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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Two mouth-watering local derbies kick off the action in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, as Corinthians make the short trip to Galwegians and Dooradoyle is UL Bohemians’ destination for their all-Limerick clash with Garryowen.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 28

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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GALWEGIANS (1st) v CORINTHIANS (10th), Crowley Park, Friday, February 27, 7.30pm

Preview: Another Ulster Bank League derby with much more on the line than just local bragging rights. Throw promotion and relegation matters into the mix and you have the recipe for a classic Friday Night Lights contest.

Table-topping Galwegians have a potent centre pairing in Brian Murphy and Rory Parata, while Connacht-capped scrum half Caolin Blade can make an impact off the bench.

Murphy was a try scorer when ‘Wegians beat their city rivals 18-10 in November, and a bigger winning margin is expected here given the bottom side’s current struggles.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 9, 2012: Galwegians 31 Corinthians 13, Crowley Park; Friday, November 7, 2014: Corinthians 10 Galwegians 18, Corinthian Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win

GARRYOWEN (2nd) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Dooradoyle, Friday, February 27, 7.30pm

Preview: Last weekend’s win over Dublin University has given second-placed Garryowen a bit of breathing space over the students, as they continue their challenge for automatic promotion.

The Light Blues have only gained three try-scoring bonus points in the 14 rounds to date, so this home Friday Night Lights fixture may give them the opportunity to cut loose and close the gap on leaders Galwegians.

UL Bohemians, who moved up to eighth after beating Malone, will have other ideas. Winning a Limerick derby would be a big fillip for them and also boost their hopes of avoiding relegation.

Recent League Meetings – February 22, 2013: Garryowen 38 UL Bohemians 3, Dooradoyle; Friday, November 7, 2014: UL Bohemians 6 Garryowen 11, Thomond Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win

BUCCANEERS (5th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th), Dubarry Park

Preview: Belfast Harlequins will make the trip to the midlands with increased confidence after hammering Shannon 31-13 at home, although they remain just five points clear of bottom spot.

Former Ireland Under-20 internationals Michael Heaney and Frankie Taggart have been key figures for ‘Quins of late, and they will need them again to deliver the goods against fifth-placed Buccaneers.

Buccs will miss their Ireland U-20 trio, including Cian Romaine (a try scorer against Corinthians last weekend), but home advantage and Alan Gaughan’s accurate boot could be the deciding factors.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Buccaneers 18 Belfast Harlequins 19, Dubarry Park; Saturday, November 8, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 7 Buccaneers 20, Deramore Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

MALONE (9th) v BALLYMENA (4th), Gibson Park

Preview: Three successive defeats have sent Malone spiralling down to second-from-bottom in the table, and they really need to recapture their best form for this Ulster derby.

A repeat of November’s 13-7 away defeat of Ballymena would be ideal. Back then Josh Pentland converted Cory Tipping’s memorable maul try, adding to two previous penalties, as the Cregagh Red Sox stunned the Eaton Park crowd.

Despite last week’s home loss to leaders Galwegians, Ballymena are still in contention for promotion but Andy Graham’s men will have to win their final four games to stand a chance.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 1, 2013: Malone 26 Ballymena 5, Gibson Park; Saturday, November 8, 2014: Ballymena 7 Malone 13, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

SHANNON (7th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd), Coonagh

Preview: Dublin University’s first setback in a long while saw them lose by a single point to promotion rivals Garryowen, thus ending their 10-match unbeaten run which had lasted since early October.

How they respond to that result will tell much about the character of Tony Smeeth’s young side. Notably, winning in Limerick is something they have done before – they were 14-8 winners at Dooradoyle in November.

Having lost heavily to Belfast Harlequins, inconsistent Shannon really need to spark at Coonagh. They are just four points off bottom spot and can ill-afford to lose another home game.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 19, 2014: Dublin University 19 Shannon 17, Merrion Road; Saturday, November 8, 2014: Dublin University 13 Shannon 7, College Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win