WEEKEND FEATS: ...We have to start with County Carlow. After going 21 AIB League games without a win, David Hodge's midlanders finally ended the misery last weekend when they accounted for Clonakilty 25-13 at home.
Currently bottom of Division Two, after five seasons in the top tier, it has been a rocky road for Carlow and goal kicker Greg Jacob, who has switched from centre to out-half, has been carrying the team - he has bagged 65 of their 88 points to date.
Taking the brave decision to not avail of any professional or semi-pro players this term, Carlow visit John McDowell Grounds, the home of sixth-placed Suttonians, for the first time this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Their New Zealand recruit Reuben Colquhoun is beginning to settle in midfield - he scored his first try last week, and also dropped a goal. Indiscipline is costing Hodge's charges up front however, as they have conceded the most penalty goals in Division Two (19 in all) since October.
Off the field, Carlow recently received extra funding to the tune of 15,000 through the Government's RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development) Areas Programme.
The Oak Park outfit also benefited from a Sports Capital Grant of 50,000 in July...
...It was not just Brian O'Driscoll who was grabbing a hat-trick of tries last weekend. Ronan Murphy also struck three times in Suttonians' 43-35 Division Two win at Barnhall - with all three scores coming in the first half!
The lively centre, nicknamed 'Chunky', blocked an attempted chip-and-chase from the Kildare men to dot down his first. After fielding a through-the-legs pass from Paddy Maguire he outpaced three men for his second, and just before the interval a neat training ground move sent Murphy over again.
Down at Musgrave Park, Queen's lightning winger Michael Barker ran his try tally for the league up to seven as he crossed the Sunday's Well whitewash three times.
Queen's picked up a 36-25 over their Cork hosts to move up to ninth in the Division Three table. Barker, who scored eight tries during the entire league last season, put in some lovely angled runs to leave the 'Well defence for dead.
Certainly benefiting from the coaching of Keith Patton and former Ulster scrum half Neil Doak, Barker is a former pupil of Bangor Grammer School. The 19-year-old, who is studying Finance at QUB, is certainly one to watch...
...Leinster Rugby's Domestic Game Manager David Ross paid a visit to Greystones RFC last week, where the County Wicklow club's PRO John Whiston told him about developments at Dr. Hickey Park...
..."'Tarf are a bit like an old truck...banging along spewing diesel fumes...loads of miles on the clocknothing fancy in the cab but old cigarette butts, empty cans and a faded holy picture, but they get the job done" - the Clontarf RFC website tells it like it is after their 27-16 win at Belfast Harlequins...
...Hooker Stephen Douglas, who has the biggest biceps in the Ballymena squad (according to himself!), was quick on the draw at Eaton Park last week as he touched down after only three minutes of the Braidmen's 19-12 Division One win over Dolphin.
The former Ulster and Ireland Schools captain has had twin peaks Bob Young, Irish international Bryan's brother, and Ian Caldwell to aim at in the lineout this season...
...Ballynahinch's unbeaten record was preserved at the weekend, but not in the way Daniel Soper and company would have wanted! The County Down side had their clash with Bruff called off due to a waterlogged pitch at Kilballyowen Park. Luckily the 'Hinch coach had only hit Dromore by the time the postponement was confirmed...
...Wanderers will hope for a dry evening under the Lansdowne Road floodlights on Saturday...
FLOODLIT SEND-OFF FOR WANDERERS: It will be standing room only in the Wanderers Pavilion on Saturday - as the Division Three club, the second oldest in Irish rugby, play their final match at the old Lansdowne Road stadium.
There are an estimated 200 Wanderers club members coming to the pre-match lunch and 200 taking part in the post-match barbeque! Let's hope they get the weather for it!
It will be a unique double header at headquarters as Lansdowne, who face Galwegians at 2pm, will also be bidding farewell to their home ground of so many years. There is a 4pm kick-off - floodlights and all! - for Wanderers' league encounter with Instonians.
With music also planned and past captains and presidents from both hosts clubs due to attend, it is sure to be a memorable and nostalgic day at Lansdowne.
