The Ulster Bank League fixture organisers have pulled out an early Christmas cracker with five fantastic round 9 fixtures on Saturday. Topping the bill is the meeting of new league leaders UCD and third-placed Old Belvedere at Belfield.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 5
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v LANSDOWNE (7th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLL; Lansdowne: WDWLLWLD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 31; Tries: Lorcan Dow, Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns, Robin Harte 2 each; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 62; Tries: Joe O’Brien 3
Preview: Lansdowne showed plenty of determination to hold onto their league crown when fighting back for a 23-all draw with Clontarf last Saturday. Flanker Joe O’Brien took his haul for the season to three tries, with Ireland underage internationals Max Deegan and James Ryan both catching the eye up front.
Mike Ruddock’s charges may have slid down the table in recent weeks, but they are still only five points off the top four and ten behind table toppers UCD, so a win in County Down would be a timely fillip.
Their hosts Ballynahinch continue to struggle. Their eighth and latest defeat by Galwegians, just above them in the standings, has them 12 points adrift at the bottom. They have conceded 262 points – 69 more than any other top flight team – but certainly have the players to spark a turnaround come the New Year.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 4, 2014: Ballynahinch 14 Lansdowne 10, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, January 31, 2015: Lansdowne 39 Ballynahinch 18, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
CLONTARF (2nd) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Clontarf: WWWDLWWD; Garryowen: WDWLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 79; Tries: Mick McGrath 6; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 54; Tries: Steve McMahon, Neil Cronin 3 each
Preview: Clontarf boss Andy Wood will be demanding much-improved discipline from his side after they had hooker Aaron Dundon red-carded for a punch, and Rob Keogh and Tom Byrne both sin-binned, during last weekend’s dramatic draw with Lansdowne.
Despite the best efforts of goal-kicker Joey Carbery who slotted six penalties, ‘Tarf paid for the loss of Dundon and Byrne in the dying minutes as they leaked a levelling seven-pointer. Still, a home game and an immediate chance to regain top spot could be just the tonic.
Garryowen were beaten 13-6 by new league leaders UCD and it is not often the Light Blues are held try-less at home. Conan Doyle’s men picked up losing bonus points at Terenure and Lansdowne and won at Old Belvedere recently, but ‘Tarf should avoid another late slip and take the spoils this time.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2013: Clontarf 33 Garryowen 3, Castle Avenue; Saturday, March 22, 2014: Garryowen 12 Clontarf 32, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (8th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (6th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Cork Constitution: LDLDWWLL; Terenure College: LWLWWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 90; Tries: James Murphy, Darren Sweetnam 2 each; Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 30; Tries: James O’Neill, James O’Donoghue, Jake Swaine 2 each
Preview: Interesting to note that last season’s two meetings were won by the away side on the day, so Terenure College’s return trip to Temple Hill should hold no fears following last February’s 20-8 victory there for James Blaney’s men.
However, ‘Nure’s form has been patchy of late – they were well-beaten 26-8 by Young Munster in the previous round – and they will know how important a result on Leeside could be as they seek to close back in on the top four.
That will be Cork Con’s aim too. They may be third-from-bottom at present but only six points separates them from the play-off positions and a combination of Tomas Quinlan’s reliable left boot, and the try-scoring threat of Darren Sweetnam and Rob Jermyn, could undo the Dubliners.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 3, 2015: Terenure College 7 Cork Constitution 21, Lakelands Park; Saturday, February 28, 2015: Cork Constitution 8 Terenure College 20, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
UCD (1st) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: LWWDLWWW; Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 45; Tries: Barry Daly 6; Old Belvedere: Points: Shane McDonald 52; Tries: Rory O’Loughlin 5
Preview: Undoubtedly the game of the day in the top flight as the Dublin 4 neighbours – placed first and third respectively – meet in a crunch round 9 fixture.
UCD have got to the halfway stage of the season in fine fettle, with players like Andrew Porter, Jamie Glynn and Mark McGroarty excelling during their current three-match winning streak.
The absence of Ireland Sevens-tied duo Adam Byrne and Barry Daly will be felt behind the scrum, but Old Belvedere, narrow winners over Cork Constitution last Saturday, are also without top try scorer Rory O’Loughlin (5 tries). Form suggests the students should avenge their 23-20 defeat in last season’s corresponding fixture.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 15, 2014: Old Belvedere 25 UCD 13, Anglesea Road; Saturday, March 28, 2015: UCD 20 Old Belvedere 23, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (5th) v GALWEGIANS (9th), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Young Munster: LDLDWWWW; Galwegians: WLLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Paul Downes 48; Tries: Alan Kennedy 3; Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 46; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 5
Preview: Two teams who won in impressive fashion in the last round, with Young Munster looking to sign off before Christmas with a fifth straight victory. It will be a test of their strength in depth with influential backs Dan Goggin and Gearoid Lyons away with the Ireland Sevens squad in Dubai.
Goggin and Lyons have scored three tries and 39 points between them in recent weeks, but the Cookies will be reliant on other players – including talented South African scrum half Abrie Griesel – to get the job done against ‘Wegians.
The Galway men gained a confidence-boosting win at home to Ballynahinch last Saturday. Connacht’s Shane O’Leary was their key man, scoring 18 points, and it will be interesting to see what impact he has against his former club Munsters.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since March 2010
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win