There are some cracking Division 1A fixtures to whet appetites for the resumption of the Ulster Bank League on Saturday – none bigger than the meeting of defending champions Clontarf and early season leaders Terenure College.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 21
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CLONTARF (3rd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd), Castle Avenue
Preview: These Dublin rivals will be itching for this game after a three-week break, during which some of their players were in action for the Ireland Club team against Scotland and France.
Clontarf centre Matt D’Arcy captained the Irish side and is certainly a player ‘Nure will want to keep quiet. He ran in a hat-trick last time out against UCD to take his season’s try haul to eight.
With seven points between the teams, the pressure is on third-placed ‘Tarf to close the gap. Terenure are set to start Ireland U-20 international Harrison Brewer in midfield. A win for them in the ‘Bull Ring’ would see them close in on a home semi-final.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 1, 2014: Terenure College 14 Clontarf 9, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
DOLPHIN (10th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Irish Independent Park
Preview: Dolphin will be hoping the presence of Joe Schmidt in the clubhouse will inspire their players in their continued battle to avoid relegation from Division 1A.
The Ireland head coach is their special guest for the pre-match lunch on Saturday as Steve Ford’s men chase their third home win in four league games. Dolphin grabbed a late draw away to ‘Belvo in November thanks to a Stuart Lee penalty.
But if the Paul Cunningham-coached Dubliners can show the sort of form that earned them a recent bonus point victory over Young Munster, they should succeed in Cork.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 12, 2014: Old Belvedere 21 Dolphin 15, Anglesea Road; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Old Belvedere 22 Dolphin 22, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th) v BALLYNAHINCH (5th), Templeville Road
Preview: St. Mary’s College are aiming for their third win on the trot. Head coach Peter Smyth feels they are ‘turning a corner’ after winning on the road against Cork Constitution in the previous round.
Young out-half Sean Kearns made a promising senior debut at Temple Hill and he will be charged again with getting the Mary’s back-line moving alongside Dave Fanagan, arguably their player of the season. Recent Ireland U-20 debutant Nick Timoney is set to start at blindside flanker.
This is Ballynahinch’s third trip to Dublin since the turn of the year. Although they were beaten at UCD and Lansdowne, they will fancy their chances against Mary’s given the sides’ respective league positions.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 1, 2014: Ballynahinch 10 St. Mary’s College 17, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Ballynahinch 33 St. Mary’s College 13, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
UCD (6th) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Belfield
Preview: With the two teams below them meeting at Castle Avenue, leaders Lansdowne know that a win over the students here could possibly move them 11 points clear at the summit.
Mike Ruddock’s men racked up 35 and 39 points in their last two outings. UCD will do well to keep the in-form Foster Horan quiet on the right wing, while forwards Ian Prendiville, Adam Boland and Stephen Gardiner all return for Lansdowne from Club international duty.
Bobby Byrne’s UCD were 21-point losers to Clontarf last time out. They have the personnel to run Lansdowne close, including Munster-bound flanker Jordan Coghlan, but it is hard to see Ruddock’s side slipping up.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, March 28, 2014: UCD 21 Lansdowne 17, Belfield; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Lansdowne 10 UCD 19, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Tom Clifford Park
Preview: Cork Constitution started the New Year in good stead, but back-to-back defeats to Ballynahinch and St. Mary’s were a cause for concern. They are still in the last play-off spot, albeit with a number of sides nipping at their heels.
Darragh Lyons, Gerry Hurley, Ger Sweeney and Andrew O’Driscoll all saw action for the Ireland Club team last weekend. Out-half Lyons was Con’s only scorer when they lost 9-6 at home to Young Munster in November.
You have to go back to December 6 for Munsters’ last league triumph. Their run of four straight defeats includes narrow losses to Dolphin and Terenure, so they will hope for better luck in the familiar surroundings of Tom Clifford Park.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 12, 2014: Young Munster 23 Cork Constitution 24, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Cork Constitution 6 Young Munster 9, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win