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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

The league has been decided but there is still a last round of games to play in Division 1B. UCD have all but nailed a playoff against Shannon for promotion.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 27

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Blackrock College (6th) v UCD (2nd), Stradbrook

Barring a complete disaster, UCD will be travelling to face Shannon for a relegation/promotion play-off.

Effectively, they have already completed the job of taking second spot in the table. With just a game to go they are five points clear of Dublin University with a superior points difference of 112.

So, all they need to do is to pick up a losing bonus point at Stradbrook and avoid going down to huge defeat. That’s unlikely to be a problem.

In normal circumstances, you would expect UCD, in their current mood, to win with something to spare but they will be badly understrength because of the Leinster A team’s involvement against Munster A in the British and Irish Cup semi-final at Dooradoyle on Friday night.

The students have lost several top players to the Leinster A side, particularly in the back division where Sam Coughlan-Murray, Andrew Boyle, Adam Byrne and Luke McGrath will all be involved with their province.

So, Blackrock will feel that they are not without a chance. They have, after all, already beaten the students at Belfield earlier this season, a surprise result which set them on the path to moving well clear of the relegation zone.

Ballymena (9th) v Belfast Harlequins (7th), Eaton Park

Pride is the only thing at stake at Eaton Park. It would mean something to Ballymena if they could finish a hugely disappointing season with a victory.

They are long since relegated in second last position with just two victories in their campaign. But there have been slight indications of an improvement in recent times.

They led UCD, for example, 10-7 at half-time last weekend, only for the students to pull clear in the second period to win 40-10. Belfast Harlequins, thankfully for Ballymena, are not UCD but they have been good enough to finish up close to mid table with seven victories and a draw in their 17 outings.

Bruff (10th) v Buccaneers (4th), Kilballyowen Park

This game will bring to an end a dismal campaign for Bruff. Nothing has gone right, particularly in the second half of the season.

Last Saturday’s 74-8 home defeat at the hands of Dungannon sadly summed up their situation. They have finish last, a point behind Ballymena, with the two of them a mile behind everyone else.

Buccaneers will represent a severe test, although they also went down to a big defeat 41-8 to the new Division Two B champions Ballynahinch last weekend. But Buccaneers were still good enough to finish fourth in the table and are a very decent side.

Dungannon (8th) v Ballynahinch (1st), Stevenson Park

An interesting game between these Ulster rivals. On paper, Ballynahinch should be much too good as they have topped the table while Dungannon are currently third last.

But that doesn’t tell the full story. Dungannon’s form has picked up dramatically in recent times and their coach Paddy Johns would no doubt like nothing better than to put one over the new champions.

Last Saturday saw them demolish Bruff 74-8 away with Chris Cochrane getting four tries. But Ballynahinch, of course, could not be more different from Bruff.

They have been the outstanding team around, losing just one game to date. So, it will take quite an effort from Dungannon if they are to be in with a chance of lowering their colours.

Malone (5th) v Dublin University (3rd), Gibson Park

IT looks certain that Dublin University are going to have to be satisfied with third spot in the table behind Ballynahinch and UCD.

Currently five points behind UCD, they also have a far inferior points difference. So, it would need a quite dramatic turn of events for them to snatch second position.

Still, they have to get on with the job and attempt to record a big bonus point victory. At their best, they are capable of achieving that bonus point success, although they will be without their first choice out-half Cathal Marsh who is needed by Leinster A.

Much will obviously depend on Malone’s attitude. They have tended to be hugely erractic but they generally tend to be much better on their home ground.