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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

A big weekend in Division 1B kicks off with the mouth-watering Friday Night Lights clash between league leaders Ballynahinch and fifth-placed Dungannon, who are only two points behind the County Down side.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 4

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYNAHINCH (1st) v DUNGANNON (5th), Ballymacarn Park, Friday, 7.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: WWWWLWLDWL; Dungannon: WLLWLWLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: James Lash 80; Tries: James Thompson 5; Dungannon: Points: Chris Cochrane 40; Tries: Chris Cochrane 8

Preview: A fascinating contest under floodlights tonight which pits the leaders against the team currently fifth in the table.

Remarkably though, fifth-placed Dungannon are just two points behind table toppers Ballynahinch.

Anything can happen in a very tight division. Had Dungannon not gone down to a shock home defeat to UL Bohemians last weekend, they could be top of the table. They have the players, particularly in their backs division, to score a lot of tries.

But Ballynahinch will be smarting from their defeat to Belfast Harlequins last time out and will be hoping that home advantage enables them to complete the double over the men from Tyrone.

Most Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 13, 2010: Ballynahinch 35 Dungannon 11, Ballymacarn Park; Friday, October 14, 2011: Dungannon 21 Ballynahinch 25, Stevenson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points

BALLYMENA (4th) v BRUFF (9th), Eaton Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WLWWDWWLLW; Bruff: LWLLLLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: John Semple 57; Tries: Richard Aingworth 4; Bruff: Points: Brian Cahill 52; Tries: John Shine 4

Preview: Ballymena did themselves a huge favour by beating Buccaneers 8-6 away last weekend. That was quite an achievement and it moved them right back into contention at the top of the table.

They will start this game as pretty strong favourites, but they did concede 39 points when losing their last home match to Dungannon.

Consequently, a Bruff side desperate for points must feel they are not without a chance. What is more, there was not much in it when the two sides met in Limerick, with Ballymena getting home 34-28.

Most Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 15, 2011: Bruff 28 Ballymena 34, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win by 6-10 points

BELFAST HARLEQUINS (2nd) v GALWEGIANS (8th), Deramore Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: WLWLWWLWWW; Galwegians: LLLLWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Michael Heaney 62; Tries: Neil McComb 4; Galwegians: Points: Tadhg Leader 69; Tries: Barry Lee, John Cleary, Ivan Muldoon, Tadhg Leader 3 each

Preview: Belfast Harlequins are the form team over the past few weeks, having travelled to UCD and won 39-22 and then followed it up with a 19-13 home victory over current leaders Ballynahinch.

All of which means that they are level with Ballynahinch at the top of the table, only trailing them on points difference. Ian Porter is in tremendous place-kicking form, knocking them over from everywhere.

Clearly then Galwegians cannot afford to concede too many penalties. But the Connacht outfit are a much better side than their lowly league position indicates and are quite capable of making ‘Quins fight hard for victory.

Most Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 14, 2006: Galwegians 29 Belfast Harlequins 8, Crowley Park; Saturday, October 15, 2011: Galwegians 15 Belfast Harlequins 39, Crowley Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 1-5 points

UL BOHEMIANS (6th) v UCC (10th), Annacotty

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: LWWLWLLWLW; UCC: LLLLLLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 94; Tries: Ben Martin 3; UCC: Points: Brian Kingston 67; Tries: Brian O’Callaghan 3

Preview: It will be interesting to see how UL Bohemians follow up last weekend’s fantastic achievement of travelling to Ulster ot upset high-flying Dungannon.

Martin McPhail still seems to be able to turn it on when the occasion demands. If they can repeat that form, they should be able to get the better of their bottom of the table opponents.

But it would be unwise to dismiss the students. They are improving, as was shown by their shock win over Buccaneers a few weeks back.

Most Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 26, 2011: UL Bohemians 20 UCC 23, Thomond Park; Saturday, October 15, 2011:UCC 9 UL Bohemians 19, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win by 6-10 points

UCD (7th) v BUCCANEERS (3rd), Belfield

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: LWLWDLWDLW; Buccaneers: WWWWWLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Niall Earls 88; Tries: Sam Coghlan Murray 3; Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 75; Tries: John O’Brien, Paul Harte, Shane Layden 3 each

Preview: Third-placed Buccaneers badly need to return to winning form after their disappointing home defeat to Ballymena.

They will face a UCD side that must have taken some confidence from their 13-11 away success over UCC. The students have a lively backs division but their problem could be in winning sufficient possession against the tough Buccaneers forwards.

Too often, however, Buccaneers’ problem has been their use of possession. Certainly, that was the case when losing to Ballymena.

Most Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 24, 2009: UCD 30 Buccaneers 24, Belfield; Saturday, October 15, 2011: Buccaneers 23 UCD 17, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win by 1-5 points