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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

The battle to reach the Ulster Bank League Division 1A play-offs resumes on Saturday with a huge amount riding on the result of Clontarf’s clash with Cork Constitution. Relegation matters also need to be sorted out with bottom side Dolphin facing a ‘must win’ game against play-off chasers Ballynahinch.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 28

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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CLONTARF (3rd) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Castle Avenue

Preview: Third-placed Clontarf are in the box seat in terms of joining Terenure College and Lansdowne in the play-offs, but Cork Constitution are also very much in the hunt – lying five points behind ‘Tarf.

The worry for Cork Con is that if they lose at Castle Avenue, five clubs are queuing up behind to leapfrog them into the top four. So the pressure is on Tom Tierney’s men to deliver a result, especially as their final round home match against UCD has danger written all over it.

This penultimate round game is a dress rehearsal for the Bateman Cup final on April 18. Out-half David Joyce starred in Clontarf’s cup semi-final victory at Ballynahinch. If the Tullamore man continues that form, the Castle Avenue faithful should be celebrating come full-time.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 1, 2014: Clontarf 8 Cork Constitution 9, Castle Avenue; Saturday, November 15, 2014: Cork Constitution 13 Clontarf 10, Temple Hill

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win

DOLPHIN (10th) v BALLYNAHINCH (5th), Irish Independent Park

Preview: Dolphin are staring at automatic relegation from Division 1A unless they can get a result here against Ballynahinch. The Corkmen have bravely resisted the drop with four wins in their last six outings, including the notable scalp of defending champions Clontarf last time out.

Munster talent Rory Scannell is so vital to Dolphin’s cause at out-half, not just as a points scorer but as a source of inspiration. Both he and his older brother, hooker Niall, scored tries against ‘Tarf.

However, Ballynahinch owe Dolphin one after a draw back in November and two defeats (25-18 and 13-0) prior to that. Derek Suffern’s men are smarting from their Bateman Cup exit, and they have the firepower behind the scrum to open up Dolphin and keep alive their own play-off hopes.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Ballynahinch 0 Dolphin 13, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 15, 2014: Ballynahinch 7 Dolphin 7, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Lakelands Park

Preview: Both of these sides are now safely through to the play-offs. That lessens the significance of this top of the table clash, but there is the still the carrot of securing some psychological edge ahead of a possible rematch in the final.

Terenure come into this game on the back of a memorable six-try derby defeat of St. Mary’s, while leaders Lansdowne ran in four – including a brace from impressive centre Tom Farrell – in their most recent win over Cork Con.

Terenure will definitely have revenge on their minds after November’s narrow loss at Lansdowne. Conor McKeon’s injury-time penalty ended ‘Nure’s 29-match winning streak, so there will be no lack of motivation for James Blaney’s side.

Recent League Meeting – Friday, November 14, 2014: Lansdowne 15 Terenure College 13, Aviva Stadium back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

UCD (6th) v OLD BELVEDERE (8th), Belfield

Preview: UCD and Old Belvedere still have plenty to play for entering these final two rounds. Both could still overhaul the sides above them and finish in the top four, while neither is clear of the relegation/promotion play-off spot just yet.

That means this should be a hugely competitive clash at Belfield, with the students looking to bounce back from their recent defeat to Young Munster and ‘Belvo trying to back up their fine 40-14 bonus point victory over Ballynahinch last time out.

Should Paul Cunningham’s men prevail, it would be their third win on the trot over UCD (19-8 last March and 25-13 in November). Improving their defence is key for UCD, who have leaked 376 points – the most of any team in the division to date.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 22, 2014: Old Belvedere 19 UCD 8, Anglesea Road; Saturday, November 15, 2014: Old Belvedere 25 UCD 13, Anglesea Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win

YOUNG MUNSTER (7th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th), Tom Clifford Park

Preview: Another match with plenty riding on the outcome. Young Munster still have a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs as do St. Mary’s, but both sides are still flirting with that relegation/promotion play-off spot.

So, the victors will likely secure their Division 1A status for another year and the Cookies look well set to achieve that on home soil, especially if Willie Staunton and Ger Slattery keep up the form they showed in the recent 20-17 win away to UCD.

St. Mary’s relied on the boot of Leinster’s Cathal Marsh to defeat Munsters 21-15 in November. However, twelve months ago they lost 30-17 at Tom Clifford Park, and winning in Limerick may prove beyond them again this weekend.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 29, 2014: Young Munster 30 St. Mary’s College 17, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, November 15, 2014: St. Mary’s College 21 Young Munster 15, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win