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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

New Division 1B leaders Ballymena face a tough assignment away to fellow promotion hopefuls St. Mary’s College, while Old Wesley’s trip to Shannon sees the clubs locking horns in the league for the first time in almost 19 years.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 31

Kick-off 2pm unless stated –

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BLACKROCK COLLEGE (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Stradbrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: WWLLL; UL Bohemians: LWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Alan Hughes 22; Tries: Cillian Duff, David Scott-Lennon, Mikey Carroll 2 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Robbie Bourke 31; Tries: Darren Moroney 2

Preview: Two teams that are desperate for a win. A one-sided final quarter saw Blackrock blown apart 43-13 by Ballymena, although the Stradbrook side were narrow losers to both Buccaneers and St. Mary’s before that.

Second-from-bottom UL Bohs were squeezed out by local rivals Shannon (14-12) last time out, and what they would not do for a repeat of their 24-21 win over ‘Rock from January 2014 when forwards Ian Condell and John Sutton scored decisive late tries.

This is an important game for Blackrock, especially with next week’s trip to Old Wesley on the horizon, and winning at home is an absolute must if they are to mount a challenge for promotion.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 4, 2014: Blackrock College 21 UL Bohemians 24, Stradbrook; Saturday, April 19, 2014: UL Bohemians 26 Blackrock College 28, Thomond Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win

DOLPHIN (7th) v BUCCANEERS (4th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LLWLW; Buccaneers: WLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 22; Tries: Will Hanly, Chris Rowe 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 39; Tries: Rory O’Connor 4

Preview: Discipline could prove key as Buccaneers look to get back on track after losing a tight game 24-20 to St. Mary’s in the previous round. It was a defiant display from Buccs who had Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan sent-off for a dangerous tackle the 13th minute.

The Pirates will be hoping to have another of their provincial players, Conor McKeon, back at out-half for the trip to Cork, while Kolo Kiripati and Conor Finn have unfortunately joined the injury list and Alex Hayman is doubtful.

Impressive 24-11 winners at Belfast Harlequins, Dolphin are chasing their first home victory of the campaign. Second rows Chris Rowe and Dave O’Mahony both touched down against ‘Quins, and club captain Rowe remains a key component of a physical pack.

Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since October 2008

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th), College Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLWWW; Belfast Harlequins: LLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 42; Tries: Jack McDermott, Max McFarland 3 each; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 35; Tries: David McMaster, Mark Best, Frankie Taggart 2 each

Preview: Dublin University and Belfast Harlequins seem to be going in opposite directions at present, with the students collecting three wins on the bounce and also adding early season silverware in the form of the Dudley and Conroy Cups.

Trinity somehow managed to beat former leaders Old Wesley a fortnight ago despite being down to 11 players at one stage in the second half. As shown last season, once Tony Smeeth’s side embark on a winning run they are very hard to stop.

Precious little has gone right for ‘Quins during the first five rounds. Trinity did the double on them last season, but you can never write off a team containing the Ulster contingent of Ricky Lutton, Mark Best and Frankie Taggart.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 6, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 13 Dublin University 27, Deramore Park; Saturday, April 11, 2015: Dublin University 41 Belfast Harlequins 20, College Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

SHANNON (8th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Thomond Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLLW; Old Wesley: WWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 16; Tries: Tony Cusack 2; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 70; Tries: Ian Cassidy, Barry McLaughlin, Niall O’Brien 2 each

Preview: Mixed fortunes for these sides in the last round. Shannon overcame UL Bohs in a hard-fought derby to claim the first win of Marcus Horan’s coaching reign, while Old Wesley’s failure to punish Trinity for four yellow cards saw them slip from first to second in the standings.

Wesley were punished for a lacklustre attacking performance, and Morgan Lennon will want his troops firing on all cylinders again – especially goal kicker Barry McLaughlin, who has the boot to punish any Shannon lapses in discipline.

Notably, this is the clubs’ first league encounter since a February 1997 fixture at Donnybrook when Alan Quinlan and Anthony Foley, the current Munster boss, were part of a formidable Shannon pack.

Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since February 1997

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v BALLYMENA (1st), Templeville Road

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: WWWLW; Ballymena: WWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 52; Tries: Darragh Fanning 4; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 46; Tries: Callum Patterson 5

Preview: A fascinating duel and arguably the game of the day across the top two divisions. It will be interesting to see if St. Mary’s retain the Leinster-Munster centre pairing of Darragh Fanning and Ivan Dineen, with Ballymena’s own midfield duo of Callum Patterson and Martin Irwin in excellent form.

The table-topping Braidmen put Blackrock to the sword in the closing stages. Patterson scored his fifth league try in the 43-13 triumph, and Andy Graham’s men have already beaten Dolphin and Shannon on the road.

The case for a St. Mary’s win is a strong one too. Influential prop Brian McGovern’s 65th-minute try saw them past Buccaneers on a 24-20 scoreline, and you have to go back to last December for their most recent regular season reversal at Templeville Road.

Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since October 2008

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win