GRUB'S UP AT DOLPHIN: If you happen to be near Musgrave Park around lunch-time on Saturday, the smell of a glorious turkey and ham main course may prove too alluring. At 12 a head, Dolphin's pre-match meal will draw big numbers for their Division One match against St. Mary's College.
They would want to save some for record league scorer John O'Mahony, who has strangely yet to add his name to the scoresheet this season. Youngster Barry Keeshan is taking the Cork club's kicks.
O'Mahony, who made his Dolphin debut over nine years ago, has accumulated a staggering 1194 AIB League points (9 tries, 132 conversions, 286 penalties and 9 drop goals)!
FAMILIAR FACES IN TOP FLIGHT: Two players will be facing their former clubs this weekend in Division One. At Dubarry Park, Buccaneers' new captain Conor Hartigan will be lining out against his old Garryowen team-mates, while Garryowen's current top scorer Conor Kilroy (45 points) will be plotting the downfall of some of his former Buccs cohorts.
'ROCK LOOKING TO DOUBLE UP: There will be silverware on offer at Castle Avenue on Saturday for Clontarf and their visitors Blackrock College. 'Rock will be gunning for their second trophy in the space of a week - they came from behind to beat UCD 29-21 and lift the Jerry Fogarty trophy last Saturday, and they could secure the Moore trophy this time around.
'Tarf though are the current Moore trophy holders, having romped past 'Rock last January, scoring five tries for a 29-3 win at Stradbrook.
DID YOU KNOW?: David Smith, Old Wesley's out-half and captain, has now scored over 750 points for the Dublin club's first team. The Enniscorthy man is operating behind a pack that includes four Wallace first cousins - Colin, Derek, Stephen and Iain! Two bankers, a teacher and a student!
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Plenty of takers for this award - Stephen Kelly continues to prosper on Shannon's left wing, the Limerick Gaelic footballer showed a quick wit and stunning pace to get in for two late tries for the champions in their 27-13 reversal of Terenure.
Thomas Anderson, former Ireland captain Willie Anderson's son, has taken on cult status at Dungannon after his 82nd-minute try last week. The Tyrone men pipped UL Bohs 22-21 for a much-needed win with Anderson finishing off a 20-yard forward drive with the score and a smile from ear to ear.
But for willing his Buccaneers side to a hard-fought 18-18 draw with their arch rivals Galwegians, Buccs lock David Kelly gets the nod as our Player of the Week.
Kelly set up possession for Tom Cregan's second half try and his own injury-time effort, straight from a lineout, squared up the game. His all-action performance in the loose, along with that of number eight Adrian Hanley, helped swing control over to the Pirates who were desperately unlucky not to nab the win when Cregan's late conversion came back off the post.
...David Pollock: capped for Ireland at U-19 and U-21 levels last season...
TRY OF THE WEEK: Stephen Kelly's tries were peaches, but it would be fitting to acknowledge an up-and-coming player who is currently combining a Medicine degree with playing club rugby and fulfilling his Development contract duties with Ulster Rugby.
David Pollock, last season's Ireland Under-19 captain, ran almost the length of the field at Musgrave Park last Saturday when he scooped up a loose ball off a ruck and teared over for brilliant individual try for Queen's University.
The Belfast students won the game 36-25 with flanker Pollock's first half score setting them on their way. Born in Omagh, the 19-year-old, who trains with Queen's on Mondays and Wednesdays, is now a regular at Ulster's training sessions and he cites Neil Best and Neil McMillan as players he admires.
AIB LEAGUE TEAM OF THE WEEK:
15 - Mossie Lawlor (Shannon)
14 - Kevin O'Meara (Nenagh Ormond)
13 - Paul Magee (Dungannon)
12 - Gareth Martin (Banbridge)
11 - Michael Barker (Queen's University)
10 - Greg Jacob (County Carlow)
9 - Fiach O'Loughlin (Clontarf)
1 - Emmett Hogan (Bective Rangers)
2 - Robert Quinn (Cork Constitution)
3 - Simon Shawe (Ballymena)
4 - Neil Megannety (Greystones)
5 - David Kelly (Buccaneers)
6 - Ambrose Conboy (Galwegians)
7 - Johnny Ellis (Old Wesley)
8 - Frank Cogan (Cork Constitution)