The Connacht derby between Buccaneers and early pacesetters Galwegians will command most of the attention in Division 1B on Saturday, while Dublin University are set to play their first match on the new College Park pitch against Malone.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 4
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BELFAST HARLEQUINS (8th) v GARRYOWEN (3rd), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLW; Garryowen: WLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Eamon Lane 30; Tries: Sean Reidy 3; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 26; Tries: James Frawley 2
Preview: Three wins out of four would be an encouraging return for new Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle heading into the early season break.
Belfast Harlequins are a tough proposition at Deramore Park but despite their derby success at Malone, Adam Larkin admitted there is still ‘a lot of work to be done’.
Both sides survived nervy finishes last weekend, with Garryowen holding on for a 23-18 verdict against Corinthians. More composure will be required if they are to win their first league meeting with ‘Quins since 2006.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since 2006
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
BUCCANEERS (5th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: LWW; Galwegians: WWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 30; Tries: Rory O’Connor 2; Galwegians: Points: Jerome Harimate, Matt Dever 15 each; Tries: Jerome Harimate, Matt Dever 3 each
Preview: A crunch Connacht derby with Buccaneers plotting the downfall of Division 1B leaders Galwegians who are on a three-match winning streak and oozing confidence.
‘Wegians did it the hard away against UL Bohemians, Ciaran Gaffney’s late drop goal earning them a 13-10 win. Their wingers Jerome Harimate and Matt Dever (three tries each) will need to be well policed by the Pirates, and that back-line firepower may just prove to be the difference.
However, Buccs are on a roll again after back-to-back victories over Garryowen and Shannon. Alan Gaughan’s presence at out-half has been vital with the Athlone native chipping in with 30 points so far.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, January 13, 2012: Buccaneers 12 Galwegians 6, Dubarry Park; Saturday, April 14, 2012: Galwegians 20 Buccaneers 17, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
CORINTHIANS (7th) v SHANNON (10th), Corinthian Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Corinthians: LWL; Shannon: LLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Corinthians: Points: Miah Nikora 12; Tries: James Buckley, Jamie Dever 2 each; Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 15; Tries: Ciaran Cunnane, Ruairi O’Donnell, Connor Cunnane, Greg O’Shea, Liam Cronin, John Shine 1 each
Preview: Hard to call this one given the patchy form of both sides, with Shannon currently winless and Corinthians’ bonus point victory over Malone their only success so far.
The Galway club picked up a losing bonus point away to Garryowen last week and would dearly love a repeat of last year’s 30-16 home success against Shannon.
The division’s bottom club will have to put together a full 80-minute performance in order to get a result. Shannon have been finishing games well, but it has been catch-up rugby for the most part with opponents able to build decent leads on them.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2013: Corinthians 30 Shannon 16, Corinthian Park; Sunday, March 9, 2014: Shannon 10 Corinthians 5, Coonagh
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Corinthians to win
UL BOHEMIANS (4th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: WWL; Ballymena: WWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Shane Airey 23; Tries: Ed Kelly 2; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 26; Tries: David Shanahan, Tim Small 3 each
Preview: The season may be just four weeks’ old, but already this looks like being a very important game for both UL Bohemians and Ballymena – two teams riding high in the top four at present.
Bohs were three-point losers to leaders Galwegians last week and now host the second-placed team, although Ballymena will not be at full strength given their provincial call-ups in recent days.
In a strange occurrence, all three of UL’s league games so far have had three-point winning margins – they beat ‘Quins and Trinity and a drop goal was the difference in the ‘Wegians match.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2011: UL Bohemians 13 Ballymena 30, Annacotty; Saturday, March 3, 2012: Ballymena 13 UL Bohemians 27, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v MALONE (6th), College Park, 3pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLL; Malone: WLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Paddy Lavelle 10; Tries: Paddy Lavelle 2; Malone: Points: Josh Pentland 30; Tries: Rory Campbell 3
Preview: A big moment for Dublin University as they play on their new College Park pitch (pictured below) for the first time, and an opportune home game to turn their fortunes around.
Trinity have been unable to play at College Park since June 2013 but the newly-upgraded surface (sand carpet natural grass) should suit Trinity’s promising back-line, led by half-backs Jack McDermott and Angus Lloyd.
Malone will be out for revenge after losing twice to Trinity last season. Disappointed with last week’s derby loss to Harlequins, head coach Jacques Benade insisted: “We have some very talented young players, this is their first season but I am a bit disappointed with the players who started with us last year – they seem to be struggling a bit.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 30, 2013: Dublin University 22 Malone 20, Sydney Parade; Saturday, March 29, 2014: Malone 8 Dublin University 12, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win