There are two early kick-offs and two late ones in Ulster Bank League Division 1B on Saturday, with the Munster trio of Dolphin, UL Bohemians and Shannon looking to bounce back from their opening round defeats.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 18
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DOLPHIN (10th) v BALLYMENA (4th), Irish Independent Park, 1pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: L; Ballymena: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: John Madigan, Cian McGovern 5 each; Tries: John Madigan 1; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 12; Tries: Martin Irwin, Callum Patterson, David Whann 1 each
Preview: There were contrasting fortunes for Dolphin and Ballymena last week. It was a real baptism of fire for new Dolphin boss Feargus O’Donoghue as his side crashed to St. Mary’s (46-10).
This will be the clubs’ first meeting since January 2009 and Ballymena travel south on the back of a 27-23 derby success against Belfast Harlequins. Lock David Whann impressed with the clinching try and a rewarding day in the lineout.
Dolphin struggled to convert pressure into points against Mary’s, and will need big performances from the likes of Cian Bohane and captain John Fitzgerald to avoid a second loss.
Recent League Meetings – The two clubs have not played each other since 2009
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Deramore Park, 1.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: L; UL Bohemians: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: David McMaster 10; Tries: David McMaster 2; UL Bohemians: Points: Darren Moroney 5; Tries: Darren Moroney 1
Preview: Two of the losing sides from the opening round meet. Belfast Harlequins’ resilient performance at Ballymena points to a home win here for Adam Larkin’s men.
Winger David McMaster tallied up two tries against the Braidmen and with Ulster pair Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb in the engine room, ‘Quins have plenty of grunt up front.
It was not a happy return to UL for full-back Cian Aherne as they were comprehensively beaten by Old Wesley (33-5) in their opener. A losing bonus point may be their best hope from this trip to Deramore.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 13, 2014: UL Bohemians 22 Belfast Harlequins 19, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, December 20, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 38 UL Bohemians 7, Deramore Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win
OLD WESLEY (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (3rd), Donnybrook, 4.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Wesley: W; Buccaneers: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 18; Tries: Craig Telford, Barry McLaughlin, Ian Cassidy, Josh Hinde 1 each; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 11; Tries: Alan Gaughan, Rory O’Connor 1 each
Preview: One of the ties of the round in the top two divisions as Old Wesley, who recorded a runaway 33-5 win at UL Bohemians, host a Buccaneers side making promising strides under new boss Brett Wilkinson.
Notably, the Old Wesley squad contains five ex-Buccaneers – including cousins Billy Henshaw and Conor Fitzgibbon – so the Pirates will be extra keen to plunder the league points.
Donnybrook’s artificial surface should suit both sides, with elusive centre Billy Ngawini making his home bow for Wesley, and Buccs’ Connacht-capped full-back Shane Layden likely to be prominent in attack too.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
SHANNON (8th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (5th), Coonagh, 4.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: L; Blackrock College: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 6; Tries: Shane Mullaney 1; Blackrock College: Points: Mikey Russell 5; Tries: Mikey Russell 1
Preview: Not the start that Shannon would have wanted under Marcus Horan, as Shane Mullaney’s first half try was their only real highlight of a 21-11 defeat at Buccaneers.
Blackrock shone at key stages under the Stradbrook floodlights, taking the points from Dublin University’s grasp thanks to a late penalty from full-back Mark Scott-Lennon.
Backing up that result could prove difficult on the road, especially if Shannon can call on the services of teenage winger Stephen Fitzgerald who enjoyed a try-scoring debut for Munster last Sunday.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 28, 2013: Shannon 16 Blackrock College 23, Thomond Park; Saturday, February 22, 2014: Blackrock College 18 Shannon 19, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win