As we enter the final six rounds of action in Division 1A, Lansdowne are in the box seat, lying seven points clear, but only nine points currently separate the second to sixth-placed clubs.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 31
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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LANSDOWNE (1st) v BALLYNAHINCH (5th), Aviva Stadium back pitch, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: WWWLLWWWWWWW; Ballynahinch: LWLWWLDLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 99; Tries: Tom Farrell 5; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 61; Tries: Ross Adair 6
Preview: Having dismantled last year’s champions Clontarf for their seventh straight win, Lansdowne are looking rock solid at the summit. But Mike Ruddock will not want his troops to slacken off, especially with dark horses Ballynahinch in town.
‘Hinch won the sides’ last meeting at Ballymacarn Park back in October, a two-try salvo from full-back Rodger McBurney helping them claim a 14-10 victory.
Derek Suffern’s side do boast some excellent strike runners in the likes of top try scorer Ross Adair (6 tries) and Adam Craig, who notched a hat-trick against Cork Constitution. However, with Leinster ‘A’ ace Cian Kelleher returning at full-back, Lansdowne have the tools to take down their mid-table opponents.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 15, 2014: Lansdowne 41 Ballynahinch 26, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, October 4, 2014: Ballynahinch 14 Lansdowne 10, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Cork Constitution: LLWWLDWDWWWL; St. Mary’s College: LLWLLLWWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Darragh Lyons, Tomas Quinlan 49 each; Tries: Rob Jermyn 3; St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 78; Tries: Nick Timoney 3
Preview: With Ballynahinch nipping at their heels, Cork Constitution, who currently occupy the fourth play-off spot, know they can ill-afford a slip up here at home to struggling Mary’s.
It has been an up and down January for Con with their 34-13 hammering away to ‘Hinch followed by their third Munster Senior Cup success in-a-row last week. Con head coach Tom Tierney will be keen to sign off on a winning note before his first Six Nations game in charge of the Ireland Women’s team.
Mary’s are coming off a confidence-boosting victory over Old Belvedere. Their young second row David O’Connor has impressed at lineout time and is part of a talented Ireland Under-20 Six Nations squad.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 19, 2014: Cork Constitution 30 St. Mary’s College 30, Temple Hill; Saturday, October 4, 2014: St. Mary’s College 15 Cork Constitution 26, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
OLD BELVEDERE (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (7th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: WLLLDWWLLLLL; Young Munster: LWLWWWLLWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Josh Glynn 81; Tries: Daniel Riordan 5; Young Munster: Points: Gearoid Lyons 41; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe, Ger Slattery 3 each
Preview: Two teams desperately hunting for a win. Old Belvedere have lost five on the bounce to fall to eighth place, with Young Munster, just above them, without a win since early December.
Munsters were stung by two recent one-point losses, beginning 2015 with a 12-11 defeat at Dolphin and the following week saw them lose at home to Terenure 22-21. How they bounce back from those results will tell a lot about John Staunton’s charges.
Old Belvedere will again look to talisman Daniel Riordan for leadership and attacking spark. With six rounds to go and both sides still harbouring play-off hopes, this result could have a big bearing on the rest of their seasons.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 15, 2014: Old Belvedere 34 Young Munster 12, Anglesea Road; Saturday, October 4, 2014: Young Munster 26 Old Belvedere 19, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v DOLPHIN (10th), Lakelands Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Terenure College: WWWWWWLWLLLW; Dolphin: LLLLDDDLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 56; Tries: Harry Moore 7; Dolphin: Points: Rory Scannell 60; Tries: Ryan Murphy, Rory Scannell 3 each
Preview: Terenure College put a stop to their three-match losing streak with a hard-fought bonus point win at Young Munster, with winger Harry Moore’s seventh touchdown putting him top of the try-scoring charts.
With Clontarf and Cork Con both losing, second-placed ‘Nure now have a seven-point lead over their nearest play-off rivals and could add to it when hosting bottom-placed Dolphin.
A home win is expected here, but you cannot discount a Dolphin side who are in the midst of turning their season around. Two wins on the trot and some sparkling play from Munster’s Rory Scannell, in particular, shows the Corkmen have come on in leaps and bounds since October’s 47-0 thrashing by Terenure.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 4, 2014: Dolphin 0 Terenure College 47, Irish Independent Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
UCD (6th) v CLONTARF (3rd), Belfield
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: WLWLWLLDWWWL; Clontarf: WWLWLLLWLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Ross Byrne 86; Tries: Sam Coghlan Murray 5; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 101; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 5
Preview: It is three weeks since their 35-0 walloping by Lansdowne, so Clontarf boss Andy Wood and his players have had plenty of time to mull over that disheartening result.
UCD would have felt similar emotions on the trip home from Dolphin following their surprise 34-15 loss to the division’s bottom side. So, a lot of questions have to be answered by both sides here.
The students need a big performance and result with some of their brightest stars linking up with the Ireland Under-20 squad for the Six Nations, while key backs David Joyce and Matt D’Arcy – a try scorer in his last two outings against UCD – lead the ‘Tarf contingent included in the Ireland Club international panel.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 5, 2014: UCD 39 Clontarf 33, Belfield; Friday, October 3, 2014: Clontarf 28 UCD 5, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win