The top three teams – pace setters Malone and their chiefs chasers UCD and Dublin University – all have home matches this weekend as Division 1B resumes with fixtures in Dublin, Belfast and Athlone.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BELFAST HARLEQUINS (8th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LL; Blackrock College: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Rory Scholes 11; Tries: Adam D’Arcy 2; Blackrock College: Points: David Godfrey 10; Tries: Mark Scott-Lennon, Jan-Simon Byrne, Michael Carroll 1 each
Preview: A clash between the two sides looking for a first victory. Surprising really when you think that Belfast Harlequins were among the front runners for much of last season and Blackrock were in Division 1A.
But their reputations have counted for very little. Blackrock will clearly need to improve on their efforts when going down 23-14 at home to Buccaneers if they are to stop their losing run.
Not that Belfast Harlequins have been great themselves. But they do, at least, have home advantage.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, January 27, 2007: Blackrock College 36 Belfast Harlequins 43, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 6-10 points
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v BALLYMENA (10th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: WW; Ballymena: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: David Joyce 9; Tries: Jack Dilger, Ariel Robles, Martin Kelly, Pierce Dargan, Brian du Toit, Niyi Adeolukan, Paddy Lavelle 1 each; Ballymena: Points: Niall Martin 8; Tries: Niall Martin 1
Preview: Everything suggests that high-flying Dublin University should secure a very comfortable victory. So far, they have been top class, winning their two games to lie third in the table.
They also put up a very decent performance against St. Mary’s College in the Leinster League Cup play-offs last weekend.
Ballymena, in total contrast, seem to be in considerable trouble after the loss of several key players. They currently lie bottom having conceded 85 points in their two matches to date.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, February 19, 2011: Ballymena 26 Dublin University 19, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win by 6-10 points
MALONE (1st) v BRUFF (6th), Gibson Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Malone: WW; Bruff: WL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Niall O’Connor 29; Tries: Glenn Moore 4; Bruff: Points: Brian Carroll 15; Tries: Brendan Deady 2
Preview: A massive undertaking for Bruff against the in-form top of the table Malone outfit. Remarkably, the Belfast outfit have scored 96 points in winning their opening two games.
In the most recent of them they anihiliated Ballymena 60-3 away, crossing for nine tries. Inspirational captain Glenn Moore got a hat-trick of tries, with Neil Acorn going over for two more.
While Bruff will surely provide far better opposition, it is very difficult to see them bringing a halt to Malone’s early season march.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 25, 2008: Malone 3 Bruff 9, Gibson Park; Saturday, April 3, 2010: Bruff 28 Malone 27, Kilballyowen Park.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win by 10+ points
UCD (2nd) v BALLYNAHINCH (4th), Belfield
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: WW; Ballynahinch: WW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Thornton 22; Tries: Barry Daly 3; Ballynahinch: Points: Michael Lawton 25; Tries: Aaron Ferris, Aaron Cairns, Chris Napier, Michael Lawton 1 each
Preview: Both of these sides have won their opening two matches with UCD in second spot and Ballynahinch sitting in fourth. So, their Belfield meeting has the makings of a very good game.
In normal circumstances UCD would be top of the table, having scored 90 points in two impressive bonus point victories. But the other prolific, high-scoring outfit Malone just head them on points difference.
UCD must be fancied to record another success on their home track, although Ballynahinch should provide them with their biggest test to date.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 7, 2012: Ballynahinch 21 UCD 21, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, March 31, 2012: UCD 25 Ballynahinch 12, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win by 1-5 points
BUCCANEERS (5th) v DUNGANNON (7th), Dubarry Park, 7pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: LW; Dungannon: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 25; Tries: Kolo Kiripati, Billy Henshaw, Luke Satchwell 1 each; Dungannon: Points: Peter Nelson 11; Tries: Chris Cochrane 2
Preview: Surprisingly, Dungannon are still looking for their first win after playing some of the best rugby in the division last season.
There is, however, some reason for optimism despite losing 22-16 at home to Dublin University last time out. Winger Chris Cochrane showed that he can again be a major force by going over for two tries.
Buccaneers, for their part, will not be lacking confidence after beating Blackrock College 23-14 away. It is likely to be a tighly-fought encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 3, 2011: Buccaneers 33 Dungannon 20, Dubarry Park; Saturday, March 24, 2012: Dungannon 47 Buccaneers 3, Stevenson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by 1-5 points