There is a feast of floodlit rugby in the Ulster Bank League tonight with ‘Friday Night Lights’ action at Castle Avenue, Temple Hill and Thomond Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 3
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CORK CONSTITUTION (5th) v DOLPHIN (7th), Temple HiIl, Friday, March 2, 7.30pm
Preview: Cork Constitution’s title chances may be gone following their 10-9 defeat by Clontarf. But they will be keen to finish as high up the table as they can.
What is more, there will be considerable pride at stake for tonight’s derby clash with Dolphin. When the sides met at Musgrave Park last October, Cork Con came out on top 17-10.
Everything suggests that it will be another close encounter. Dolphin have had a useful run of late, ending St. Mary’s long winning run before accounting for Old Belvedere.
They have a potential match winner in Barry Keeshan. But Cork Con have no shortage of potential match winners themselves and will be hoping that home advantage gives them the edge.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points
SHANNON (8th) v GARRYOWEN (6th), Thomond Park, Friday, March 2, 7.30pm
Preview: A huge amount at stake for Shannon as they attempt to move away from the relegation zone. Mid-table Garryowen, on the other hand, do not seem to have the same incentive.
But that, of course, is not the way it works in a Limerick derby. If Shannon are to secure their much-needed victory they are going to have to produce a really big performance.
Garryowen’s form has been impressive recently, beating Lansdowne comfortably before losing out 21-15 to Young Munster. That was a match they could very easily have won with Alan Gaughan’s late try.
Shannon player-coach Stephen Keogh must lift his team after a 24-12 defeat to St. Mary’s late time out. At least they did show some character when scoring two tries in the final quarter, but they will need an 80-minute performance tonight.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 1-5 points
CLONTARF (1st) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), Castle Avenue, Friday, March 2, 7.30pm
Preview: On paper, Clontarf should have far too much ability for Blackrock College. They, after all, are top of the table while Blackrock are second-from-bottom.
Furthermore, they trounced Blackrock 30-6 when the teams met over the opening weekend of the season last October. That said, Clontarf boss Andy Wood will not be taking anything for granted.
He knows that they cannot afford to be complacent against a Blackrock side absolutely desperate for a victory. So, he will, no doubt, be asking his team to put the pressure on Blackrock from the start.
Once again, the Clontarf back row of Simon Crawford, Frank Cogan and skipper Barry O’Mahony is sure to play a key role. Scrum half Sam Cronin sustained a worrying shoulder injury against Cork Con but Clontarf do have a very able deputy in young Dermot O’Meara.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 10+ points
LANSDOWNE (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (2nd), Aviva Stadium back pitch, 4.15pm
Preview: A fascinating game between fourth-placed Lansdowne and a St. Mary’s side that is on the same points mark as Clontarf at the top of the table.
St. Mary’s will appreciate that Lansdowne represent very dangerous opponents, particularly on the artificial surface on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
The will also recall that Lansdowne upset them 23-19 when the sides met at Templeville Road near the start of the season.
It would appear that Lansdowne have too much to do to finish in top spot, given that they are 10 points behind the two leaders and eight adrift of third-placed Young Munster. But they still have to play the three front runners and a win here could provide them with a real boost.
Lansdowne possess the backs division to trouble anyone. So, if St. Mary’s are to secure a vital victory, they must look to their well-organised pack to gain an advantage.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE (10th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd), Anglesea Road
Preview: No one could have envisaged how badly things would go for Old Belvedere when they travelled to face Young Munster in the opening round of the season and lost a tight game 23-19.
Now, 13 games into the season, they have yet to secure a victory and look set to be automatically relegated. Young Munster, by contrast, are right up there in the hunt for the title in third spot.
Yet, there must be a concern in the Young Munster camp that one of these days things are going to go right for Old Belvedere and they will secure that overdue win. You would have to think though that the Limerick outfit are too good a side to allow that to happen.
Their most recent success over Garryowen showed that they remain as competitive as ever. If Mike Prendergast’s men continue to show the same sort of spirit they should be okay.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 6-10 points
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