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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Division 1B’s leading two clubs, St. Mary’s College and Ballymena, have a couple of testing away trips to negotiate on Saturday afternoon, while it is third plays fifth at College Park where Dublin University host Buccaneers.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLLLL; Blackrock College: WWLLLLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 47; Tries: Mark Glover 3; Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 27; Tries: Mikey Carroll 4

Preview: This could be a real chance for Belfast Harlequins to finally end their losing run. Visitors Blackrock edged out Dolphin 14-13 last week, but their form has been up and down and bottom side ‘Quins will be hoping a positive result can turn their season around.

Cutting down on defensive lapses is vital for Adam Larkin’s men, who leaked 28 second half points in their 2016 opener against St. Mary’s. In attack, the centre combination of the fit-again Jacob Stockdale and Mark Best does have a potent look to it.

Blackrock were helped to victory last Saturday by a touchline conversion from out-half Peter Quirke, but it will be tries Emmet Farrell’s side are craving this weekend as ‘Quins have leaked 306 points in ten games to date.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 1, 2014: Blackrock College 28 Belfast Harlequins 12, Stradbrook; Saturday, November 28, 2015: Blackrock College 36 Belfast Harlequins 32, Stradbrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Belfast Harlequins to win

DOLPHIN (8th) v SHANNON (7th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LLWLWWLLWL; Shannon: LLLLWWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 30; Tries: Chris Rowe 4; Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 50; Tries: Stephen Fitzgerald, Will Leonard 3 each

Preview: Plenty on the line here as Munster rivals Dolphin and Shannon go head-to-head in Cork. They both notched losing bonus points last week, against Blackrock (14-13) and Dublin University (25-22) respectively, and Shannon are chasing a season’s double over Feargus O’Donoghue’s side.

Marcus Horan’s men ran out 30-19 winners when the teams met in November, a late penalty try and David O’Donovan effort earning them a five-point return. They showed enough against Trinity last time out to suggest they can repeat that result.

Dolphin were hugely frustrated to lose to Blackrock having led 13-0 up to the 74th minute. Three yellow cards in the closing stages really hurt the Corkmen. Better concentration and discipline will be key as they look to make the most of their last home game until February 20.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 16, 2013: Dolphin 32 Shannon 17, Musgrave Park; Saturday, November 28, 2015: Shannon 30 Dolphin 19, Coonagh

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v BUCCANEERS (5th), College Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWW; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 93; Tries: Max McFarland 7; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 55; Tries: Rory O’Connor 8

Preview: Buccaneers were buoyed by their 18-7 dismissal of UL Bohemians, a long overdue win which saw winger Rory O’Connor touch down twice and Connacht’s Conor McKeon turn in a man-of-the-match display from out-half.

But they will have to go some to topple a Trinity side that has won their last eight league matches. Captain Nick McCarthy, part of a strong back row unit alongside Brian du Toit and Tom Ryan, was one of the try scorers in their 25-22 victory at Shannon.

The students seem to reserve their best performances for College Park and if they can maintain their consistency, they look very capable of backing up November’s 27-6 triumph over Buccs.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 7, 2015: Dublin University 48 Buccaneers 14, College Park; Saturday, November 28, 2015: Buccaneers 6 Dublin University 27, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

OLD WESLEY (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st), Donnybrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Wesley: WWWWLLWLLL; St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: Barry McLaughlin, Ian Cassidy 3 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 114; Tries: Darragh Fanning, Mark Fallon 5 each

Preview: The battle for promotion is in danger of becoming a three-horse race with St. Mary’s College, Ballymena and Dublin University leading the charge. Fourth-placed Old Wesley, who host St. Mary’s this weekend, are currently eight points behind Trinity in third.

Mary’s have opened up a 16-point gap on Wesley and a third defeat in-a-row for Morgan Lennon’s men would be a big dent in their season. Lennon will be demanding a backlash from the hosts after their deflating 48-0 loss to Ballymena last week.

Mary’s are on a six-match winning streak, including November’s 19-9 success at home to Wesley. They may have lost head coach Peter Smyth to the Leinster Academy and full-back Ray Crotty to emigration, but the Templeville Road outfit are in good hands with Jamie Cornett taking the coaching reins and Darragh Fanning regularly delivering the goods from the left wing.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 28, 2015: St. Mary’s College 19 Old Wesley 9, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win

UL BOHEMIANS (9th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Thomond Park back pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLLWL; Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 46; Tries: Darren Moroney, Jamie McNamara, Cian Aherne, Ian Condell, Kevin O’Byrne 2 each; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 62; Tries: Callum Patterson 6

Preview: UL Bohemians began the New Year on a losing note, going down 18-7 to Buccaneers, and it is difficult to see them bouncing back at home to second-placed Ballymena.

Nonetheless, Bohs can draw confidence from the way they tested the Braidmen in November’s fixture at Eaton Park. Conditions were awful that day, with the Limerick men, driven on by captain Ian Condell, battling hard for a losing bonus point – 15-9.

With Bronson Ross unavailable and David Shanahan injured, Ballymena boss Andy Graham makes two changes for the long trip south – Ross Kane starts at tighthead prop and John Creighton comes in at scrum half. Hooker John Andrew, the man-of-the-match in their 48-0 hammering of Old Wesley, is doubtful due to an injury picked up in training with Ulster.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 31, 2015: Ballymena 33 UL Bohemians 12, Eaton Park; Saturday, November 28, 2015: Ballymena 15 UL Bohemians 9, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win