Friday Night Lights action returns to the top flight of the Ulster Bank League when Clontarf host Terenure College in a crunch Dublin derby, while Saturday’s schedule in Division 1A includes the meeting of third-placed Garryowen and a resurgent Lansdowne team.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CLONTARF (2nd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (9th), Castle Avenue, Friday, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Clontarf: WWWDLWWDWLLW; Terenure College: LWLWWLWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 101; Tries: Mick McGrath 9; Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 42; Tries: James O’Neill, James O’Donoghue, Jake Swaine, Ian Hanly 2 each
Preview: Terenure College’s slide now sees them a full 20 points behind Clontarf in the table, albeit with a game in hand. A win here would do wonders for their confidence as they try to lift themselves out of relegation trouble.
‘Tarf let their forwards do the talking in their victory away to Galwegians last week, young props Vakhtang Abdaladze and Ivan Soroka both touching down. They had ten points to spare over ‘Nure back in October and if they take their scoring chances, a similar winning margin could be on the cards.
Notably, New Zealand referee Glen Jackson, who is over in Dublin as part of the match officials for Ireland v Wales, will take charge of tonight’s clash at Castle Avenue.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 25, 2015: Semi-final: Terenure College 0 Clontarf 9, Lakelands Park; Friday, October 30, 2015: Terenure College 3 Clontarf 13, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (6th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLWW; Cork Constitution: LDLDWWLLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 83; Tries: Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns 3 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 109; Tries: James Murphy 3
Preview: New Year, new you – that has certainly been the case for Ballynahinch, who saw off Terenure 20-9 last Saturday for their third win in four league outings. They have built up some welcome momentum in their bid to avoid the automatic drop.
Their cause has been helped by ever-reliable goal-kicker Chris Quinn (83 points) who has maintained a high percentage in tough wintry conditions, while their front row, in particular, are a very useful unit.
Stung by a last-minute try from Young Munster, Cork Con will want to quickly get that round 11 defeat out of their heads. ‘Hinch always score tries at home, and Con will likely need two or three of their own to stand a chance of taking the spoils here.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 10, 2015: Ballynahinch 34 Cork Constitution 13, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, October 31, 2015: Cork Constitution 32 Ballynahinch 23, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
GARRYOWEN (3rd) v LANSDOWNE (5th), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Garryowen: WDWLWLWLLWLW; Lansdowne: WDWLLWLDLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 82; Tries: Neil Cronin 5; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 115; Tries: Joe O’Brien 3
Preview: Wins for both sides in the last round, Garryowen bagging a bonus point against struggling Old Belvedere and a Scott Deasy-inspired Lansdowne edging out league leaders UCD at home.
The Light Blues, nicely positioned in third, would love to end the defending champions’ three-match winning run, and they stand a good chance with Munster’s Jordan Coghlan currently starring in an in-form back row combination with Dave Sherry and captain Josh Hrstich.
These clubs’ recent meetings have been tight – Lansdowne had seven points to spare last October – and it may take an individual spark from the likes of Neil Cronin, the fit-again Alex Wootton, Deasy or Cian Kelleher to decide their latest contest.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Lansdowne 13 Garryowen 9, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, October 31, 2015: Lansdowne 17 Garryowen 10, Aviva Stadium main pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (4th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLWLLLL; Young Munster: LDLDWWWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Shane McDonald 54; Tries: Rory O’Loughlin, Daniel Riordan 5 each; Young Munster: Points: Gearoid Lyons 55; Tries: Alan Kennedy, Sean Duggan 3 each
Preview: Old Belvedere’s only consolation from their 27-14 loss in Garryowen was that they ended a two-game tryless spell with Willie Staunton and Aaron Sheehan both touching down. Four defeats on the trot spells trouble, though.
Young Munster are this week’s visitors and they showed their mettle when Sean Duggan’s late try saw them prevail 18-17 at Cork Con a week ago. David Corkery’s men also dug deep in October to beat ‘Belvo by two points.
A strong showing up front could be half the battle here as fourth-placed Munsters look to maintain their push for a play-off spot ahead of next week’s important game in hand at home to Galwegians.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 31, 2015: Old Belvedere 38 Young Munster 18, Anglesea Road; Saturday, October 31, 2015: Young Munster 20 Old Belvedere 18, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
UCD (1st) v GALWEGIANS (8th), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: LWWDLWWWWWWL; Galwegians: WLLWLLLWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 45; Tries: Barry Daly 9; Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 46; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 6
Preview: Setbacks for both clubs last week as UCD went down 22-20 to title holders Lansdowne and Galwegians were 17-5 losers at home to Clontarf. Having fallen to eighth place, ‘Wegians can ill-afford a third defeat on the bounce.
The table toppers will fancy their chances of returning to winning ways. They hammered the Galway men 35-3 back in October and should have some of their Leinster contingent back for this round.
Matt Brown’s visitors know they will have to be at their clinical best against the high-scoring students. 16 points is the most ‘Wegians have amassed in their last three matches and a similar score will not be enough, given UCD are currently averaging 29 points per game.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 3, 2012: Galwegians 38 UCD 17, Crowley Park; Saturday, October 31, 2015: Galwegians 3 UCD 35, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win