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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League launches into action tonight as Shannon and UL Bohemians duel it out at Thomond Park, while there are two cracking contests in the capital on Saturday – Dublin University v Old Wesley and St. Mary’s College v Buccaneers.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 20

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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SHANNON (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Thomond Park, tonight, 7.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLWWWWLLWWL; UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 60; Tries: Will Leonard 5; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 79; Tries: Ian Condell, Darren Moroney 3 each 

Preview: Interestingly, the away team won both of last year’s corresponding clashes as Shannon picked up a 26-14 win in March and also edged out UL 14-12 in mid-October.

However, Bohemians showed against Blackrock College in round 13 that they should be much further up the table. The ever-threatening Rory White scored one try and set up the second for his centre partner Darren Moroney.

More of the same will be required against a Shannon outfit that were a kick away from drawing with Old Wesley at Donnybrook. Expect another game of tight margins under the Thomond Park floodlights. 

Recent League Meetings – Friday, March 6, 2015: UL Bohemians 14 Shannon 26, Thomond Park; Friday, October 16, 2015: UL Bohemians 12 Shannon 14, Thomond Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

BLACKROCK COLLEGE (7th) v BALLYMENA (3rd), Stradbrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Blackrock College: WWLLLLLWLWLLL; Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 27; Tries: Mikey Carroll, Sean Coughlan 4 each; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 78; Tries: Callum Patterson 6

Preview: Getting back to winning ways is Ballymena head coach Andy Graham’s sole focus after their recent reversals to Buccaneers and table toppers St. Mary’s.

Despite Sean Coughlan joining Mikey Carroll on four tries for the season, Blackrock have fallen to three defeats on the trot and they were 30-point losers when they visited Ballymena in October.

Graham, whose side are now eight points off the summit, is expected to be without Ireland Club XV locks David Whann and Connor Smyth, so Ian Caldwell and Mark Foster will deputise with Ulster back rowers Clive Ross and Stephen Mulholland also likely to be available.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 2, 2013: Ballymena 17 Blackrock College 32, Eaton Park; Saturday, October 17, 2015: Ballymena 43 Blackrock College 13, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

DOLPHIN (8th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLWWLLWLLLW; Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLLLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Cian McGovern 36; Tries: Chris Rowe 4; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 49; Tries: Mark Glover 4

Preview: Bottom side Belfast Harlequins still have a potential 25 points to play for, including this weekend’s trip to Cork, but they look in desperate trouble with a full 16 points separating themselves and eighth-placed Dolphin.

Assistant coach and out-half Barry Keeshan (12 points) and hooker Rory O’Connor (two tries) were the star men in Dolphin’s impressive 32-22 victory over Buccaneers last time out. Another positive result could move them clear of the bottom two.

The Corkmen had Harlequins’ number when they met at Deramore Park in October, with solid second rows Chris Rowe and David O’Mahony scoring two of their three tries in a 24-11 success. 

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 17, 2015: Belfast Harlequins 11 Dolphin 24, Deramore Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd) v OLD WESLEY (4th), College Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWWLWW; Old Wesley: WWWWLLWLLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 116; Tries: Max McFarland 7; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 122; Tries: Rory Stynes, Iain McGann 4 each 

Preview: One of the games of the day in the capital across all divisions. A victory for second-placed Dublin University would effectively extinguish Old Wesley’s promotion hopes with only four rounds remaining.

Wesley, in fourth, could be left to rue a frustrating spell either side of Christmas when they lost four successive matches. Credit to Morgan Lennon’s men, they accounted for Blackrock and Shannon recently with lock Iain McGann grabbing his fourth try of the campaign.

Dublin University capitalised on Ballymena’s loss to St. Mary’s to climb into second place. They chalked up their seventh try-scoring bonus point in overcoming ‘Quins 22-11 and half-backs Jack McDermott and Angus Lloyd should make a winning return from club international duty.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2012: Dublin University 12 Old Wesley 10, College Park; Saturday, October 17, 2015: Old Wesley 10 Dublin University 13, Donnybrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st) v BUCCANEERS (5th), Templeville Road

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWWWWWWW; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 131; Tries: Mark Fallon 6; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 78; Tries: Rory O’Connor 11 

Preview: You have to go back to early October to find a blemish on St. Mary’s report card. Since losing 20-14 away to Trinity, they have embarked on a nine-match winning streak and currently top the table by five points.

The Dubliners have an enviable knack of winning tight encounters. Four of their recent triumphs have been by six points or less, and young out-half Sean Kearns (131 points) – the leading points scorer across the top two divisions – has landed some high pressure kicks.

Buccaneers were beaten by four points when they hosted Mary’s in October. But should injury concern Shane Delahunt and his Connacht colleagues Conor McKeon and Rory Moloney be available, then the Pirates will certainly put the hosts’ unbeaten run under threat.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 17, 2015: Buccaneers 20 St. Mary’s College 24, Dubarry Park 

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