The last round of Division 1B action in November sees leaders Galwegians host bottom side Belfast Harlequins, Ballymena and Shannon meet for the first time in five years and second-placed Garryowen are also on their travels north to Malone.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 22
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th) v CORINTHIANS (6th), College Park, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLLWWWD; Corinthians: LWLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 47; Tries: Brian du Toit 3; Corinthians: Points: Conor Murphy 27; Tries: Eoghan Masterson 3
Preview: Dublin University produced a Jekyll and Hyde performance away to Buccaneers last week, opening up a 17-0 lead before out-half Jack McDermott has to rescue a draw late on.
McDermott, their top scorer with 47 points, and flanker Brian du Toit (3 tries) have been two of Trinity’s most consistent performers during their current four-match unbeaten run.
Corinthians boss Pat Cunningham will hope their patchy form is behind them after a bonus point win over Belfast Harlequins. Their back play is on an upward curve with Darin Claasen and David Panter both showing well in recent outings.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 28, 2013: Dublin University 7 Corinthians 25, Sydney Parade; Saturday, January 25, 2014: Corinthians 23 Dublin University 22, Corinthian Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Corinthians to win
BALLYMENA (3rd) v SHANNON (8th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WWWWWLL; Shannon: LLLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 40; Tries: David Shanahan, Tim Small, Martin Irwin 3 each; Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 35; Tries: John Shine 3
Preview: A big game for Andy Graham’s Ballymena as they chase their first win in three league matches. A couple of disappointing results mean they have slipped from the summit to third place.
Graham took the positives from a 32-24 loss at Garryowen, saying: “There’s nothing between our two sides, and if anything I thought we were the more creative. A performance like that sets us up for the rest of the season.”
They face Limerick opposition again as Shannon venture north, boosted by last week’s derby victory over UL Bohemians. Three losing bonus points in their five defeats also shows Ian Sherwin’s young side have a toughness about them.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since 2009
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
GALWEGIANS (1st) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Galwegians: WWWWLWW; Belfast Harlequins: LLWLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Conor Lowndes 23; Tries: Colin Conroy, Matt Dever 4 each; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Eamon Lane 46; Tries: Sean Reidy 3
Preview: Galwegians look the team to beat at present, having opened up a seven-point lead at the top. But the sheer competitiveness of Division 1B means they cannot afford to be complacent.
Matt Brown’s men certainly know where the try-line is with five try-scoring bonus points in seven outings so far. They hit Malone for six last week with Connacht U-20 starlet Conor Lowndes scoring a brace from the wing.
Belfast Harlequins are going through a rough patch with three defeats in four games, and it is hard to see them upsetting the league leaders here.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 15, 2011: Galwegians 15 Belfast Harlequins 39, Crowley Park; Saturday, February 4, 2012: Belfast Harlequins 19 Galwegians 13, Deramore Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
MALONE (7th) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), Gibson Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Malone: WLLLWWL; Garryowen: WLWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Josh Pentland 60; Tries: Rory Campbell 4; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 61; Tries: Alex Wootton 3
Preview: It will be interesting to see how second-placed Garryowen fare in Belfast as Malone, despite falling down to seventh spot, are always difficult opponents at Gibson Park.
Winger Alex Wootton, Garryowen’s hat-trick hero against Ballymena, will have to be watched, but the Light Blues are without both O’Mahony brothers – Ronan O’Mahony is starting for Munster and Barry injured his right ankle in training.
Their absences could be keenly felt as Malone are the joint-second top scorers in the division, with Rory Campbell, Nathan Brown and Adam Liddell well able to finish chances out wide.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win
UL BOHEMIANS (9th) v BUCCANEERS (4th), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: WWLLLLL; Buccaneers: LWWLLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Shane Airey 58; Tries: Ed Kelly, Ian Condell 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 57; Tries: Jacob Walshe 3
Preview: There is pressure on UL Bohemians to deliver following five defeats on the bounce. Two losing bonus points in their local derbies against Garryowen and Shannon show they are not far away.
Bohs are only four points worse off than fourth-placed Buccaneers and they had some quality operators, particularly in the pack where Conor Kindregan comes up against his former club.
Top scorer Alan Gaughan and prop Diarmuid Higgins are injury doubts for the visitors, who will need a big performance from their young forwards in order to get the result in Limerick.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2013: UL Bohemians 31 Buccaneers 16, Annacotty; Saturday, April 12, 2014: Buccaneers 24 UL Bohemians 23, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win