Ulster Bank League Division 1B hits its halfway point with table-topping Galwegians facing a tough trip to third-placed Garryowen, while Buccaneers and second-placed Ballymena square off at Dubarry Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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GARRYOWEN (3rd) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Dooradoyle, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Garryowen: WLWWLWWW; Galwegians: WWWWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 67; Tries: Alex Wootton 4; Galwegians: Points: Matt Dever 25; Tries: Matt Dever 5
Preview: Third hosts first at Dooradoyle as two form teams with almost identical records meet for the first time in the Ulster Bank League since 2009.
Garryowen have won tight games against UL Bohemians and Malone recently, as well as defeating second-placed Ballymena. Beating the table toppers would be a real statement of intent from Conan Doyle’s men.
For their part, Galwegians are chasing a Limerick treble having already beaten Shannon away (29-25) and UL at home (13-10). Watch out for their Under-20 out-half Aidan Moynihan, who scored two converted tries in the previous round against Belfast Harlequins.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since 2009
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
SHANNON (9th) v MALONE (6th), Coonagh, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLWLLWL; Malone: WLLLWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 40; Tries: John Shine 3; Malone: Points: Josh Pentland 67; Tries: Rory Campbell 4
Preview: Shannon do not have fond memories of their last meeting with Malone. The Cregagh Red Sox scored 17 unanswered points to win 27-7 on Thomond Park’s back pitch in April.
This season has been up and down for both clubs so far, with Shannon unable to string two wins together and Malone only achieving back-to-back victories on one occasion so far.
Tadhg Bennett and Josh Pentland, with 107 points between them, will be priming themselves for a crucial place-kicking duel, while David O’Donovan and Rory Campbell are two players who could light up the respective attacks out wide.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2013: Malone 18 Shannon 19, Gibson Park; Saturday, April 12, 2014: Shannon 7 Malone 27, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLWLWLLL; Dublin University: LLLWWWDW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Eamon Lane 46; Tries: Sean Reidy 3; Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 58; Tries: Brian du Toit 3
Preview: Belfast Harlequins scored a combined 34 points during their recent trips to Galway to face Corinthians and Galwegians, but lost both ties and failed to garner a bonus point.
Althoug they are performing well in patches, ‘Quins seem to be operating currently at a lower level than Dublin University who are on a five-match unbeaten run.
Venturing north on the back of a bonus point victory over Corinthians, Trinity are intent on cementing their top-four placing with their regular back row of Pierce Dargan, Brian du Toit and Nick McCarthy in excellent form.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 23, 2013: Belfast Harlequins 13 Dublin University 8, Deramore Park; Saturday, March 22, 2014: Dublin University 31 Belfast Harlequins 10, Sydney Parade
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
BUCCANEERS (5th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: LWWLLWDW; Ballymena: WWWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 57; Tries: Jacob Walshe 4; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 54; Tries: Tim Small 5
Preview: Coaches Tony Dolan and Andy Graham will learn plenty about their respective teams in this encounter which pits two serious promotion hunters against each other.
Ballymena are faring better at present, lying in second position following a bonus point success against Shannon. Top-scoring winger Tim Small (54 points and 5 tries) and number 8 Stephen Mulholland have been the pick of their players.
The injured Alan Gaughan and Diarmuid Higgins are two big absentees for Buccaneers, but they do possess good squad depth and the last-gasp victory at UL Bohs showed their ability to manufacture winning scores when under intense pressure.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 3, 2012: Ballymena 13 Buccaneers 17, Eaton Park; Saturday, April 13, 2013: Buccaneers 9 Ballymena 6, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
CORINTHIANS (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Corinthian Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Corinthians: LWLLWLWL; UL Bohemians: WWLLLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Corinthians: Points: Conor Murphy 32; Tries: Eoghan Masterson, Conor Murphy 3 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Shane Airey 69; Tries: Ed Kelly, Ian Condell, Rory White 2 each
Preview: Seventh-placed Corinthians sit two points above UL Bohemians in the standings. Like many of the teams in the lower reaches, they are struggling for consistency but possess a couple of potential match winners, including young out-half/full-back Conor Murphy.
UL are craving a bit of luck amid a torrid run of results. Their late collapse to Buccaneers was their sixth defeat on the trot – Colm Tucker’s charges have not won a league game since September 20.
Bohs did, at least, pick up five losing bonus points along the way to lie eighth and will be fiercely determined to overcome Corinthians whom they lost to twice last season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 23, 2013: UL Bohemians 10 Corinthians 13, Annacotty; Saturday, March 22, 2014: Corinthians 12 UL Bohemians 8, Corinthian Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Corinthians to win