The leading three clubs in Division 1B all have home fixtures this weekend, with St. Mary’s College aiming to stay top of the pile by completing a season’s double over UL Bohemians.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYMENA (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (4th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWWW; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 62; Tries: Callum Patterson 6; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 68; Tries: Rory O’Connor 8
Preview: There is some hard-earned momentum behind Buccaneers following their recent victories over UL Bohemians and Dublin University. Ending Trinity’s eight-match winning streak shows what the Pirates are capable of if they deliver a consistent 80-minute performance.
Conor McKeon’s 100% kicking return (13 points) was vital in the capital three weeks ago, and the promising Connacht out-half will need to show that sort of accuracy again if Buccs are to avenge November’s one-point home loss to Ballymena.
That was the start of a five-game winning run for the Braidmen. It is hard to see it coming to a halt at Eaton Park, especially if they keep up their recent high try-scoring rate (ten tries in their last two outings).
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2015: Ballymena 45 Buccaneers 0, Eaton Park; Saturday, November 7, 2015: Buccaneers 14 Ballymena 15, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (7th) v OLD WESLEY (5th), Stradbrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: WWLLLLLWLWL; Old Wesley: WWWWLLWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 27; Tries: Mikey Carroll 4; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: Barry McLaughlin, Ian Cassidy 3 each
Preview: Old Wesley’s slide continued with a frustrating 20-14 defeat to table-topping St. Mary’s. They are down to fifth in the standings on the back of a four-match losing streak.
Morgan Lennon’s men left a number of chances behind them against St. Mary’s, but they should have enough firepower to see off Blackrock for the second time this season.
‘Rock were beaten 36-22 at Donnybrook in early November and were edged out by bottom side Belfast Harlequins (12-10) three weeks ago. Back rowers Sam Cooke and Gary Fenn both touched down in the latter game and will cause problems for the Wesley pack.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 14, 2015: Blackrock College 15 Old Wesley 33, Stradbrook; Saturday, November 7, 2015: Old Wesley 36 Blackrock College 22, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v DOLPHIN (8th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWWL; Dolphin: LLWLWWLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 105; Tries: Max McFarland 7; Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 33; Tries: Chris Rowe 4
Preview: Dublin University’s first league defeat since September – a 23-22 reversal at home to Buccaneers – has left them five points behind the top two in a very tight battle for promotion.
Although out-half Jack McDermott has now passed the century mark (105 points), Trinity were left to rue a couple of missed kicks against Buccs, but their four-man representation in the Ireland Club XV squad, coupled with a friendly win over Durham University, has given the students a timely boost.
Third-from-bottom Dolphin come calling on the back of two straight defeats. They really need to get their attack firing again, with 19 points being the most they have scored across the last five rounds.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 7, 2015: Dolphin 3 Dublin University 44, Irish Independent Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
SHANNON (6th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLLWWWWLLW; Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 58; Tries: Stephen Fitzgerald, Will Leonard 3 each; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 49; Tries: Mark Glover 4
Preview: Shannon had 22 points to spare when they visited Belfast Harlequins in November, but the Ulstermen’s spirits were lifted last time out as they overcame Blackrock for their maiden league win.
Talented young centre Jacob Stockdale – named in the Ireland Under-20 squad earlier this week – was one of the try scorers as ‘Quins put an end to their 10-match losing streak.
Shannon themselves got back to winning ways, dismissing Dolphin on a 13-3 scoreline in Cork. Evergreen winger David O’Donovan, now with 200 league appearances to his name, praised his team-mates following his recent caps milestone, admitting: “I’ve really enjoyed the last few years, the younger lads have kind of reinvigorated me.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 21, 2015: Belfast Harlequins 31 Shannon 13, Deramore Park; Saturday, November 7, 2015: Belfast Harlequins 10 Shannon 32, Deramore Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWWWWW; UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 119; Tries: Darragh Fanning, Mark Fallon 5 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 61; Tries: Darren Moroney, Jamie McNamara, Cian Aherne, Ian Condell, Kevin O’Byrne 2 each
Preview: The St. Mary’s attack continues to impress with an average of 30 points scored in their last three games, but their resilient defence is a big reason they are top of the table. Try-saving tackles from Darragh Fanning and excellent openside Barry O’Flanagan were crucial in the previous round at Old Wesley.
An eighth successive victory would keep the Dubliners on track for promotion and maintain confidence levels ahead of next week’s crunch clash away to their closest rivals Ballymena.
UL Bohs ran second-placed Ballymena close last time out and finished only three points adrift of Mary’s when they visited the capital in November. However, they are becoming a little too reliant on Kiwi out-half Rick McKenna who has kicked 26 of their last 48 points.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2013: UL Bohemians 15 St. Mary’s College 3, Annacotty; Saturday, November 7, 2015: UL Bohemians 24 St. Mary’s College 27, Annacotty
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win