The Ulster Bank League rolls back into town this weekend with Division 1B table toppers Belfast Harlequins looking to extend their five-point lead by beating Bruff. Two of the top four sides will collide in an Ulster derby, meanwhile, as second-placed Ballymena make the trip to Ballynahinch.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 24
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (4th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Ballymacarn Park
Preview: Crucial game for both teams. Ballymena are in second spot with Ballynahinch just two points behind them in fourth place.
Both of these Ulster clubs are coming off disappointing defeats last time out. Ballynahinch went down 13-8, away to Bruff, while Ballymena were beaten 27-13 at home to UL Bohemians.
But they are capable of an awful lot more. Ballymena centre Luke Marshall, if he plays, will represent a real threat to Ballynahinch.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (1st) v BRUFF (8th), Deramore Park
Preview: Not as easy as it might seem for the leaders Belfast Harlequins. At home, they will undoubtedly start favourites but they will recognise that they will face very committed opponents.
After a tough season Bruff are at last beginning to put some performances together. Their home victory over Ballynahinch would suggest that they have what it takes to move clear of the relegation zone.
But they are going to have to give a massive display if they are to secure a victory. Belfast Harlequins know they simply cannot afford another slip-up after their defeat to Buccaneers.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 6-10 points
DUNGANNON (6th) v BUCCANEERS (3rd), Stevenson Park
Preview: The one thing you can be sure about is that you are always going to get an interesting game when Dungannon are involved. The difficulty is knowing what Dungannon side will turn up.
At their best, they are capable of playing some of the most exciting rugby in the division.
They cannot expect any favours from a Buccaneers side, currently lying in third spot in the table. Their 37-30 victory over leaders Belfast Harlequins should leave them in good shape for this game.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win by 1-5 points
UCC (10th) v GALWEGIANS (7th), the Mardyke
Preview: UCC are clearly a lot better than their position at the bottom of the table, 13 points adrift of the next team.
So, Galwegains know they will have a game on their hands at the Mardyke. Just the same, the Connacht side must target this game for an important victory.
Their performance in trouncing UCD 38-17 showed just what they are capable of on their day. Players of the calibre of Dave Moore and Tadhg Leader represent a big threat to the students.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win by 6-10 points
UL BOHEMIANS (5th) v UCD (9th), Annacotty
Preview: UL Bohemians are in there with a real chance on the promotion front following their fine away victory over Ballymena.
A repeat of that display will make life very difficult for the Dublin students. Winger Finbarr Aherne appears to be in top class form, having bagged two tries against Ballymena.
UCD, by contrast, now lie second from bottom on points difference after conceding 38 points against Galwegians.
They are capable of a lot more and they will clearly need to pick up considerably if are to secure a vital away victory.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win by 1-5 points
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