10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Garryowen have jumped to the top of AIB League table following a convincing 10 - 23 limerick derby victory over champions Shannon in front of 2,000 spectators in Thomond Park.
Shannon opened the scoring through wing Tom Cregan's fifth minute penalty. This was cancelled out by Garryowen in the eight minute by scrum half Gerry Hurley who struck his own three pointer after Shannon had infringed offside. Garryowen then took the lead after 12 minutes through club stalwart Pat Humphries, when the diminutive hooker scored from a lineout secured by Paul Neville, which was also converted by Hurley.
As is the expected reaction from any defending champions, Shannon responded. Just after the half hour, they were level with their visitors through a try from their captain Tom Hayes, which Cregan converted. But thereafter, their challenge began to wane and Garryowen slipped into the lead through two penalties from Hurley, one a booming effort from the half way. Garryowen continued to defend until three minutes from the end when a turnover allowed Munster winger Paul Devlin to break several weak tackles to score under the posts. Game over.
Elsewhere in Division 1, UCD moved to third in the table following an impressive win over Cork Constitution in Belfield. Out half Eoghan Hickey was the hero with a 20 point haul as UCD put in a sensational second half to overcome last years beaten finalists by 30 - 7. UCD finished the first half 6 - 7 down after two penalties from Hickey, but second half tries from No. 8 Kevin Croke and centre Ken Kennedy plus the multi talented boot of Hickey saw UCD win out easily and lay down a marker to any other visiting teams.
Clontarf moved into second spot, just behind Garryowen on points difference, after a 32 - 19 win over Dungannon who are now in ninth. With Shannon occupying fourth spot, Buccaneers recovered from their defeat to Dublin University last week to beat Blackrock 27 - 6 and take fifth place in the table. Sixth placed Ballymena beat the struggling basement side County Carlow 32 - 10 in Eaton Park. Dublin University lost their unbeaten record with a 28 - 10 loss to Belfast Harlequins, leaving the two teams sitting in seventh and eight spot respectively. Lansdowne sit just above bottom side Carlow recorded their first win of the campaign with a 31 - 25 victory over Galwegians who are now in twelfth.
Dolphin continue to set the pace with four wins from four starts and lead Ballynahinch, who also have a perfect record, on points difference. Dolphin beat Munster rivals Old Crescent 27 - 20 at the weekend with Ballynahinch also winning at home 18 - 15 to Barnhall, who are at the other end of the spectrum with no wins from their four games. Bective Rangers are also at the top end of the table and scored a 13 - 18 win over Dublin 4 rivals Old Belvedere.
Fourth placed Midleton also won a provincial derby when they beat Waterpark away 18 - 26. St. Mary's College continue to stay in the hunt for a return to Division 1 as they sit in fifth place, but at the bottom of the table, Old Belvedere, Waterpark and Barnhall have all yet to win.
Wicklow side Greystones top the table following a stroll against Wanderers in Merrion Road, winning out 0 - 31. They are being chased closely by Connemara, who drew 6 - 6 in Clonakilty, and by Cork side Sundays Well who also won, overcoming Old Wesley 15 - 23 in Donnybrook.
Two Ulster sides occupy fourth and fifth in the table with Queens University and Banbridge winning at the weekend to consolidate their position. At the bottom, Portadown are still in search of that elusive first victory having been just edged out by Ballina 21 - 23 in Chambers Park. Ards, who lost at the weekend to Queens (26 - 3) are just above them, with no wins as yet.