Forget league points, forget promotion – it is Colours time at the Belfield Bowl tonight for a much-anticipated Friday Night Lights clash in the Ulster Bank League.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 23
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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UCD (3rd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd), Belfield, 7.30pm, Friday, February 22
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: WWLWLLWLWWW; Dublin University: WWWWWWLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Thornton 91; Tries: Barry Daly 7; Dublin University: Points: David Joyce 59; Tries: Niyi Adeolokun 8
Preview: A hugely entertaining match in prospect as these great student rivals are right up there in the Division 1B table.
Dublin University, in second spot, now lie just four points adrift of leaders Ballynhinch after their bonus point 42-5 away success over Ballymena. They should not be lacking confidence just now.
But third-placed UCD are also flying high following an impressive run of victories, the latest of which saw them end Ballynahinch’s unbeaten run last Saturday.
They have lots of pace out wide with the likes of Sam Coghlan Murray and Andrew Boyle and would like nothing better than to put one over a Dublin University side that beat them earlier this season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 16, 2011: Dublin University 31 UCD 22, Donnybrook; Saturday, November 17, 2012: Dublin University 36 UCD 14, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win by 1-5 points
BALLYNAHINCH (1st) v BALLYMENA (10th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: WWWWWWWDWWL; Ballymena: LLLLLLWDLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 94; Tries: Adam Craig 8; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 23; Tries: Conor Smyth, Darrell Montgomery 2 each
Preview: Unfortunately for bottom side Ballymena they can expect few favours from a Ballynahinch side keen to return to winning form after last weekend’s first defeat at the hands of UCD.
While the bad weather did not help, Ballynahinch just did not match the high standards they have previously set this season. So they will, no doubt, settle for nothing less than a bonus point victory over Ballymena.
The fact that Ballymena lost players to Ballynahinch at the start of the season gives the game some added interest.
But really it is hard to see how a Ballymena side, trounced 42-5 at home by UCD last Saturday, will be able to cope with the league leaders.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2012: Ballynahinch 25 Ballymena 20, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 17, 2012: Ballymena 24 Ballynahinch 43, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 10+ points
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th) v BRUFF (9th), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLWWWLWWWLD; Bruff: WLLLLWLLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Michael Heaney 51; Tries: Rory Scholes, Stuart Olding, Mark Kettyle 3 each; Bruff: Points: Brian Carroll 32; Tries: Brendan Deady, Mark Cosgrave, Michael Carroll 2 each
Preview: Desperate times for Bruff as they attempt to move away form their position of second last in the table.
Their supporters will argue that they just need a break. Like Old Belvedere in the top division, they are experiencing a period where nothing appears to be going their way.
Last weekend, for instance, they shared six tries with Malone but lost out 21-17 because of the Belfast side’s superior goal-kicking.
Belfast Harlequins, in a comfortable mid-table position, tend to blow hot and cold but they will undoubtedly be favourites on their home patch.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2012: Belfast Harlequins 23 Bruff 26, Deramore Park; Saturday, November 17, 2012: Bruff 21 Belfast Harlequins 17, Kilballyowen Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win by 6-10 points
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (7th) v DUNGANNON (8th), Stradbrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: LLLLWWLLWDD; Dungannon: LLWLLLLDWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Rob Keogh 67; Tries: Jan-Simon Byrne, Job Langbroek 3 each; Dungannon: Points: Jaryd Bennett 29; Tries: Chris Cochrane, Ali Birch, Mark Jenkinson, Jaryd Bennett 2 each
Preview: Remarkably, Blackrock College have draw their last two games: 36-36 with Buccaneers and 23-23 with Belfast Harlequins.
Surely, they could not make it three in-a-row by sharing the spoils with Dungannon? It would seem unlikely against a Dungannon side which has won only twice this season.
Currently, Blackrock are a seven points ahead of the Tyrone men, but a loss here could could make them vulnerable to some of the sides below.
Dungannon are in real trouble lying third from bottom but they did show some more encouraging signs when scoring three tries in a narrow 24-22 defeat to Buccaneers last weekend.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2009: Dungannon 22 Blackrock College 14, Stevenson Park; Saturday, November 17, 2012: Dungannon 8 Blackrock College 9, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win by 1-5 points
BUCCANEERS (4th) v MALONE (5th), Dubarry Park, 7pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: LWLWWWWWLDW; Malone: WWWLLLLDLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Jack Carty 115; Tries: Alex Hayman, Kolo Kiripati 6 each; Malone: Points: Niall O’Connor 51; Tries: Michael Barker 7
Preview: Buccaneers are still hanging in there in fourth position in the table after their hard-earned away victory over Dungannon last Saturday.
The boot of Jack Carty and the influence of captain Kolo Kiripati will make them very difficult to beat at Dubarry Park. But Malone should never be underestimated.
Once they get the right team on the pitch they can be very good. They did become very inconsistent after a great start to their campaign, but more recently they seem to have regained quite a bit of confidence.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 22, 2008: Malone 0 Buccaneers 24, Gibson Park; Saturday, November 17, 2012: Malone 12 Buccaneers 24, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win by 1-5 points