Big games at both ends of the table are on the menu in the latest round of Ulster Bank League Division 1A action. Leaders Clontarf will be out for revenge in a repeat of last season’s final against Lansdowne, while second-placed UCD are looking to maintain their high-scoring, winning form away to Garryowen.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 28
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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GALWEGIANS (9th) v BALLYNAHINCH (10th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Galwegians: WLLWLLL; Ballynahinch: LLLLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 46; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 5; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 20; Tries: Lorcan Dow, Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns, Robin Harte 2 each
Preview: Both clubs will have targeted this game as a ‘must win’. There is a seven-point gap between the bottom two, but there will be more pressure on hosts Galwegians to deliver a winning performance after their recent dip in form.
‘Wegians gave a very good account of themselves against leaders Clontarf last time out, but they emerged try-less for the third match running. They will have to end that drought if they want to reel in the likes of Lansdowne and Cork Constitution above them.
However, they will be wary of a Ballynahinch side that gained confidence from their 24-5 Ulster Senior Cup semi-final replay win over Belfast Harlequins. Conor Joyce, captain Paul Pritchard and Manihera Eden led by example last Saturday, and more of the same could see them prevail in Galway.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 1, 2011; Galwegians 17 Ballynahinch 33, Crowley Park; Saturday, April 21, 2012: Ballynahinch 29 Galwegians 20, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
GARRYOWEN (3rd) v UCD (2nd), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Garryowen: WDWLWLW; UCD: LWWDLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 48; Tries: Steve McMahon, Neil Cronin 3 each; UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 45; Tries: Barry Daly 6
Preview: The entertainment value should be high at Dooradoyle with a number of talented attackers on show. UCD have already collected four try-scoring bonus points – three more than any other team in the division – and their recent dismissals of Galwegians (35-3) and Lansdowne (39-10) were outstanding.
Their goal-kicking centre Conall Doherty (45 points) and winger and recent Ireland Sevens debutant Barry Daly (6 tries) are in a rich vein of form, and the students have enjoyed some profitable road trips so far with two victories and a draw.
With scrum half Neil Cronin to the fore, Garryowen have pushed back up to third place. Their Kiwi captain Josh Hrstich said: “These are easy games for the boys to get up for. It’s a tough schedule coming up to Christmas. It will be huge for our season if we can pick up points in the coming weeks and stay in the top four.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 26, 2013: Garryowen 11 UCD 25, Dooradoyle; Saturday, March 1, 2014: UCD 26 Garryowen 20, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
LANSDOWNE (8th) v CLONTARF (1st), Aviva Stadium
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: WDWLLWL; Clontarf: WWWDLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 49; Tries: Brian Moylett, Tom Farrell 2 each; Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 61; Tries: Mick McGrath 6
Preview: A repeat of last season’s Division 1A final, and a win by any margin would do for eighth-placed Lansdowne as they look to build themselves back up after three defeats in four league games. Mike Ruddock’s men have also been knocked out of the Leinster Senior League Cup by in-form UCD.
Injuries and provincial call-ups have certainly weakened Ruddock’s hand in recent rounds and he will hope for a better return from his backs who have been held try-less in their three most recent league outings.
Munster recruit Matt D’Arcy scored the decisive try as Clontarf began life on their new 4G pitch with a 16-9 triumph over Galwegians. Gaining some measure of revenge on Lansdowne at headquarters would be a big statement for Andy Wood’s charges to make.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 10, 2015: Clontarf 0 Lansdowne 35, Castle Avenue; Final: Saturday, May 9, 2015: Lansdowne 18 Clontarf 17, Aviva Stadium main pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
OLD BELVEDERE (4th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (7th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: WLWWWLL; Cork Constitution: LDLDWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Shane McDonald 43; Tries: Rory O’Loughlin 5; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 88; Tries: James Murphy 2
Preview: Old Belvedere have ground to make up after back-to-back losses to Limerick sides Young Munster and Garryowen. The latter one was particularly disappointing with the Light Blues emerging as 28-13 winners at Anglesea Road.
Cork Constitution come calling on Saturday, chasing their second victory in the capital this season. The Leesiders prevailed at Clontarf last month and with dead-eye place-kicker Tomas Quinlan still comfortably top of the scoring charts with 88 points, they remain dangerous opponents despite their seventh place position.
Twelve months ago, it was Quinlan who landed an 84th minute drop goal to nudge Cork Con to an 18-17 victory over ‘Belvo. However, the Dublin 4 outfit should make home advantage count this time around.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 13, 2014: Old Belvedere 24 Cork Constitution 8, Anglesea Road; Saturday, December 6, 2014: Cork Constitution 18 Old Belvedere 17, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (5th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), Lakelands Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Terenure College: LWLWWLW; Young Munster: LDLDWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 30; Tries: James O’Neill, James O’Donoghue, Jake Swaine 2 each; Young Munster: Points: Paul Downes 45; Tries: Alan Kennedy 3
Preview: Young Munster really hit their straps before the break in league fixtures, racking up three well-earned wins against Ballynahinch, Old Belvedere and Cork Con. Talented centre Dan Goggin scored two tries in those games, and also bagged a brace for Munster ‘A’ in the British & Irish Cup.
Jake Swaine is another young player to watch out for, the Terenure goal-kicking winger’s try double helping them win 30-6 at Ballynahinch last time out. They will be keen to break back into the top four, especially after losing a tight Leinster Senior League Cup semi-final to ‘Belvo.
David Corkery’s Cookies have shown they know how to win hard-fought games, but Terenure are always formidable opponents at Lakelands and they should pick up the points here ahead of an early January rematch at Greenfields.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 27, 2014: Terenure College 42 Young Munster 0, Lakelands Park; Saturday, January 10, 2015: Young Munster 21 Terenure College 22, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win