The Division 1A action kicks off with a Friday Night Lights match on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium as Lansdowne host Old Belvedere and another in Belfield where UCD entertain St. Mary’s College.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 23
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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LANSDOWNE (7th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Aviva Stadium back pitch, Friday, November 22, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: LLWWW; Old Belvedere: WLDWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 40; Tries: Cian Aherne 4; Old Belvedere: Points: Daniel Riordan 20; Tries: Daniel Riordan 4
Preview: A big test for an Old Belvedere side that has surprised everyone apart from themselves. They currently lie third in the table just a point behind the leaders Cork Constitution.
So, if they win or even draw this Friday night fixture, they will go top of the table, albeit perhaps for a short time. They have been excellent to date with Jack Conan in the back row and skipper Daniel Riordan at full-back both key figures.
But they will come up against a Lansdowne team that has recovered well from their disappointing start to the league. Their most recent 33-28 win over St. Mary’s was their third in-a-row.
Another victory would put them right back in the mix. Scott Deasy is excelling at full-back and young Tom Kiersey seems to have slotted in well at out-half.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, September 28, 2012: Old Belvedere 9 Lansdowne 16, Anglesea Road; Friday, April 12, 2013: Lansdowne 18 Old Belvedere 34, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points
UCD (2nd) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th), Belfield, Friday, November 22, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: WWWWL; St. Mary’s College: LLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Thornton 36; Tries: Andrew Boyle, Eoin Joyce, Alex Kelly 2 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 23; Tries: Cathal Marsh, Mark Sexton 2 each
Preview: It is going to be fascinating to see how second-placed UCD respond to their first defeat at the hands of Clontarf a few weeks back.
They found themselves up against a really well organised team and were forced into conceding a lot of penalties. They will now be hoping to return to the form which saw them win their opening four matches.
So much depends on their ability to get the right sort of possession. If they do so, backs of the calibre of Andrew Boyle, Sam Coghlan Murray and Barry Daly can inflict serious damage.
Quite clearly, St. Mary’s are going to have to improve considerably. They lie third-from-bottom, having won just one game, but they did provide some signs of encouragement with a late rally against Lansdowne.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 10, 2007: UCD 16 St. Mary’s College 15, Belfield; Saturday, April 11, 2009: St. Mary’s College 24 UCD 17, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win by 6-10 points
BALLYNAHINCH (9th) v GARRYOWEN (10th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: LLLLL; Garryowen: LLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Richie Lobb 40; Tries: Aaron Ferris, James McBriar, Paul Pritchard, Adam Craig, David McIlwaine, Stuart Morrow 1 each; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 25; Tries: Harry McNulty 2
Preview: A big game form the two teams lying at the bottom of the table. Garryowen are current last with Ballynahinch just two points above them.
Neither side has managed a win to date which is especailly disappointing for a Garryowen side that finished runners-up last season.
They have played quite a bit better in their last two games, only to lose out narrowly to Cork Constitution and Young Munster. They really should have won both, especially the game against Young Munster, but they may well be lacking some confidence.
The same is probably true of Ballynahinch, although they played a lot of good rugby when losing 30-26 to Old Belvedere last time out. Centre Stuart Morrow remains a major threat.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 6-10 points
CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v CLONTARF (1st), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Cork Constitution: WWDWL; Clontarf: LWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Johnny Holland 28; Tries: James Ryan 3; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 61; Tries: Michael McGrath 4
Preview: It does not get any easier for the new league leaders Clontarf. They will be up against a Cork Constitution side that will be determined to hit back quickly after their 14-9 defeat by Dolphin.
Clontarf will appreciate how hard it is to win at Temple Hill. When the sides met there last season Cork Con emerged victorious 22-20 with a late score.
But Clontarf will not be lacking confidence after becoming the first side to defeat UCD. That was their fourth win on the trot.
Their pack is one of the best around. Centre Evan Ryan returns to face his old club in a backs division which now has Darragh Fitzpatrick at full-back and Max McFarland operating on the wing.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 29, 2012: Cork Constitution 22 Clontarf 20, Temple Hill; Saturday, April 13, 2013: Clontarf 18 Cork Constitution 22, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (5th) v DOLPHIN (6th), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Young Munster: WWLLW; Dolphin: WWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Brian Haugh 56; Tries: Derry O’Connor 4; Dolphin: Points: Rory Scannell 34; Tries: Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam 2 each
Preview: On the face of it, there is not much between these two sides. Young Munster are in fifth spot, just a point ahead of Dolphin.
But the Cork outfit must be feeling pretty good about themselves after beating their great rivals Cork Con 14-9 last time out. The task now is to follow that effort up with a similar display.
They have some excellent young players. Two of them featured strongly against Cork Con with winger Darren Sweetnam going over for the try and out-half Rory Scannell kicking three penalties.
Young Munster, as always, are going to be very tough to beat on their home patch. All the more so if Brian Haugh maintains his accuracy with the boot.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2013: Young Munster 13 Dolphin 10, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, March 9, 2013: Dolphin 23 Young Munster 10, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by 1-5 points