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CLONTARF (5th) v SHANNON (10th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Clontarf: LLWWLWWLWL; Shannon: LLLLLLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 66; Tries: Michael McGrath 6; Shannon: Points: Rob Guerin 60; Tries: John Shine, Tadhg Bennett 2 each
Preview: Can bottom-of-the-table Shannon perform the great escape? They appear to have made a decent start with a bonus point 31-13 success over UL Bohemians at Thomond Park last time out.
It was clearly a much-improved performance with Tadgh Bennett, the scorer of two of their tries, playing a major role. The appearance of former Ireland prop Marcus Horan was also a big help.
But beating Clontarf at Castle Avenue will be another big step up. When the two sides met in Coonagh in late January, Clontarf came away with a 20-14 victory.
Since then Clontarf went down to a narrow 19-17 home defeat to St. Mary’s. Although their title chances are slim now, they remain a decent side with a very dangerous winger in Michael McGrath.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, January 28, 2012: Shannon 14 Clontarf 22, Thomond Park; Saturday, January 26, 2013: Shannon 14 Clontarf 20, Coonagh
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 6-10 points
CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v ST. MARY'S COLLEGE (8th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Cork Constitution: WLWWWLWLWW; St. Mary's College: WLLLLWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Cork Constitution: Points: Johnny Holland 86; Tries: Darragh Lyons, Ivan Dineen, Gerry Hurley 3 each; St. Mary's College: Points: Gavin Dunne 56; Tries: Robbie Hudson, Kevin Croke, Matthew D'Arcy 2 each
Preview: Not so long ago people were writing off Cork Constitution’s title ambitions. But two fine away victories over St Mary’s College and Clontarf have put them back in the running.
There is still a lot to do as they lie nine points behind leaders Lansdowne but with eight games left, anything can happen. Lansdowne, for example, still have to go to Temple Hill.
First things first however. That means securing a victory over a St. Mary’s side who is also desperate for points in their bid to move clear of the relegation zone.
They responded well to their defeat by Cork Con with a 19-17 away victory over Clontarf. But this is likely to be harder again, particularly as Constitution out-half Johnny Holland, the scorer of all 21 points against Garryowen, is currently in such outstanding form with the boot.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, March 31, 2012: Cork Constitution 21 St. Mary's College 23, Temple Hill; Saturday, January 26, 2013: St. Mary's College 13 Cork Constitution 22, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points
LANSDOWNE (1st) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Lansdowne: WWWLWWLWWW; Garryowen: WWWLWWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 118; Tries: Cian Aherne 8; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 89; Tries: Barry O'Mahony, Conan Doyle 4 each
Preview: First against second. But how the fortunes of the two sides have changed since they met at Dooradoyle on January 26. At that stage, they were level on points.
Lansdowne went on to win that game 23-0 and then record a 27-25 away victory over Dolphin to open up a seven-point lead at the top.
By their own admission, Garryowen were never in the hunt against Lansdowne but it does appear that they were a bit unfortune to lose subsequently 21-18 to Cork Con when they scored the only two tries of the game.
Quite a bit could depend on just who Lansdowne are able to call on. One player who is crucial to their needs just now is out-half Craig Ronaldson following his star performance in helping Ireland overcome England in the Ulster Bank Club International last weekend.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, February 11, 2012: Garryowen 38 Lansdowne 11, Dooradoyle; Saturday, January 26, 2013: Garryowen 0 Lansdowne 23, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 6-10 points
UL BOHEMIANS (9th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Annacotty
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - UL Bohemians: LWLWLLLLWL; Old Belvedere: LLLWWWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 42; Tries: Mossy Lawler 4; Old Belvedere: Points: Josh Glynn 56; Tries: Daniel Riordan 6
Preview: Huge relegation clash between two of the bottom four teams. When the sides met at Anglesea Road recently, UL Bohemians snatched a dramatic late 27-24 victory. It seems to be the story of Old Belvedere’s life just now.
The Dubliners were also beaten in the dying minutes by Clontarf and then went down 10-8 to an injury-time penalty try and conversion at home to Young Munster last time out.
That was rough justice as Old Belvedere had been the better side. Coach Andy Dunne now must lift them for what promises to be another close tussle against a UL Bohs team that trails them by five points in the table.
For their part, UL Bohs must also lift themselves after losing out decisively 31-13 to Shannon. Their supporters will be hoping that home advantage will give them the lift to complete the double over Old Belvedere.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, February 21, 2009: UL Bohemians 6 Old Belvedere 13, Annacotty; Saturday, January 26, 2013: Old Belvedere 24 UL Bohemians 27, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v DOLPHIN (6th), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Young Munster: WWLLWLWWW; Dolphin: LWWWLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Young Munster: Points: Brian Haugh 96; Tries: Darragh O'Neill 4; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 81; Tries: Harry Fleming 3
Preview: Tough battle in prospect for title contenders Young Munster against a Dolphin outfit that very nearly turned over league leaders Lansdowne recently.
Had it not been for a missed late conversion by Barry Keeshan they would have secured a draw. It was an occasion then Dolphin showed what they are capable off when they have their best players on the park.
They were able to call on Munster’s Denis Hurley amongst others. But this time around they may not be so strong.
Young Munster have blown a bit hot and cold recently, hammering Old Belvedere 40-3 before gaining a fortunate 10-8 victory over the same opponents at Anglesea Road.
Director of rugby Mike Prendergast just felt they were a bit rusty following the postponement of what should have been their first meeting with Dolphin.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, January 14, 2012: Dolphin 26 Young Munster 20, Musgrave Park; Saturday, April 14, 2012: Young Munster 32 Dolphin 24, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points