There are some cracking ties in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, including table toppers Galwegians’ trip to Shannon and the Ulster derby between Belfast Harlequins and Ballymena.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 20
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: L; Ballymena: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Eamon Lane 11; Tries: Frankie Taggart 1; Ballymena: Points: David Shanahan 10; Tries: David Shanahan 2
Preview: A last-gasp try saw Belfast Harlequins pipped by UL Bohemians last Saturday so Adam Larkin’s men will want to avoid such a scenario in their first home game.
Positives for ‘Quins included a strong scrummaging display and centre Eamon Lane’s 11-point return with the boot, but they leaked three tries in Limerick.
The performances of Mike McComish (three assists) and David Shanahan (two tries) in Ballymena’s 20-0 defeat of Corinthians suggest the Braidmen mean business. This Ulster derby is an ideal test of their league credentials.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 9, 2012: Belfast Harlequins 16 Ballymena 11, Deramore Park; Saturday, April 27, 2013: Ballymena 22 Belfast Harlequins 21, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BUCCANEERS (8th) v GARRYOWEN (3rd), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: L; Garryowen: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Rory O’Connor 5; Tries: Rory O’Connor 1; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 6; Tries: Shane Buckley, Neil Cronin, Ed Rossiter 1 each
Preview: Garryowen outgunned arch rivals Shannon in the opening round and should triumph here in Athlone, especially if their big back row of Shane Buckley, Barry O’Mahony and New Zealander Josh Hrstich can fire again.
Head coach Conan Doyle will also be keen to get one over on his former centre partner Alan Gaughan, who has returned to Buccaneers after three seasons with the Light Blues.
Buccs blew hot and cold in their defeat away to Malone and have lost injured captain Alex Hayman (shoulder) for a number of weeks. Winger Rory O’Connor ran in their lone try and the Pirates will need more of their young guns to step up if they are to claim Garryowen’s scalp.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since 2008
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
CORINTHIANS (10th) v MALONE (4th), Corinthian Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Corinthians: L; Malone: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Corinthians: Points: -; Tries: -; Malone: Points: Josh Pentland 14; Tries: Andy Bryans 2
Preview: Corinthians could not capitalise on a good start against Ballymena and failed to score a single point in Pat Cunningham’s first league game in charge.
Captain James Buckley will want to get a lot more out of the back-line this weekend, especially in the familiar surroundings of Corinthian Park.
Malone – 34-point winners over Corinthians last April – are in buoyant mood after beating Buccaneers with returning full-back Andy Bryans bagging a brace of tries.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 4, 2014: Corinthians 10 Malone 3, Corinthian Park; Saturday, April 19, 2014: Malone 52 Corinthians 18, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (5th), Sydney Parade
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: L; UL Bohemians: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Paddy Lavelle 10; Tries: Paddy Lavelle 2; UL Bohemians: Points: Shane Airey 7; Tries: Ed Kelly, Ian Condell, Kalani Moore 1 each
Preview: Dublin University fielded ten debutants last weekend and fared quite well against hosts Galwegians, scoring three tries and narrowly missing out on a losing bonus point.
Playing at Sydney Parade before their upcoming opening of the new College Park pitch, Trinity have the notable addition of USA international Tim Maupin on the right wing.
If Tony Smeeth’s youngsters can cut down the errors they stand a chance of overcoming UL Bohemians, whose ageless full-back Mossy Lawler is giving it ‘one more year’.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 2, 2013: UL Bohemians 16 Dublin University 13, Annacotty; Saturday, March 1, 2014: Dublin University 12 UL Bohemians 19, Sydney Parade
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
SHANNON (9th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: L; Galwegians: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 3; Tries: -; Galwegians: Points: Jerome Harimate, Gary O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Matt Dever, Rory Parata 5 each; Tries: Jerome Harimate, Gary O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Matt Dever 1 each
Preview: Contrasting fortunes for these sides last week as Galwegians shot to the top of the table after defeating Trinity, while Shannon were well-beaten by Garryowen in their ‘Friday Night Lights’ derby.
The ‘Wegians backs displayed their finishing skills with four tries against the students (reigning Division 2A Player of the Year Jerome Harimate scored the second of them).
Ian Sherwin will not be panicking despite the disappointing 21-3 loss to Garryowen, as a dose of home comfort should inspire Shannon to a much improved display. Expect ‘Wegians to take the spoils though.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since 2009
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win