Division 1B of the AIB League is back in action this weekend and the top of the table clash between Old Belvedere and Young Munster could help decide who ultimately wins out in the race to reach Division 1A.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 16
BALLYNAHINCH (7th) v DUNGANNON (6th), Ballymacarn Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form – Ballynahinch: LWLLLWL; Dungannon: LWWLWLL
AIB League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Ryan Bambry 41; Tries: Nevin Spence, Jonny Cullen 2 each; Dungannon: Points: James Shiells 32; Tries: Craig Gilroy, Stuart McKenzie 2 each
Preview: There is not much between these Ulster rivals. When they met at Stevenson Park back in October, Dungannon managed a 13-8 victory.
This time around, Ballynahinch will probably feel that home advantage should prove decisive for them. They have shown some improvement after a disappointing opening to their campaign, but really this is a very hard game to call.
‘Hinch captain Stuart Lamb is keen to see his side get back to winning ways and this local derby would be a good place to start.
Last Season’s Meeting – Ballynahinch were in Division 2
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE (1st) v YOUNG MUNSTER (2nd), Anglesea Road, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form – Old Belvedere: WWDWLWW; Young Munster: WLDWWWW
AIB League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: David Mongan 50; Tries: David Mongan 10; Young Munster: Points: Alan Kingsley 44; Tries: Alan Kingsley, Clem Casey, Aaron Carroll, Derek Corcoran 3 each
Preview: Match of the day with the leaders Old Belvedere taking on their nearest rivals. The game is a real test for the Anglesea Road outfit.
Old Belvedere were fortunate enough to come away from Tom Clifford Park in October with a 3-3 draw and Young Munster have definitely improved since then, securing four wins and a draw. Crucially this weekend, however, Old Belvedere should have Fergus McFadden available.
Last weekend, he was named in the Leinster midfield alongside Brian O’Driscoll for the cancelled game against Glasgow, a sure indication of just how highly he is rated.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, October 11, 2008: Young Munster 9 Old Belvedere 13, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 6-10 points
UCC (3rd) v GALWEGIANS (4th), The Mardyke, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form – UCC: LLWWWLW; Galwegians: WLLLWWL
AIB League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Andrew Burke 43; Tries: Brian Derham, Ivan Dineen 3 each; Galwegians: Points: Mark Butler 28; Tries: Mark Butler, John Cleary 3 each
Preview: UCC seem to get better as the season progresses, their latest league 25-6 home hammering of Buccaneers demonstrating their progress.
That is very much in contrast to a disappointing opening to their campaign. But the Cork students have not looked back since beating Galwegians 19-11 at Crowley Park in their third match.
A win for Conor Twomey’s youngsters would keep the pressure up on ‘Belvo and Young Munster.
Last Season’s Meeting – UCC were in Division 2
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win by 6-10 points
BUCCANEERS (8th) v BALLYMENA (5th), Dubarry Park, 6.30pm
AIB League Current Form – Buccaneers: LLWWLLL; Ballymena: WWLLLLW
AIB League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Adam Kennedy 31; Tries: Billy Henshaw, Brian Tuohy, Martin Staunton, John O’Brien, JH Potgieter, Colm Rigney 1 each; Ballymena: Points: Rory Drysdale 36; Tries: Sam McKinney 4
Preview: A big match this for a struggling Buccaneers outfit that is badly in need of a boost. Surprisingly, they are looking to complete the double over Ballymena, having narrowly beaten them 18-15 at Eaton Park in October.
The problem is that Buccaneers seem to have lost their way more recently. While Ballymena have not set the world alight this season, they did manage a decent 21-15 success over Dungannon last time out.
The Braidmen will hope to balance up their sheet with a win, while Buccs, under their own floodlights, badly need this win. A tough one to call given the form this season.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, December 13, 2008: Buccaneers 17 Ballymena 21, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win by 1-5 points