There are just three rounds of matches left in the regular AIB League season and things are really hotting up in Division 1B. Old Belvedere and Young Munster are pushing each other in a fascinating promotion race, while only two points currently separate relegation rivals Buccaneers, Dungannon and Ballynahinch.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 6
BALLYNAHINCH (6th) v BUCCANEERS (8th), Ballymacarn Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: LWLLLWLLLWL; Buccaneers: LLWWLLLLLLW
AIB League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Ryan Bambry 77; Tries: Jonny Cullen, Nevin Spence 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Adam Kennedy 39; Tries: Brian Tuohy 2
Preview: Buccaneers secured an overdue success over Dungannon last time out but they still lie bottom of the table.
Ballynahinch, last season’s AIB Cup winners, are just two points above them, so this is a very important relegation fixture.
‘Hinch conceded 32 points against UCC at the Mardyke in their last league game, but there are a very different proposition at their home ground.
Last Season’s Meeting – Ballynahinch were in Division 2
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2009: Buccaneers 9 Ballynahinch 13, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points
DUNGANNON (7th) v OLD BELVEDERE (1st), Stevenson Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Dungannon: LWWLWLLLLLL; Old Belvedere: WWDWLWWLWWW
AIB League Top Scorers – Dungannon: Points: James Shiells 58; Tries: Craig Gilroy 3; Old Belvedere: Points: David Mongan 70; Tries: David Mongan 14
Preview: Dungannon will need to show a huge improvement if they are to put a stop to the gallop of leaders Old Belvedere.
Although Fergus McFadden is often required by Leinster, Old Belvedere seem to have little trouble in scoring tries. In assistant coach Andy Dunne they have the man to pull the strings at out-half and in left winger David Mongan they have a deveastating finisher.
By comparision, Dungannon‘s form has been pretty dismal of late, leaving them in second last position in the table.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, March 7, 2009: Old Belvedere 5 Dungannon 6, Anglesea Road
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2009: Old Belvedere 34 Dungannon 5, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 6-10 points
GALWEGIANS (4th) v BALLYMENA (5th), Crowley Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Galwegians: WLLLWWLLWWL; Ballymena: WWLLLLWWLWL
AIB League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Mark Butler 36; Tries: Mark Butler, John Cleary, Ati Olive, Tiernan O’Halloran 3 each; Ballymena: Points: David O’Hara 65; Tries: Sam McKinney 4
Preview: A mid-table battle, but one which has some added importance as both sides will probably need one more win to guarantee their Division 1B status for next season.
With out-half David O’Hara scoring well, Ballymena won three of their four matches prior to a 27-13 home loss to Young Munster. Galwegians’ last league game saw them crumble to Old Belvedere on a 31-3 scoreline.
‘Wegians are much better than that result suggests and with home advantage and third-placed UCC still in their sights, Kevin Tierney’s charges should have enough motivation to take the Braidmen’s scalp here.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, October 18, 2008: Ballymena 5 Galwegians 19, Eaton Park
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2009: Ballymena 13 Galwegians 16, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win by 1-5 points
UCC (3rd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (2nd), The Mardyke, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – UCC: LLWWWLWWWLW; Young Munster: WLDWWWWWWWW
AIB League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Andrew Burke, Brian Derham 45 each; Tries: Brian Derham, Sean Scanlon 5 each; Young Munster: Points: Alan Kingsley 92; Tries: Alan Kingsley 4
Preview: A cracking game in prospect. UCC must win if they are to have any chance of staying in the play-off and promotion race.
Certainly, the Cork students gave their supporters some encouragement with their big win over Ballynahinch, but Young Munster are an altogether different prospect.
The Cookies relish a battle, as they showed when travelling to Anglesea Road to pip Old Belvedere earlier this season, while their most recent 27-13 away success over Ballymena was another top class effort.
Last Season’s Meeting – UCC were in Division 2
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2009: Young Munster 14 UCC 10, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points