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Ulster Bank League heading for conclusion

Wednesday, 10th April, 2019 4:33pm

The Ulster Bank League is heading to its climax ahead of the summer break, with the last round of regular fixtures up for decision this weekend ahead of the promotion playoffs.

With eight points to spare at the top of Division 1A in the league, Cork Constitution secured a home semi-final after completing a season’s double over UCC at Temple Hill.

The derby defeat, combined with the weekend’s other results, saw Brian Walsh’s young UCC side drop one place to eighth in the table, level on 31 points with second-from-bottom Terenure heading into the final round of fixtures this weekend.

Ironically, Cork Con can do UCC a favour by beating bottom-placed Shannon, but the students will need four or possibly five points at home to UCD to make sure they stay ahead of Terenure.

Elsewhere, with promotion already secured, Division 2A table-toppers Highfield will be looking to finish the season on a winning note when they face UL Bohemians on Saturday. The Bishopstown-based club suffered a loss in their second last game of the season, losing 21-17 to Queens University. The Belfast side are the only team to have beaten Highfield over the season but the result will be forgotten on Saturday when Highfield officially seal their promotion to Division 1B at Woodleigh Park with all proceeds of the game against UL Bohemians going to Marymount Hospice.

It's a tough final task for Dolphin - who also play their rugby in 2B - as the seventh placed team welcome second placed Cashel RFC to Irish Independent where a win or a loss will see their table position remain the same regardless.

Finally, Midleton will enjoy a home fixture for their promotion playoff in Division 2C. The second placed team enjoyed a 31-15 win against Seapoint and that, combined with other results going their way, was enough to secure a home fixture. They face a trip on Saturday to Kilballyowen Park to play Bruff in their last regular game of the season.

Munster meanwhile, may have to plan without Keith Earls as they travel away to play Benetton Treviso on Friday night. Earls, who put in a man of the match shift against Edinburgh in the Champion's Cup Quarter-Final just under two weeks ago, was withdrawn from the squad before last Friday's win over Cardiff Blues at Irish Independent Park in the Guinness Pro14 as a precaution with left thigh tightness.

Joey Carbery meanwhile, is facing a race against time to be fit for Munster's semi-final clash with Saracens next week after suffering a hamstring injury against Edinburgh last week. Head coach Johann Van Graan admitted this week that Carbey is highly unlikely to be ready in time for Saracens game after previously sitting it out for seven weeks on the sidelines with a similar injury in the lead-up to the Edinburgh win.

Munster did received a welcome boost this week, though, as it was confirmed that Van Graan had extended his contract for a further two years and will remain at the province until June 2022 at least.

Speaking on the extension the head coach said: “I am very happy and grateful to be in this position, knowing that I can continue to work with this incredible group of people and play my part in shaping Munster’s future. Coming to Munster I wanted to become part of the community, and every day I get to experience that sense of belonging with my family and I settling in from the very beginning.

“Moments and scenes such as last Saturday week in Edinburgh with the Munster supporters, players and management make for amazing memories, they can never be taken for granted. This is a special place, a special club to be part of and I look forward to continuing the journey together.”

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