The action kicks off in Dubarry Park tonight with a Friday Night Lights clash between Buccaneers and Galwegians – a game being streamed live on Irish Rugby TV – and continues on Saturday at Bruff, Ballymena, UL Bohemians and UCD.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 14
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BUCCANEERS (3rd) v GALWEGIANS (8th), Dubarry Park, Friday, January 13, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: WWWWWLWL; Galwegians: LLLLWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 57; Tries: John O’Brien, Paul Harte, Shane Layden 3 each; Galwegians: Points: Tadhg Leader 58; Tries: Barry Lee, John Cleary 3 each
Preview: A Connacht derby at Dubarry Park is always worth catching and this game serve a dual purpose as it is both a league clash and a cup qualifier for the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup semi-final.
Buccaneers lost to UCC last weekend, the Cork side’s first win of the campaign, while Galwegians lost at home to UL Bohemians. So both of these clubs have a point to prove.
Interestingly Buccaneers beat UL Bohs earlier in the season while Galwegians beat UCC, so form really does not count in this much-anticipated encounter.
The Athlone tie will be streamed live right here on IrishRugby.ie with full commentary from the midlands venue.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2010: Buccaneers 16 Galwegians 12, Dubarry Park; Saturday, February 26, 2011: Galwegians 21 Buccaneers 15, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win by 1-5 points
BRUFF (9th) v UCC (10th), Kilballyowen Park, 1.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Bruff: LWLLLLWL; UCC: LLLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Bruff: Points: Brian Cahill 45; Tries: John Shine 3; UCC: Points: Brian Kingston 53; Tries: Brian O’Callaghan 2
Preview: An early kick-off for this intriguing all-Munster meeting between the two bottom teams in the table.
Second-from-bottom Bruff will be hoping that home advantage proves decisive in bringing them an important league victory.
They did not, it seems, play at all badly last weekend, despite losing 28-15 to Dungannon. The problem was that they came up against one of the best young finishers around in Ulster winger Chris Cochrane.
UCC may not have a finisher of his calibre but they do have considerably more confidence after producing the shock result of the season to overturn high-flying Buccaneers 22-18. So, anything could happen this Saturday.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 23, 2010: UCC 13 Bruff 15, the Mardyke; Saturday, February 5, 2011: Bruff 10 UCC 0, Kilballyowen Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buff to win by 6-10 points
BALLYMENA (2nd) v DUNGANNON (4th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WLWWDWWL; Dungannon: WLLWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: John Semple 49; Tries: Richard Aingworth 4; Dungannon: Points: Chris Cochrane 35; Tries: Chris Cochrane 7
Preview: Yet another crucial Ulster derby in this division. Ballymena lie second with Dungannon just two points behind in fourth spot.
Quite clearly, Ballymena are going to have to improve considerably from last weekend when they went down 9-0 to Belfast Harlequins.
No doubt, they will be a lot better in front of their own supporters but they will need to be against a really dangerous Dungannon outfit that is comfortably the highest scoring side in the division having garnered five try-scoring bonus points to date.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 12, 2009: Dungannon 15 Ballymena 21, Stevenson Park; Saturday, March 27, 2010: Ballymena 15 Dungannon 25, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win by 1-5 points
UL BOHEMIANS (6th) v BALLYNAHINCH (1st), Annacotty, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: LWWLWLLW; Ballynahinch: WWWWLWLD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 88; Tries: Darren Moroney, Dave Kilcoyne, Ben Martin 2 each; Ballynahinch: Points: James Lash 57; Tries: Aaron Ferris, James Thompson, David Nicholson 4 each
Preview: Not an easy match to call. UL Bohemians certainly cannot be underestimated following their extraordinary 24-22 away success over Galwegians.
Bear in mind, they were 22-3 down away against a seemingly red hot Galwegians outfit. But UL Bohs roared back to seal a remarkable victory with a late Sean Henry try.
Ballynahinch top the table because they are a very good side. But they have proved more vulnerable in recent outings, only drawing 21-21 at home to UCD last time out.
The thoughts of many will be with the home team’s coach Colm Tucker Jnr following the death of his father this week.
Recent League Meetings – None
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points
UCD (7th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (5th), Belfield
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: LWLWDLWD; Belfast Harlequins: WLWLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Niall Earls 75; Tries: Sam Coghlan Murray 3; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Michael Heaney 62; Tries: Neil McComb, Rory Scholes 2 each
Preview: You never know quite what to expect from UCD. They are clearly a lot better than their position of third-from-bottom would indicate.
For instance, they played really well to share the spoils with Ballynahinch with out-half Niall Earls making a big contribution. Now they must show they are capable of putting two good performances together.
That though will not be easy against a Belfast Harlequins team which defeated the then leaders Ballymena last time out.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 23, 2010: Belfast Harlequins 18 UCD 6, Deramore Park; Saturday, October 30, 2010: UCD 47 Belfast Harlequins 24, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 1-5 points