There are five rounds to go in Ulster Bank League Division 1A before the play-offs, and the next three consecutive weeks of action could prove decisive as clubs jockey for those coveted semi-final places.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 20
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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TERENURE COLLEGE (9th) v UCD (1st), Lakelands Park, tonight, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LWLWWLWLLLLL; UCD: LWWDLWWWWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 46; Tries: James O’Donoghue 3; UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 50; Tries: Barry Daly 9
Preview: Things are not getting any easier for second-from-bottom Terenure who face table toppers UCD, third-placed Garryowen and defending champions Lansdowne over the next three weeks.
James Blaney certainly has the personnel to get them out of their current sticky position, but ‘Nure continue to struggle for results with five defeats on the bounce.
After losing at Lansdowne last month, UCD got back on track with a bonus point success against Galwegians and they look well placed to avenge October’s 20-18 home loss to Terenure.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 20, 2014: Terenure College 24 UCD 33, Lakelands Park; Friday, October 16, 2015: UCD 18 Terenure College 20, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (5th) v CLONTARF (2nd), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: LDLDWWLLWWLW; Clontarf: WWWDLWWDWLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 109; Tries: James Murphy, James Ryan 3 each; Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 109; Tries: Mick McGrath 9
Preview: The start of a big few weeks for Cork Constitution as they take on three of their play-off rivals – Clontarf, UCD and Garryowen – in successive rounds.
The Leesiders had little trouble in seeing off Ballynahinch (36-3) last time out, and top scorer Tomas Quinlan (109 points) landed five penalties in October’s 15-14 victory away to Clontarf.
If Con are to do the double, they will have to curb the threat of Clontarf’s star centre Matt D’Arcy who touched down recently against Terenure and captained the Ireland Club international team to an historic win in France last weekend.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 28, 2015: Clontarf 43 Cork Constitution 30, Castle Avenue; Saturday, October 17, 2015: Clontarf 14 Cork Constitution 15, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
GALWEGIANS (8th) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: WLLWLLLWWLLLL; Garryowen: WDWLWLWLLWLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 49; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 7; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 88; Tries: Neil Cronin, James McInerney 5 each
Preview: Galwegians remain worryingly close to the relegation zone and last week’s 29-13 reversal to Young Munster was a further dent to their confidence.
Scoring tries has not been a problem – John Cleary and Ed O’Keeffe have shown that in recent weeks – but ‘Wegians now have the second worst defence in the division, with Munsters’ pack dominating the second half last Saturday.
Garryowen were two tries-to-none winners when these teams met in Limerick back in October, and they have in-form backs Neil Cronin and James McInerney (with five tries apiece) returning from the Ireland Club side’s successful trip to France.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2015: Galwegians 17 Garryowen 13, Crowley Park; Saturday, October 17, 2015: Garryowen 18 Galwegians 9, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
LANSDOWNE (6th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WDWLLWLDLWWWD; Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLWLLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 126; Tries: Joe O’Brien 3; Old Belvedere: Points: Shane McDonald 60; Tries: Rory O’Loughlin, Daniel Riordan 5 each
Preview: Lansdowne worked themselves out of a tricky situation at Garryowen last time out, coming from 10 points down to draw 16-all with Foster Horan, impact sub Tadhg Beirne and captain Scott Deasy particularly influential.
Out-half Deasy landed a late kick to maintain the headquarters club’s unbeaten record in 2016, and their recent run of results suggest they have pushed on a fair bit since October’s 19-0 loss at Old Belvedere.
‘Belvo are well capable of ripping up the form book, though, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the scrum battle, with Ireland Club international team-mates Ian Prendiville (Lansdowne) and Declan Lavery (Old Belvedere) taking each other on in the front row.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 27, 2015: Old Belvedere 13 Lansdowne 17, Anglesea Road; Friday, October 16, 2015: Old Belvedere 19 Lansdowne 0, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v BALLYNAHINCH (10th), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LDLDWWWWLWWWW; Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Gearoid Lyons 78; Tries: Alan Kennedy 4; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 86; Tries: Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns 3 each
Preview: These sides ran in nine tries when they met at Ballymacarn Park four months ago, and if the weather plays it part this could be another entertaining, high-scoring affair.
Munsters powered their way to a 29-13 victory in a real ‘mud bath’ against Galwegians last weekend, the result being marred by an injury to their increasingly influential South African scrum half Abrie Griesel.
Bottom-placed ‘Hinch have won three of their last five league games, but it has been a struggle for them away from home and another solid afternoon’s return from their scrum and maul should pay dividends for the Cookies.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 20, 2014: Ballynahinch 30 Young Munster 6, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, October 17, 2015: Ballynahinch 29 Young Munster 34, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win