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SHANNON (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd), Thomond Park, Friday, February 10, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Shannon: WWWLDLLLLW; Young Munster: WLWWWWWLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 58; Tries: Luke O'Dea 2; Young Munster: Points: Willie Staunton 132; Tries: Matthew Costelloe, Mark Doyle 2 each
Preview: Cracking Friday night contest in prospect at Thomond Park. Title contenders Young Munster will be hoping to complete the double over their great Limerick rivals.
But it is far from straightforward. Shannon have home advantage and there is also the fact that their confidence was give a much-needed boost by last Saturday's excellent 22-17 away victory over Lansdowne.
It was Shannon's first league win since October and came as the result of a vastly improved performance. Stephen Keogh and David Quinlan made major contributions.
So did out-half Tadhg Bennett who contributed 17 points. His place-kicking battle with Young Munster's Willie Staunton is sure to prove crucial.
A big crowd is expected for the game, so Shannon are advising supporters to get to the ground early. Both the stand and terrace will be open and entry is €10 for both with underage kids getting in free when accompanied by an adult.
Most Recent League Meetings - Saturday, February 26, 2011: Young Munster 16 Shannon 3, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, October 29, 2011: Young Munster 9 Shannon 3, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points
CORK CONSTITUTION (5th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Cork Constitution: WLWLWWLWLWL; Blackrock College: LLLWLLLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Cork Constitution: Points: Gerry Hurley 80; Tries: Niall O'Driscoll 6; Blackrock College: Points: Darragh Fitzpatrick 88; Tries: Darragh Fitzpatrick 4
Preview: Cork Constitution's defeat by Young Munster has left them 11 points behind leaders St. Mary's and almost certainly out of contention.
But they must look to get back to winning form and hope that the teams above them slip up. This game would seem to be a real opportunity to secure a win.
Relegation-threatened Blackrock have done well at Stradbrook recently, with out-half Darragh Fitzpatrick outstanding. But they have tended to be vulnerable away from home.
So, it would be a real surprise if they could turn over a Cork Con side that is very difficult to beat on their home patch.
Niall O'Driscoll's running ability could cause Blackrock problems.
Most Recent League Meetings - Saturday, April 2, 2011: Cork Constitution 33 Blackrock College 16, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 26, 2011: Blackrock College 14 Cork Constitution 17, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points
DOLPHIN (7th) v ST. MARY'S COLLEGE (1st), Musgrave Park
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Dolphin: LWLLLLWWWLL; St. Mary's College: WLLWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 72; Tries: Eric Moloney 3; St. Mary's College: Points: Gavin Dunne 101; Tries: Matt D'Arcy 4
Preview: There will be a few of the top teams hoping that Dolphin can put one over on the league leaders, St. Mary's College.
Dolphin should never be underestimated on their home patch. They have, after all, already beaten the second-placed side in the table, Clontarf, at Musgrave Park.
They also gave Clontarf a run for their money before going down 32-23 at Castle Avenue last Saturday. So, they would seem to be in reasonable shape for this weekend's encounter.
Importantly, St. Mary's seem to have developed the habit of winning tight games. They must have been relieved, however, to have just seen off the challenge of Garryowen 13-12 at Templeville Road and head coach Peter Smyth will be looking for an improvement here.
Most Recent League Meetings - Saturday, February 12, 2011: St. Mary's College 29 Dolphin 10, Templeville Road; Saturday, October 29, 2011: St. Mary's College 15 Dolphin 7, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary's College to win by 6-10 points
GARRYOWEN (6th) v LANSDOWNE (4th), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Garryowen: LWLWLWWLWL; Lansdowne: LWWLWLWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Garryowen: Points: Declan Cusack 66; Tries: Paul Neville 3; Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 101; Tries: Matt Healy 5
Preview: Lansdowne would seem to have a lot of injury problems following their defeat by Shannon. Most worryingly, their out-half Craig Ronaldson went off early with a knee problem.
Still, for all of their difficulties they remain a dangerous outfit. The fact that they outscored Shannon by three tries to one
shows how potent their backs division can be.
For their part, Garryowen put in a top class performance away to St. Mary's and could easily have won. Had Declan Cusack's injury-time penalty not drifted wide, they would have done so.
Lansdowne won the earlier fixture 30-13 at the Aviva Stadium. This time it should be an awful lot closer.
Most Recent League Meetings - Saturday, March 1, 2008: Lansdowne 5 Garryowen 11, the RDS; Saturday, January 7, 2012: Lansdowne 30 Garryowen 13, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE (10th) v CLONTARF (2nd), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season's Form - Old Belvedere: LLLLDLLLLLL; Clontarf: WWWWLWLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers - Old Belvedere: Points: Andy Dunne 34; Tries: Peter Woods 4; Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 106; Tries: Barry O'Mahony 5
Preview: It would seem to be curtains for Old Belvedere following their defeat by Blackrock. They are now seven points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Obviously, they must never give up hope but it is going to take a huge improvement if they are to get the better of a Clontarf team that has returned to their best form in recent outings.
They will surely look on this match as another chance to keep the pressure on St. Mary's. Everything appears to be working well for them at the moment.
As always, their back row of Simon Crawford, Barry O'Mahony and Frank Cogan will prove important. And they have the backs to make good use of their possession.
Most Recent League Meetings - Saturday, April 16, 2011: Semi-final: Old Belvedere 22 Clontarf 20, Anglesea Road; Saturday, January 14, 2012: Clontarf 35 Old Belvedere 7, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 6-10 points
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