The Ulster Bank League resumes this weekend in the top two divisions. The action kicks off in Division 1B with a Friday Night Lights clash at Deramore Park between Belfast Harlequins and current leaders Ballymena.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 7
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (5th) v BALLYMENA (1st), Deramore Park, 7.30pm, Friday, January 6
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: WLWLWWL; Ballymena: WLWWDWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Michael Heaney 62; Tries: Neil McComb, Rory Scholes 2 each; Ballymena: Points: John Semple 49; Tries: Richard Aingworth 4
Preview: The home side finished with a loss to Bruff in December so they will be itching to kick off the New Year and the second half of the season with a win.
What better way to start 2012 than with a floodlit clash with their Ulster rivals and current league leaders Ballymena?
The Braidmen finished December with a narrow victory over high-flying Ballynahinch. They have notched up three try-scoring bonus points in their games to date but this derby fixture is expected to be a much tighter affair.
Highlights of the game will be shown on Irish Rugby TV next week.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 7, 2007: Ballymena 12 Belfast Harlequins 20, Eaton Park; Saturday, March 26, 2011: Ballymena 20 Belfast Harlequins 22, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 1-5 points
BALLYNAHINCH (2nd) v UCD (7th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: WWWWLWL; UCD: LWLWDLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: James Lash 51; Tries: Aaron Ferris 4; UCD: Points: Niall Earls 64; Tries: Sam Coghlan Murray, Tom Fletcher, Andrew Boyle 2 each
Preview: After losing their top spot to Ballymena in December, Ballynahinch will be determined to return to winning form against the Dublin students.
Remarkably, the free-scoring ‘Hinch outfit could muster only a single penalty goal when losing 6-3 at home to Ballymena. It seems likely they will be considerably more prolific on the scoring front this Saturday.
That said, UCD are a decent attacking side themselves. Winger/full-back Andrew Boyle can be particularly dangerous but the Belfield side’s problem could be in winning sufficient possession.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, February 12, 2011: UCD 38 Ballynahinch 31, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 6-10 points
DUNGANNON (4th) v BRUFF (9th), Stevenson Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dungannon: WLLWLWL; Bruff: LWLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dungannon: Points: Peter Nelson 29; Tries: Chris Cochrane 5; Bruff: Points: Brian Cahill 42; Tries: John Shine 3
Preview: Dungannon have only won one more game than Bruff, yet they lie fourth in the table while the Limerick side are second last.
The difference is that they have picked up seven bonus points, while Bruff have only managed two.
Bruff supporters, however, will be hoping that their 10-6 home victory over Belfast Harlequins last time out will give them the impetus for a much-improved second half of the season.
Still, Dungannon must start favourites here on their home ground. They have considerable attacking potential, most particularly in the shape of the talented young Ulster winger Chris Cochrane.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2010: Bruff 21 Dungannon 10, Kilballyowen Park; Saturday, February 26, 2011: Dungannon 21 Bruff 8, Stevenson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by 6-10 points
GALWEGIANS (8th) v UL BOHEMIANS (6th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Galwegians: LLLLWWW; UL Bohemians: LWWLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Tadhg Leader 51; Tries: Barry Lee 3; UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 74; Tries: Darren Moroney, Dave Kilcoyne 2 each
Preview: Galwegians are very much the form team after winning three on the trot. They seem to be getting better with every game.
Last time out they demolished UCC 41-18, scoring five tries in the process. It ss hard to believe that this is the same outfit that lost their first four games of the league run.
UL Bohemians performed well in the second half to very nearly peg UCD back in their last game before the break but Galwegians, in their current mood, must be fancied for the win.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2010: UL Bohemians 13 Galwegians 14, Thomond Park; Saturday, April 2, 2011: Galwegians 37 UL Bohemians 18, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win by 1-5 points
UCC (10th) v BUCCANEERS (3rd), the Mardyke
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCC: LLLLLLL; Buccaneers: WWWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Brian Kingston 36; Tries: Brian O’Callaghan 2; Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 57; Tries: John O’Brien 3
Preview: Buccaneers proved themselves to be worthy contenders when defeating Dungannon 33-20 in a top class encounter last time out.
If they can reproduce anything like that form this Saturday, they should undoubtedly secure another victory and stay among the front runners. UCC, after all, lie bottom of the table without a victory in seven games.
Furthermore, they conceded 41 points away to Galwegians in their last league outing. So, they have an awful lot of improving to do if they are going to make a real match of it.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 30, 2010: Buccaneers 45 UCC 15, Dubarry Park; Saturday, February 12, 2011: UCC 19 Buccaneers 13, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win by 6-10 points