Wicklow edge out Clondalkin in play-off test
Wicklow, Longford and New Ross were relieved to win their respective Leinster League play-offs on Sunday and they will now hope that the fallout from the AIL end-of-season promotion and relegation will pan out in their favour.
The Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup returns this coming Sunday with four eagerly-awaited quarter-final ties down for decision in Clondalkin, Enniscorthy, Naas and Portlaoise.
Wicklow beat Clondalkin 21-16 at Sydney Parade in the Division 1A/1B play-off and will now have to hope that Dundalk or Boyne don't get relegated from Division 2C of the Ulster Bank League or, if they do, that Enniscorthy get promoted via the AIL Round Robin.
The west Dublin side led 9-6 at half-time as Chis Jebb edged the kicking battle of the out-halves with three penalty goals to two for Niall Earls.
Earls levelled affairs soon after the resumption and as Wicklow upped the ante they were rewarded with tries for hooker Eanna Kileen and winger Ben Armstrong before they had to survive a late Clondalkin surge that included the awarding of a penalty try as the clock ticked over into injury time.
Wicklow have been threatening to gain promotion from Division 1B for the past few seasons and if they do end up playing in the higher league it will be their first time to do so since season 2008/'09.
Division 1B incumbents Longford had to stage a dramatic late comeback against Division 2A runners up Railway Union before securing a nerve-wracking 16-13 victory at Edenderry Rugby Club.
Centre Kurt Beeney's try along with out-half Colm Glynn's penalty goal helped to put the midlanders 8-3 ahead at the interval but the tide turned in favour of the Dublin 4 club midway through the second half when hooker James Fisher burst clear for a try to nudge them in front.
Trailing by five points inside the final five minutes, a herculean effort by the Longford pack ended with flanker Alistair McCormack touching down for the equalising score before a coolly-struck Glynn penalty goal shortly after the restart delivered the win.
New Ross, from Division 2A, enjoyed a comfortable 43-15 victory against Division 2B side Balbriggan at Co Carlow Rugby Club and the Co Wexford club was never in any danger as they led 26-0 at the break with winger Mike Moloney, centre David Crowdle, and scrum-half Adam Swan each netting a pair of tries while winger Jamie Cullen also dotted down for a five-pointer.
On Sunday, the big clash in the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup is the visit of last year's runners-up Kilkenny to holders and newly-crowned Leinster League Division 1A champions Enniscorthy.
Enniscorthy narrowly won last season's decider 9-8 and have also tasted cup glory this season having won the All-Ireland Junior Cup last month whilst their visitors to Ross Road have fared well on their return to Division 1A.
Wicklow caused the major surprise in the last round when dumping 2014 champions Ashbourne out of this year's renewal and their reward is a trip to tackle Division 2A champions Portlaoise at Togher where the draw for the semi-finals will be held immediately afterwards.
Naas 2nd XV, fresh from a second place finish in Division 2 of the Metro League, will host Leinster League Division 1A runners-up Gorey at Forenaughts, while in the remaining quarter-final tie, Division 2B winners Roscrea travel to Kingswood to play Clondalkin.