League leaders Clontarf host Cork Constitution in what could be the match of the day in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League. There is action too at Stradbrook, Musgrave Park, Templeville Road and Tom Clifford Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 18
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th) v LANSDOWNE (5th), Stradbrook
Preview: A lot at stake here for Blackrock College. A run of three successive defeats has ended Lansdowne’s title ambitions and left them in mid-table.
So, relegation-threatened Blackrock would seem to have the greater incentive. Clearly though they are going to have improve considerably from the hammering they took last month against Lansdowne at the Aviva Stadium.
But Lansdowne have have major problems with injury and unavailability since then. Losing out-half Craig Ronaldson against Shannon was a big blow.
Still, they have a lot of scoring potential in their backs division given the opportunity. Consequently, Blackrock badly need to do well in the forward exchanges if they are to get that much-needed victory.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 6-10 points
CLONTARF (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Castle Avenue
Preview: A big test for the new leaders Clontarf. If Cork Constitution are to have any hope of getting back into contention they simply must win at Castle Avenue.
They currently trail Clontarf by eight points. Clontarf tend to be at their best on their home ground but they have already lost to Cork Con at Temple Hill and will appreciate that they represent really dangerous opposition.
Last weekend against Blackrock, it was a case of the Cork Con centre partnership of Scott Deasy and Ivan Dineen doing most of the damage, scoring two tries each.
Presumably, Clontarf will not give them the same sort of space. With two former Cork Con players in their ranks, Frank Coogan and Richie Lane, Clontarf should have a fair idea of what they might expect. It promises to be a very interesting game.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 1-5 points
DOLPHIN (7th) v OLD BELVEDERE (10th), Musgrave Park
Preview: Old Belvedere must manage something that has proved beyond the three leading teams in the table, Clontarf, St, Mary’s and Young Munster, if they are to beat Dolphin at Musgrave Park.
Andy Dunne, having taken over the Old Belvedere coaching duties from Phil Werahiko, has to achieve something of a miracle if they are to move away from the bottom.
It is very hard to see how how the situation is going to change. Dolphin have the pack to cause Old Belvedere problems. Plus, they have in Barry Keeshan one of the best place-kickers in the league.
Still, there was not too much in it when these two sides met at Anglesea Road. So, ‘Belvo must keep going and hope that something eventually goes their way.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (2nd) v SHANNON (8th), Templeville Road
Preview: It is absolutely essential that St. Mary’s College come up with the right response after losing to Dolphin last Saturday.
But nothing can be taken for granted against a Shannon team that has shown a significant improvement in the last few weeks. They blew a great chance of beating another of the title contenders, Young Munster, after leading 20-3 at one stage.
If they can call on Felix Jones again, Shannon could represent a threat. But St. Mary’s must look to return to the standards which brought them on such a long winning run before the defeat to Dolphin.
That means taking charge of the forward exchanges and using the possession well. Unfortunately, they have not been helped by the absence of Gavin Dunne in recent weeks.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v GARRYOWEN (6th), Tom Clifford Park
Preview: Another cracking derby matches on the cards between these two great Limerick rivals. Young Munster will probably start as favourites on the basis of home advantage.
But they are faced by a Garryowen side which is in good form after coming within a whisker of defeating St. Mary’s and then beating Lansdowne 38-11. While they are currently 10 points behind Young Munster in the table, they do have a game in hand.
So, this is a big match for both teams. Yet again, the contribution of the respective out-halves is going to be crucial.
The Cookies’ Willie Staunton and Declan Cusack of Garryowen both came up trumps last Saturday with their accurate place-kicking.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 6-10 points