Three rounds to go and promotion and relegation still to be decided in Ulster Bank League Division 1B. The weekend’s action gets underway with tonight’s Limerick derby between UL Bohemians and Shannon at Thomond Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 7
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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UL BOHEMIANS (8th) v SHANNON (7th), Thomond Park, Friday, March 6, 7.30pm
Preview: With two teams dropping down to Division 2A, UL Bohemians and Shannon are still in the clutches of relegation with three rounds remaining in Division 1B.
Only five points separate the bottom four teams at present, so there are local bragging rights and a whole lot more riding on the result of tonight’s Limerick derby.
Shannon are set to field an unchanged team from last week’s 19-13 loss to Trinity, while UL will be hoping for some sparks of inspiration from Munster Academy member David Johnston at outside centre.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 15, 2014: UL Bohemians 16 Shannon 15, Annacotty; Friday, November 14: Shannon 20 UL Bohemians 16, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
BALLYMENA (4th) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), Eaton Park
Preview: This is a vital game for both sides as they continue their promotion chase. The pressure is on fourth-placed Ballymena to deliver a home win, as visitors Garryowen are seven points above them in second place.
Ritchie McMaster’s late drop goal guided Ballymena past Malone last week, but they were 32-24 losers when they met Garryowen in November when former Ireland Under-20 international Alex Wootton helped himself to a hat-trick.
The Light Blues take a six-match winning streak with them up north, and completing the double over the Braidmen would give them serious momentum for the final two rounds.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 15, 2014: Garryowen 32 Ballymena 24, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th) v CORINTHIANS (10th), Deramore Park
Preview: With 74 points scored in back-to-back wins, Belfast Harlequins are one of the division’s form sides of late with the likes of Michael Heaney, Neil McComb and Frankie Taggart all playing leading roles.
Bottom side Corinthians look to have it all to do against free-scoring ‘Quins. The Galway men have three teams within a five-point reach above them, but their mission to avoid relegation is running out of games.
Full-back David Panter and captain James Buckley will offer a threat in the Corinthians back-line, and the presence of Connacht’s Ultan Dillane and James Connolly up front could be crucial if it is a tight encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 12, 2014: Corinthians 13 Belfast Harlequins 21, Corinthian Park; Saturday, November 15, 2014: Corinthians 26 Belfast Harlequins 15, Corinthian Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v BUCCANEERS (5th), College Park
Preview: Dublin University came from behind to beat Shannon and remain live contenders for promotion. They could take a step closer to a top two finish by beating mid-table Buccaneers.
Buccs were well off the pace when losing heavily to Belfast Harlequins last week, but ironically their away form has been better than their home showings this season so Trinity will be wary of that.
Home advantage suggests the students will take the spoils here in what promises to be a lively affair, as respective scrum halves Angus Lloyd and Mark Dolan like to get the outside backs involved early and often.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 15, 2014: Buccaneers 20 Dublin University 17, Dubarry Park; Saturday, November 15, 2014: Buccaneers 20 Dublin University 20, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
MALONE (9th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Gibson Park
Preview: Galwegians make another trip north just a fortnight on from beating Ballymena away. The race for automatic promotion looks like going right down to the wire with leaders ‘Wegians just a point ahead of second-placed Garryowen.
Matt Brown’s men will have to be on their toes here as Malone are still fighting off relegation and in desperate need of a victory. Since losing 34-25 to ‘Wegians in November, the Belfast outfit have lost seven out of eight games.
Malone were denied by a late drop goal against Ballymena last time out, but ‘Wegians should have too much firepower for them behind the scrum.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 15, 2014: Galwegians 34 Malone 25, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win