In a intriguing mid-season twist, the top four clubs in Division 1B will all clash on Saturday afternoon with leading lights Ballynahinch and Dublin University meeting at Ballymacarn Park and it is fourth hosts third at Deramore Park – Belfast Harlequins v Buccaneers.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (1st) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd), Wallace High School, Lisburn
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: WWWWWWWD; Dublin University: WWWWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 94; Tries: Chris Quinn 7; Dublin University: Points: Cathal Marsh 56; Tries: Niyi Adeolukan 5
Preview: First against second. Only Dublin University seem to have lost their way suddenly following a couple of defeats to Buccaneers and Belfast Harlequins.
Consequently, they are now five points adrift of Ballynahinch and just two in front of third placed Bucaneers. That said, they remain a very well-organised team, capable of playing attractive rugby.
Their problem is that they are away to a Ballynahinch side that is unbeaten in the league this season.
But perhaps the fact that the leaders dropped their first points of the season when drawing 15-15 with Malone last time out will give the students some encouragement.
Please note the venue change to Wallace High School, Lisburn.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 7, 2009: Ballynahinch 23 Dublin University 13, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 5, 2011: Ballynahinch 32 Dublin University 23, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 6-10 points
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (4th) v BUCCANEERS (3rd), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLWWWLWW; Buccaneers: LWLWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Stuart Olding 41; Tries: Rory Scholes, Stuart Olding 3 each; Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 85; Tries: Kolo Kiripati, Alex Hayman 4 each
Preview: Another top class game between the fourth and third placed sides in the table. Buccaneers are in outstanding form at present following victories against the two university teams.
Jack Carty appears to be a key figure after contributing 15 points in the 25-20 win over UCD. But Belfast Harlequins have a match winner of their own in the rising young Ulster star Stuart Olding.
He also contributed 15 points when Belfast Harlequins travelled to College Park to upset Dublin University 20-16. So, there is a very interesting contest in prospect at Deramore Park.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2011: Belfast Harlequins 19 Buccaneers 14, Deramore Park; Saturday, March 3, 2012: Buccaneers 37 Belfast Harlequins 30, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 1-5 points
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (7th) v MALONE (6th), Stradbrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: LLLLWWLL; Malone: WWWLLLLD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Rob Keogh 35; Tries: Michael Carroll, Des Dillon, Jan-Simon Byrne, Peter McCague 2 each; Malone: Points: Niall O’Connor 45; Tries: Glenn Moore, Chris Leathem 5 each
Preview: Blackrock College will be anxious to build on their dramatic away success over fellow strugglers Bruff. It took a late drop goal from David Godfrey to give the Stradbrook outfit a vital 6-3 success.
Importantly, it has left them fourth from bottom, three points ahead of Bruff. Malone have fallen away enormously after starting the season in tremendous fashion.
But, worrying for Blackrock, they did put in a hugely improved effort to draw with leaders Ballynahinch 15-15 in their last league appearance.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win by 6-10 points
DUNGANNON (9th) v BRUFF (8th), Stevenson Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dungannon: LLWLLLLD; Bruff: WLLLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dungannon: Points: Jaryd Bennett 24; Tries: Chris Cochrane 2; Bruff: Points: Brian Carroll 32; Tries: Brendan Deady 2
Preview: Massively important bottom of the table meeting. Bruff lie third from bottom with Dungannon second last. Much more was expected from Dungannon, especially as they played some really attractive rugby last season.
But they have managed only one win and a draw in their eight games. Bruff have two victories to their credit but they put themselves under a lot of pressure following their home defeat to Blackrock.
The Limerick club’s coach Mike Lynch felt it was a game they should have won after dominating possession for most of the second half.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 7, 2012: Dungannon 28 Bruff 15, Stevenson Park; Saturday, March 31, 2012: Bruff 16 Dungannon 25, Kilballyowen Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by 6-10 points
UCD (5th) v BALLYMENA (10th), Belfield
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: WWLWLLWL; Ballymena: LLLLLLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Thornton 66; Tries: Barry Daly 5; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 23; Tries: Conor Smyth, Darrell Montgomery 2 each
Preview: UCD are unlikely to underestimate bottom side Ballymena, despite the Ulster club’s poor season to date. Importantly, Ballymena have shown some improvement, gaining an away success over Blackrock and drawing with Dungannon.
But there is still, quite clearly, a long way to go. The problem with UCD is that it is hard to know what to expect.
At their best, they can be very good with talented performers like Andrew Boyle capable of giving serious problems to defences.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2011: Ballymena 11 UCD 11, Eaton Park; Saturday, February 18, 2012: UCD 31 Ballymena 28, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win by 6-10 points