There is plenty of action in Division 1A this weekend, beginning with a big ‘Friday Night Lights’ game between Old Belvedere and Lansdowne as they chase Clontarf at the top of the table.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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OLD BELVEDERE (2nd) v LANSDOWNE (3rd), Anglesea Road, Friday, January 31, 7.30pm
Preview: Although they have now slipped three points behind the leaders Clontarf, Old Belvedere are continuing to produce the goods in the battle for the Division 1A title.
Importantly, they showed that they have real character to go with their undoubted ability when coming from 14-0 down to draw 22-22 with St. Mary’s College last weekend. Jack Conan continues to impress as one of the best young back row forwards around.
Skipper Daniel Riordan is also on the top of his game, making Old Belvedere a very potent outfit. But they face dangerous opponents in Lansdowne.
Currently in third position, Lansdowne badly need to win this one to keep in touch with the top two. Old Belvedere emerged victorious 22-13 in the first round of the competition on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium but their second meeting may well be closer.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v UCD (6th), Templeville Road, Friday, January 31, 7.30pm
Preview: Unfortunately, the wheels seem to have fallen off to some extent for UCD after their marvellous start to their Division 1A campaign.
Predictably, the squad has been stretched because of other commitments and they have now slipped into the bottom half of the table. But they have made the Bateman Cup decider and a win against St. Mary’s could easily get their season going again.
That though will not be easy against a St. Mary’s side badly in need of a victory to move further clear of the relegations zone. They are clearly a much better side than their position of third last indicates.
They played some good stuff when drawing away with high-flying Old Belvedere last Saturday. What is more, they have already beaten UCD 18-16 away, so are looking to complete the double over the students.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 1-5 points
CLONTARF (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (5th), Castle Avenue
Preview: It seems that leaders Clontarf can do nothing wrong. Many expected them to experience a really tough match against Young Munster last weekend but they came away with a comfortable 26-9 away victory.
Head coach Andy Wood is doing an outstanding job as Clontarf bid for a tenth successive victory. Former Dublin University out-half David Joyce is proving crucial to that success.
Joyce’s 16 points against Young Munster again demonstrated his importance, but he has been helped enormously by the strength and discipline shown by the Clontarf pack. That said, the league leaders will not be taking anything for granted against Cork Constitution.
While they have not always been at their best this season, Cork Con remain a decent enough outfit. Furthermore, they will come into this game following a worthwhile 14-6 victory over UCD.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 6-10 points
DOLPHIN (7th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (4th), Musgrave Park
Preview: Unlikely to be much between these two Munster rivals. Young Munster have exceeded expectations for much of the season, but were brought down to earth when losing 26-9 at home to Clontarf last weekend.
Dolphin, for their part, have blown hot and cold. But they did return to winning form with a useful 13-0 away success over Ballynahinch last time out.
They will now be hoping that home advantage gives them the edge over Young Munster and they can move further up the table.
But Young Munster did win the first meeting between the sides 18-7. They will prove difficult to overcome, particularly if Brian Haugh is in top form with his goal-kicking.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by 1-5 points
GARRYOWEN (10th) v BALLYNAHINCH (9th), Dooradoyle
Preview: Intriguing game between the two bottom outfits in the division. Garryowen simply must win if they are to have any chance of getting out of trouble.
To be fair, the arrival of Eddie O’Sullivan to help out their coaching staff brought about a big improvement for last Saturday’s game against Lansdowne. They put up a real fight before losing 13-9.
But the fact remains that they are still without a win and 11 points adrift of Ballynahinch. Ideally, Garryowen will continue to show the fighting spirit which was so evident against Lansdowne and secure better possession.
If they do, they are definitely in with a chance of getting that elusive first win. But Ballynahinch should not be underestimated, they have, after all, already beaten Garryowen 18-6 this season.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points