With Dublin University returning from the World Universities Rugby Cup tournament in Oxford, we are back to a full schedule of five matches in Division 1B this Saturday. Unbeaten Blackrock College travel to fourth-placed Buccaneers, while leaders Old Wesley host Belfast Harlequins in a 4.30pm kick-off at Donnybrook.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 25
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYMENA (2nd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (8th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WW; Dublin University: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 24; Tries: Callum Patterson 3; Dublin University: Points: Raef Tyrrell, Conor Kearns 5 each; Tries: Raef Tyrrell 1
Preview: Nine league points in the bag, 64 points scored. It has been a rewarding start for Ballymena whose new signings – full-back Rodger McBurney in particular – have quickly got up to speed.
The Braidmen beat Dublin University 24-12 twelve months ago before the students, who are always stronger towards the midpoint of the season, responded with an 18-16 victory in the capital in January.
Hard to know what shape Trinity are in at present. They were out of league action last week, competing in the World Universities Rugby Cup in Oxford where they finished runners-up. Form and home advantage points to a third win for Ballymena.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 27, 2014: Ballymena 24 Dublin University 12, Eaton Park; Saturday, January 1, 2015: Dublin University 18 Ballymena 16, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BUCCANEERS (4th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (3rd), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Buccaneers: WL; Blackrock College: WW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 24; Tries: Rory O’Connor 3; Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 6; Tries: Mikey Russell, Hugo Harbinson, Sean Coughlan, Cillian Duff 1 each
Preview: Brett Wilkinson’s Buccaneers suffered their first defeat of the season in going down 42-38 to Old Wesley in an absolute thriller at Donnybrook. Shane Layden continues to impress at full-back, although he is an injury concern this week.
The visit of Blackrock to the midlands pits two former provincial players against each other as Wilkinson, the former Connacht prop, tries to get the better of ex-Leinster out-half Emmet Farrell.
Farrell’s Blackrock charges have already quietly accounted for Trinity and Shannon, and their general efficiency and well-structured play make them tough to beat. But if they tighten up their defence, Buccs should shade it.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 30, 2013: Blackrock College 22 Buccaneers 41, Stradbrook; Saturday, March 29, 2014: Buccaneers 32 Blackrock College 18, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th) v SHANNON (9th), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: W; Shannon: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Darragh Fanning 15; Tries: Darragh Fanning 3; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 14; Tries: Shane Mullaney, Ronan McKenna, Sean McCarthy 1 each
Preview: Owing to Dublin University’s involvement in the World Universities Rugby Cup, St. Mary’s were idle last week. They will be itching to resume their league run here, especially if Leinster’s Darragh Fanning can continue his red hot form.
Although they are second from bottom, Marcus Horan’s Shannon side have been very competitive in the opening two rounds with David O’Donovan, Tadhg Bennett and Munster hooker Duncan Casey marshalling the young guns.
St. Mary’s are unbeaten at home in regular league games since last January, with wins over Clontarf, Old Belvedere, Ballynahinch and Dolphin (twice). Peter Smyth’s men should extend that winning run tomorrow.
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, November 18, 2012: Shannon 3 St. Mary’s College 10, Coonagh; Saturday, April 6, 2013: St. Mary’s College 27 Shannon 20, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win
UL BOHEMIANS (6th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: LW; Dolphin: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 10; Tries: Darren Moroney, Cian Aherne, Kevin O’Byrne 1 each; Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 10; Tries: John Madigan 1
Preview: UL Bohemians have drawn huge encouragement from last week’s 20-18 win at Belfast Harlequins, during which Ireland Sevens squad member Cian Aherne and Munster hooker Kevin O’Byrne both touched down.
Back on home turf, Bohs will be quietly confident of defeating a Dolphin side that has slumped to heavy defeats to St. Mary’s and Ballymena.
However, UL boss Gearoid Prendergast will be expecting a backlash from the Corkmen who, if they can put together a full 80-minute performance, will fancy their chances – especially if their Chris Rowe-led forwards get on top.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 1, 2012: UL Bohemians 9 Dolphin 19, Annacotty; Saturday, March 2, 2013: Dolphin 27 UL Bohemians 9, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
OLD WESLEY (1st) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (7th), Donnybrook, 4.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Wesley: WW; Belfast Harlequins: LL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 35; Tries: Ian Cassidy 2; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 26; Tries: David McMaster, Mark Best 2 each
Preview: Old Wesley have grabbed all the headlines in Division 1B so far, thumping UL Bohemians on the first day and outscoring Buccaneers in a belting ten-try clash last time out.
The table toppers are particularly tough to beat on the artificial Donnybrook surface, as Buccs found out, and goal-kicking winger Barry McLaughlin has starred so far with 35 points (1 try, 6 conversions and 6 penalties).
Things have not clicked just yet for Belfast Harlequins, with two losing bonus points in the bag. But they have the personnel to test Wesley. Centre Mark Best is a danger man with his 26 points from the first two rounds including a brace of tries.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since November 2010
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win