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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

The top four clubs in Division 1B meet in two much-anticipated clashes in Ballymena and Dublin on Saturday as we hit a vital stage in this season’s Ulster Bank League.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 21

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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CORINTHIANS (9th) v BUCCANEERS (5th), Corinthian Park, Friday, February 20, 7.30pm

Preview: There is a 13-point gap between Buccaneers and the top four following their derby defeat to Galwegians. They face Connacht opposition again tonight as they make the trip to Corinthians.

Buccs have a point to prove against the hosts who won the corresponding fixture last season and also beat the Pirates 14-10 at Dubarry Park earlier in the current campaign.

Pat Cunningham’s Corinthians side are in desperate need of a win, sitting second-from-bottom, but collectively Buccaneers look stronger and should prevail under the floodlights in Galway.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, March 14, 2014: Buccaneers 25 Corinthians 18, Dubarry Park; Friday, October 31, 2014: Buccaneers 10 Corinthians 14, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

BALLYMENA (4th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Eaton Park

Preview: Undoubtedly the game of the day in Division 1B as fourth-placed Ballymena renew rivalries with table toppers Galwegians, the team they beat 23-22 away back in November.

An injury-time penalty from Tim Small proved decisive for Ballymena that day and another close encounter is expected at Eaton Park where the Braidmen have only lost to Malone so far this season. They will have flanker Stephen Mulholland back from Club international duty.

Galwegians, who won their recent derby clash with Buccaneers, know they will need an improved performance to get a result here. A fascinating afternoon ahead with just three points currently separating the division’s top four teams.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 28, 2013: Ballymena 37 Galwegians 14, Eaton Park; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Galwegians 22 Ballymena 23, Crowley Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win

BELFAST HARLEQUINS (7th) v SHANNON (6th), Deramore Park

Preview: Belfast Harlequins’ second successive game against Limerick opposition sees them hosting Shannon in a crunch mid-table clash at Deramore Park.

Ulster back rower Sean Reidy will be available for ‘Quins, who were edged out by Garryowen (17-16) last time out. Mark Kettyle comes back in at out-half and Mark Glover makes the move to the wing.

Tries from Lee Nicholas and Dave Evans, two of Shannon’s stand-out players, helped them see off Corinthians in the previous round. Their away win over leaders Galwegians last month showed what they are capable of on the road.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 29, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 15 Shannon 16, Deramore Park; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Shannon 21 Belfast Harlequins 26, Thomond Park main pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), College Park

Preview: Another huge match in the context of promotion as third-placed Dublin University take on Garryowen, who are just two points above them in the Division 1B standings.

Trinity remain the division’s form team, their 41-19 dismissal of Malone last time out extending their enviable winning streak to ten matches (nine wins and a draw).

Garryowen were far from impressive three weeks ago when beating Belfast Harlequins by a point. They will be out for revenge against the students who, thanks to Jack McDermott’s reliable boot, won 14-8 at Dooradoyle in November.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 1, 2014: Garryowen 8 Dublin University 14, Dooradoyle

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

UL BOHEMIANS (10th) v MALONE (8th), Annacotty

Preview: UL Bohemians fell to bottom spot following a heavy 33-12 beating by Ballymena last time out, which was a fourth successive loss for Colm Tucker’s charges.

With three points separating Bohs from seventh-placed Harlequins, Tucker and his players will be well aware what a difference a home win could make this weekend. The game will take place at Annacotty where the club have been granted permission to build a new clubhouse.

Visitors Malone have only won one of their last seven league games, falling to eighth place overall. However, they are capable of turning it on and watch out for full-back Andy Bryans, who bagged two tries in his last two outings.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 15, 2014: UL Bohemians 39 Malone 34, UL all-weather pitch; Saturday, November 1, 2014: Malone 23 UL Bohemians 10, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win