The battle for the Division 1B automatic promotion place is now a three-horse race as Dublin University and Garryowen continue to press front runners Galwegians. At the opposite end of the table, Corinthians, Malone and UL Bohemians are all under pressure to avoid relegation.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 28
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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SHANNON (7th) v BALLYMENA (4th), Coonagh, 2pm
Preview: Ballymena’s promotion hopes were extinguished by their 17-5 loss to Garryowen earlier this month, so a top-four finish is now the sole aim for the Braidmen.
Shannon eased the pressure on themselves in the bottom half of the Division 1B table with a 26-14 derby victory over UL Bohemians last time out, scoring four tries for only the second time this season.
Shannon are now nine points clear of second-from-bottom Malone with two rounds to go. Ian Sherwin’s side are set to avoid the drop and beating Ballymena would keep them on course for a strong finish to the season.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 22, 2014: Ballymena 43 Shannon 15, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), Deramore Park
Preview: Galwegians return to Belfast for the second time in three weeks, determined to keep a grip of top spot in Division 1B and that coveted automatic promotion place.
Last time around Matt Brown’s men claimed a 31-5 win at Malone. They came alive in the closing quarter, but cannot afford to play in fits and starts against Belfast Harlequins who are currently one of the form teams in the division.
Harlequins have pulled clear of the drop zone with three victories on the trot, playing some of their best rugby of the campaign, so toppling the league leaders would further boost them as they try to finish in the top half of the table.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 4, 2012: Belfast Harlequins 19 Galwegians 13, Deramore Park; Saturday, November 22, 2014: Galwegians 31 Belfast Harlequins 19, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
BUCCANEERS (5th) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Dubarry Park
Preview: Mid-table Buccaneers have struggled for results of late, suffering heavy league defeats to Belfast Harlequins and Dublin University and exiting the Bateman Cup at the hands of defending champions Cork Constitution last Saturday.
Centre and captain Alex Hayman was man-of-the-match against Con and he will be rallying his troops for this final home game of the season, as relegation-threatened UL Bohemians come calling.
Bohs’ haul of six losing bonus points may yet prove crucial as they scrap to avoid the drop. They have the worst scoring difference in the division at present and really need to up their try-scoring rate in these final two rounds.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 12, 2014: Buccaneers 24 UL Bohemians 23, Dubarry Park; Saturday, November 22, 2014: UL Bohemians 16 Buccaneers 21, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
CORINTHIANS (10th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd), Corinthian Park
Preview: Two teams meet with very contrasting goals at the end of the season, as bottom side Corinthians continue their battle to avoid relegation and third-placed Trinity press for promotion.
The students need to keep winning and hope that Garryowen and Galwegians, the two sides above them, slip up. They had 18 points to spare when they hosted Corinthians in November, and will be targeting another try-scoring bonus point here.
It has been tough going for Corinthians, who lost 27-27 to Belfast Harlequins last time out, and their final round visit to UL Bohemians next month may prove to be a relegation shootout.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Corinthians 23 Dublin University 22, Corinthian Park; Saturday, November 22, 2014: Dublin University 31 Corinthians 13, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
GARRYOWEN (2nd) v MALONE (9th), Gibson Park
Preview: Malone’s search for their first league win since early January continues. Jacques Benade’s relegation-threatened charges face Limerick sides Garryowen and Shannon in their final two games.
The Belfast club are capable of a big result on their day, but they have been disappointingly inconsistent since the turn of the year and it would be a real surprise if promotion-chasing Garryowen slip up here.
The Light Blues are one win away from guaranteeing themselves a top-two finish and at the very least, a play-off against the second-from-bottom Division 1A team. Conan Doyle’s men have the bit between their teeth and should grab an eighth straight victory.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 22, 2014: Malone 12 Garryowen 16, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win