team who accumulates the most points through the season is the right one by UBL Organisers. Some people may point to the fact that there is not a one off show piece for the league. Yet, if the scenarios play out the way I detailed above and it comes down to a St.Marys versus Young Munster decider on the last day of the season I am sure that RTE and Setanta would be interested in showing that game live.

A further benefit of the decision means that every single league game matters, that teams have to go for wins instead of playing it safe and settling for losing bonus points as that would help them grab fourth spot and a semi final place. I am a firm believer that the team that is top of the league on the final day of the season is the side that most deserves to be called champions, the old playoff system diluted the leagues performance and did not always reward the side who found themselves atop of the division.

It was a case of Déjà Vu all over again for Old Belvedere as for the second match in a row the Dublin side suffered an agonizing one point loss. The reigning league champions are still in search of their first win of the season and with only four games left on their schedule time is running out to turn that zero in their win column into a one. Next up is a trip to Munster for a clash against Garryowen. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season Blevo suffered a 25-30 loss. Garryowen go into the game on a good run of form winning two out of their last three games including an impressive 29-17 win over Shannon at Thomond Park. If the 24th of March is to be the day Belvedere break their duck their going to need to conjure the spirit of last year’s league winning side to do it.

Down in division 1B the two top sides Belfast Harlequins and Ballymena both lost. Despite this Harlequins, still remain atop of the pile from fellow Ulster men Ballymena by five points. The big Movers in the division where Buccaneers who moved up to third following their win against Harlequins. Bucs now sit six points behind Quins.

Division 2A the UBL ‘s most congested league table saw a comprehensive 49-15 win for league leaders Dublin University over second from bottom Instionains. University’s eleven point lead over second place Seapoint is the biggest points cushion any of the division leaders enjoy.

D.L.S.P slide down the table continues as they dropped all the way down to fifth from their once lofty position of second. The early pace setters for Division 2A have suffered a loss of form at the worst possible time.

Bective Rangers saw their unbeaten 2012 run come to an ending at the hands of Midleton. The result means that Rangers the ninth place team in the division are five points adrift of the fourth and final promotion place.

Cashel maintained their status as the only unbeaten team in the land with a 25-24 win over NUIM Barnhall.

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