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Munster take Junior title as Leinster's win ensures strong finish


MUNSTER regained the Junior Interprovincial championship for the first time since 2007 when they beat defending champions Connacht 17-0 at Ballinasloe Rugby Club on Saturday, while Leinster came from behind to beat Ulster 14-13 at Wicklow Rugby Club – finishing second, three points adrift of the winners.

Leinster will rue their opening-day loss to the new champions, but they at least had the satisfaction of ending their season on a positive note.

Needing a win to clinch the crown, Munster played against the strong breeze in the opening half at the east Galway club and the writing was on the wall when full-back Conor Cooney's try, converted by out-half Ben Martin, had the visitors 7-0 in front at the interval.

Martin scored a killer try under the posts which he converted immediately on the resumption of hostilities and with a 14-0 cushion, the southern province cruised to the end with the pivot adding a penalty goal to complete the scoring.

It was a much tighter affair beside the Irish Sea as Ulster used the wind in the first half to build a 13-7 lead at the break, with centre Andrew Hodgen scoring their try that was sandwiched between a pair of penalty goals from the boot of out-half David O'Hara.

That first-half try that Leinster managed to score against the elements and with precious little ball was to prove crucial, however, as full-back Niall O'Donoghue crashed over to allow out-half and Coolmine team-mate Donal Crotty convert.

There was only one score in a topsy-turvy second half and that proved to be the winning try, scored by Newbridge's centre Darren O'Brien that replacement out half Chris Jebb of Clondalkin converted at the mid-point of the half.

The pride of hosting a big event was again very evident in Wicklow as the hosts worked extremely hard to ensure that no stone was left unturned in their efforts to see that all and sundry enjoyed the big day.

With the domestic season now officially over, plans are already in place for next season with a season planner due out shortly. But the framework of the Leinster League, Provincial Towns Cup, All Ireland Junior Cup and Junior Interprovincials will vary little and dates are very much in line with this past season.

The big changes will occur in the Metro Leagues and there will be more about that next week as a comprehensive overhaul will result in a completely new divisional structure replacing the current Junior leagues.

Tullamore were undoubtedly the team of the year with their unprecedented haul of five trophies and they should be a major addition to the Ulster Bank League next season.

The battle to succeed them as Leinster League Division 1A champions next year should be intriguing yet again.

Will Wanderers continue their strong end-of-season form? Will Dundalk or Coolmine be able to step up a notch or two to challenge at the top or can Newbridge sustain their efforts for longer than a few months? And how will the new kids on the block, Tullow and Clondalkin, fare in the top division for the first time?