Four points separate the top five teams in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League so every game is important this weekend – but match of the day billing probably goes to the clash between new leaders St. Mary’s College and perennial league favourites Cork Constitution.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 14
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
DOLPHIN (7th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (2nd), Musgrave Park, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LWLLLLWW; Young Munster: WLWWWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 50; Tries: Eric Moloney, Cian Bohane 2 each; Young Munster: Points: Willie Staunton 98; Tries: Matthew Costelloe 2
Preview: This encounter has become a lot more interesting following the events of last weekend when Dolphin upset Clontarf and Young Munster went down to a heavy home defeat to St. Mary’s College.
Munsters player-coach Mike Prendergast will appreciate the importance of Young Munster responding positively. No one could have anticipated that they they would concede 36 points at home to St. Mary’s.
They remain in second spot, just a point behind the new leaders, but there is nothing straightforward about this Saturday’s encounter. Dolphin will, no doubt, fancy their chances of taking another major scalp.
Their pack made life very difficult for Clontarf and are capable of giving the Young Munster eight a real test. The contributions of the two place-kickers, Barry Keeshan (Dolphin) and Willie Staunton (Young Munster), is going to be crucial.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 8, 2011: Young Munster 35 Dolphin 0, Tom Clifford Park; Sunday, March 27, 2011: Dolphin 13 Young Munster 12, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points
CLONTARF (3rd) v OLD BELVEDERE (10th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Clontarf: WWWWLWLL; Old Belvedere: LLLLDLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 72; Tries: Barry O’Mahony 3; Old Belvedere: Points: Andy Dunne 32; Tries: Peter Woods 4
Preview: After two successive defeats and three losses in their last four, the division’s former pacemakers Clontarf simply cannot afford another setback.
Despite those reverses, Clontarf are still very much in the running in third spot, just four points behind leaders St. Mary’s.
Should they return to winning form against Old Belvedere they will remain right there in the mix in what is a very open title race.
And they will be fancied to take the points given that they are at home and up against bottom outfit Old Belvedere who have only managed one draw in their eight matches to date.
That said, Old Belvedere did show definite signs of improvement in narrowly losing to Cork Constitution last weekend, particulary in defence. So, Clontarf cannot take anything for granted.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 21, 2009: Clontarf 24 Old Belvedere 23, Castle Avenue; Saturday, April 16, 2011: Semi-final: Old Belvedere 22 Clontarf 20, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 6-10 points
LANSDOWNE (4th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: LWWLWLWW; Blackrock College: LLLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 83; Tries: Matt Healy 4; Blackrock College: Points: Darragh Fitzpatrick 52; Tries: Brendan Macken, Alex Dunlop, Jan-Simon Byrne 2 each
Preview: Lansdowne must be brimming with confidence following their 30-13 demolition of Garryowen which moved them into fourth place.
They seem to be getting better with every outing. Full-back and skipper Ross McCarron is playing his part, scoring two tries in the victory over Garryowen.
Much will be expected from them again on Saturday afternoon, particularly as they seem to have adapted to the artificial surface on the back pitch at the Avivia Stadium so well.
Blackrock did, however, produce their best performance of the season to beat Shannon 30-15 with a bonus point and move off the bottom of the table. This promises to be another very entertaining encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 6, 2007: Blackrock College 20 Lansdowne 24, Stradbrook; Saturday, November 17, 2007: Lansdowne 8 Blackrock College 24, the RDS
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (5th), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: WLLWWWWW; Cork Constitution: WLWLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 90; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 4; Cork Constitution: Points: Gerry Hurley 68; Tries: Niall O’Driscoll 4
Preview: The match of the day. Everyone will want to see how the new leaders St. Mary’s perform after their huge away win over Young Munster.
It was their fifth straight success, so they must be good. Their Leinster contingent have played a major role but it was scrum half Matt D’Arcy who did most of the damage last Saturday, scoring two tries.
Cork Constitution, for their part, are right back in the running, only four points behind St. Mary’s. While they took a long time to secure the winning points against Old Belvedere, it was a hugely important triumph.
If they can win again against St. Mary’s, they will definitely announce themselves as major contenders. It should be quite a battle.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 8, 2011: Cork Constitution 22 St. Mary’s College 17, Temple Hill; Saturday, March 26, 2011: St. Mary’s College 0 Cork Constitution 22, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points
The match between Shannon and Garryowen scheduled for Friday night has been postponed due the death of Colm Tucker. May He Rest In Peace.