The final round of Division 1B action before Christmas offers up plenty of gifts for Ulster Bank League fans, particularly in the capital where Dublin University entertain Shannon at College Park and Ballymena visit Donnybrook for their top four clash with Old Wesley.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 5
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ulster Bank League Results Service: Send UBL to 51444. To unsubscribe send the word STOP to 0876445950. Search #UBL on Twitter for club updates.
UL BOHEMIANS (9th) v BUCCANEERS (6th), University of Limerick 4G pitch, 1pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLL; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 41; Tries: Darren Moroney, Jamie McNamara, Cian Aherne 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 47; Tries: Rory O’Connor 6
Preview: UL Bohemians have developed a bad habit of losing tight games, their latest one seeing them go down 15-6 away to promotion-chasing Ballymena. Their home form has been particularly poor with four straight defeats, including three at Thomond Park.
The University of Limerick’s 4G pitch may prove a happier hunting ground. Their performance at Annacotty in losing 27-24 to table toppers St. Mary’s last month, coupled with a battling performance in Ballymena, suggests they should be much further up the table.
Stuttering Buccs, who suffered a 27-6 reversal against Trinity, will hope to have promising out-half Conor McKeon back for the trip to Limerick. With McKeon at the helm, they stand a much better chance of pocketing their first win in five league outings.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 22, 2014: UL Bohemians 16 Buccaneers 21, Thomond Park; Saturday, March 28, 2015: Buccaneers 0 UL Bohemians 32, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLL; St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 35; Tries: Mark Glover 3; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 89; Tries: Darragh Fanning 5
Preview: Contrasting fortunes for these sides during the first half of the season, with Belfast Harlequins shipping eight defeats on the trot and St. Mary’s College leading the chase for promotion.
Harlequins at least picked up a losing bonus point at Blackrock, boosting their points-for column with 32 points – 17 from versatile Ulster back Rory Scholes, a penalty try and a brace from winger Mark Glover.
Leinster winger Darragh Fanning’s fifth league try helped table-topping Mary’s to see off Old Wesley 19-9, and the Dubliners should enter the Christmas break with an eight wins-from-nine record.
Recent League Meetings – The teams have not played each other since February 2007
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win
DOLPHIN (8th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (7th), Irish Independent Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LLWLWWLL; Blackrock College: WWLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 27; Tries: Will Hanly, Chris Rowe, Cian Bohane, Shane McAuliffe 2 each; Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 27; Tries: Mikey Carroll 4
Preview: Dolphin appeared to be hitting their stride in October with two wins and a losing bonus point against Wesley, but November was disappointing for the Corkmen who lost to both Dublin University (44-3) and Shannon (30-19).
It is no coincidence that their best results come when Munster backs Rory Scannell and Cian Bohane are on the field. The two Scannell brothers will be in action for Munster on Sunday, so Dolphin will need other players to step up – including full-back Shane McAuliffe who is chasing his third try in as many matches.
Blackrock have unlikely top try scorer in prop Mikey Carroll, who has bagged four tries in his last six outings, and the loosehead is clearly thriving in an Owen Cullen-led pack. These sides are split by just three points in the table, and a one-score game looks likely.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 8, 2011: Dolphin 17 Blackrock College 10, Musgrave Park; Saturday, March 31, 2012: Blackrock College 31 Dolphin 24, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v SHANNON (5th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLWWWWWW; Shannon: LLLLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 72; Tries: Max McFarland, Tim Maupin 4 each; Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 37; Tries: Stephen Fitzgerald 3
Preview: Two of the division’s most impressive teams of late. Dublin University are chasing their seventh successive victory and Marcus Horan’s Shannon have strung together four wins on the trot, rising to fifth place in the process.
It will take a lot to derail Trinity, though. They scored 71 points and 10 tries against Dolphin and Buccs and only conceded nine points. Wingers Max McFarland and Tim Maupin have run in eight tries between them so far.
Apart from what is sure to be a hard-edged battle between the forwards, the tactical duel between Trinity’s young half-backs Jack McDermott and Angus Lloyd and Shannon’s experienced pairing of Tadhg Bennett and David O’Donovan should be fascinating.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 8, 2014: Dublin University 13 Shannon 7, College Park; Saturday, February 28, 2015: Shannon 13 Dublin University 19, Coonagh
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
OLD WESLEY (4th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Donnybrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Wesley: WWWWLLWL; Ballymena: WWWWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 112; Tries: Barry McLaughlin 3; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 58; Tries: Callum Patterson 5
Preview: A top four showdown that should draw a sizable crowd to Donnybrook, with hosts Old Wesley hoping to provide some pre-Christmas cheer after losing three of their last four matches.
These two sides failed to cross the whitewash last week, an unusual occurrence given that they have both amassed over 200 points to date and chalked up seven try-scoring bonus points between them.
If it does turn into a high-scoring affair on the 4G pitch, second-placed Ballymena look to have more firepower behind the scrum with Rodger McBurney, Callum Patterson and David Shanahan all capable of unlocking the home defence.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 9, 2011: Old Wesley 3 Ballymena 41, Donnybrook; Saturday, November 2, 2013: Ballymena 21 Old Wesley 6, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win