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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

It all comes down to the final day in Ulster Bank League Division 1A. There will be high drama at Templeville Road and the Aviva Stadium as St. Mary’s College and Clontarf chase the title, while Blackrock College, Old Belvedere and Shannon all try to avoid the drop.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 21

Kick-off 2.35pm unless stated

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ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st) v YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd), Templeville Road (live on RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie)

Preview: After their win over Clontarf, St. Mary’s College need a victory in front of their home fans to make certain of the title. But head coach Peter Smyth is the first to appreciate that it will be far from easy.

Interestingly, Smyth stressed that they did not feel as much pressure against Clontarf because they were playing away. With so much at stake, the pressure will really be on this weekend.

No one expects Young Munster to roll over, they are not that sort of side. They would like nothing better than to finish the season with a victory at Templeville Road.

What is more, they have a score to settle after losing 36-11 to St. Mary’s at Tom Clifford Park in January. St. Mary’s took a bonus point with tries from Matt D’Arcy (two), Ciaran Ruddock and Stephen Grissing.

Importantly, Young Munster bounced back after two defeats to beat Dolphin last weekend. The victory put them in a strong position to finish third in the table, but there is still a possibility that they could be caught by Cork Constitution.

So, there is every chance of another cracking contest. St. Mary’s will be looking to Hugh Hogan to again provide the inspiration up front and for Darren Hudson to hopefully deliver again on the wing.

If they do win and claim the title, it will be quite an achievement given that they lost two of of their first three games in the league.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 1-5 points

LANSDOWNE (5th) v CLONTARF (2nd), Aviva Stadium main pitch

Preview: Clontarf face the difficult task of lifting themselves after the disappointment of losing at home to St. Mary’s. Their problem is that things are now out of their hands.

But they will, quite rightly, take the view that anything can happen in the St. Mary’s-Young Munster match. So, it is up to them to defeat Lansdowne and hope that Young Munster can do them a favour.

That said, beating Lansdowne will be far from easy. They are the highest points scorers in the league and possess one of the most dangerous backs divisions around.

At least though Clontarf do not have to face them on the artificial back at the Aviva Stadium. The match is going ahead on the main pitch.

The way to beat Lansdowne is to deny them the right sort of possession. Potentially, Clontarf have the forwards to do that but they did lack a bit of a cutting edge in the back-line last week.

They will hope to make better use of their talented right winger Mick McGrath this time around, while skipper Barry O’Mahony, presuming he is over the injury he picked up against St Mary’s, will be a crucial figure alongside Simon Crawford and Frank Cogan in the back row.

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

BLACKROCK COLLEGE (10th) v GARRYOWEN (6th), Stradbrook

Preview: These are desperate times for Blackrock as they attempt to avoid automatic relegation. They are three points adrift at the bottom of the table and badly need other results to got their way.

First priority though is to beat Garryowen. And that is not going to be easy following their disappointing 21-3 defeat to Shannon last weekend.

The fact that the match is at Stradbrook is obviously very much in Blackrock’s favour. They did manage to raise their game when beating Dolphin in ther last home game.

Much is going to depend on a Garryowen team that has very little to play for. Their minds, to some extent, are sure to be on the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final the following weekend.

But they would also, no doubt, like to prepare for that match with a victory over Blackrock and that could make them very dangerous.

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

CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (9th), Temple Hill

Preview: Old Belvedere are within range of making a truly remarkable recovery if they can gain a fourth win on the trot.

But away matches do not come much harder than taking on Cork Constitution at Temple Hill. Cork Con are likely to be reasonably motivated in that they still have an outside chance of taking third spot, should they win with a bonus point and Young Munster secure nothing at St. Mary’s.

There is also the fact, of course, that this is a repeat of last season’s final, won narrowly by Old Belvedere. When the two sides clashed again early in the league at Anglesea Road, it took a late penaty from Johnny Holland to give Cork Con at 9-7 victory.

Even if Old Belvedere do get that fourth successive win, they may still have to settle for a relegation/promotion play-off game against the second-placed team in Division 1B.

But that is quite a turnaround from the seemingly hopeless situation they found themselves in four matches back.

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

DOLPHIN (7th) v SHANNON (8th), Musgrave Park

A victory for Shannon should be enough to see them safe after a most disappointing season.

Last weekend’s win over Blackrock has put them a point ahead of Old Belvedere and four clear of Blackrock. So the pressure is still very much on.

Dolphin’s form has not been great of late but they tend to be a much better side at Musgrave Park. A lot will clearly depend on their attitude.

Shannon must hope to continue the improvement shown when beating Blackrock 21-3. The performance of the respective goal-kickers, Barry Keeshan (Dolphin) and Tadhg Bennett (Shannon), will be crucial.

There was little in it when the sides met on the opening weekend of the season, Shannon winning 21-18 and it could be very close again on Saturday.

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

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