With just two rounds to follow after Saturday’s matches in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, there is a lot riding on each result as clubs continue to scrap for points at both ends of the table.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 5
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v CLONTARF (1st), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLWWLLL; Clontarf: WWWDLWWDWLLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 106; Tries: Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns 3 each; Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 117; Tries: Mick McGrath 10
Preview: Last week’s 42-25 dismissal of play-off rivals Young Munster was a clear indication of Clontarf’s drive to go one better than last year and lift the league title.
The new table toppers are on a four-match winning streak and although Ballymacarn Park is a tough place to win, ‘Tarf look in a rich vein of form – especially with winger Mick McGrath hunting for try number 11.
Ballynahinch are in desperate need of a result, staring at the automatic drop with three rounds remaining. Their attack has suffered in recent weeks with only Chris Quinn (1 try and six penalties) scoring in their last three games.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2015: Ballynahinch 18 Clontarf 33, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, September 26, 2015: Clontarf 38 Ballynahinch 17, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v GARRYOWEN (5th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: LDLDWWLLWWLWLW; Garryowen: WDWLWLWLLWLWDLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 116; Tries: James Murphy, James Ryan, Max Abbott 3 each; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 107; Tries: Neil Cronin, James McInerney 5 each
Preview: This Munster derby is shaping up to be one of the games of the weekend. Cork Constitution and Garryowen are both pushing hard for the play-offs, lying fourth and fifth respectively.
Con could gain significant ground by defeating Garryowen and looked in rude health last week when thrashing high-flying UCD 58-15 in Dublin. Young hooker Max Abbott is one to watch, with three tries in his last four outings.
It took a late Alex Wootton try to steer Garryowen past Con in September, but winning away from home has been an issue with just one victory in seven road trips so far this season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 15, 2014: Garryowen 12 Cork Constitution 8, Dooradoyle; Saturday, September 26, 2015: Garryowen 23 Cork Constitution 19, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
GALWEGIANS (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: WLLWLLLWWLLLLWL; Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLWLLLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 53; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 7; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 66; Tries: Rory O’Loughlin, Daniel Riordan 5 each
Preview: Although their recent record shows just one win in six matches, Galwegians have been strong on their home patch with the likes of Cork Con, Lansdowne, Young Munster and Garryowen all coming a-cropper.
A big performance here could be vital in steering them clear of that relegation play-off spot, and Matt Brown will be hoping for more from John Cleary and Api Pewhairangi who have tallied up eight tries between them in the last five rounds.
Old Belvedere are on a bit of a roll themselves, with successive triumphs over Lansdowne and Ballynahinch. Leinster’s Steve Crosbie – with 33 points in his last two outings – is coming to the fore for them at just the right time.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, September 26, 2015: Old Belvedere 24 Galwegians 12, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (9th) v LANSDOWNE (6th), Lakelands Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LWLWWLWLLLLLWL; Lansdowne: WDWLLWLDLWWWDLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 62; Tries: James O’Donoghue, Jake Swaine 3 each; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 161; Tries: Scott Deasy 5
Preview: Almost every encounter in the top flight this weekend is a crunch fixture, and this one particularly so. After losing away to 14-man Garryowen, Terenure really need a quick ‘pick me up’ result.
Getting up to the levels they produced against UCD recently is a must. They scored only three tries in the last five rounds and will need a much-improved attacking performance to overcome the defending champions.
Remaining a talismanic figure, captain Scott Deasy has contributed 46 of Lansdowne’s last 61 points. His half-back partnership with Adam Griggs is a sharp one, and ‘Nure will be mindful of curbing their influence on proceedings.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 28, 2015: Terenure College 20 Lansdowne 29, Lakelands Park; Friday, September 25, 2015: Lansdowne 24 Terenure College 10, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v UCD (2nd), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LDLDWWWWLWWWWWL; UCD: LWWDLWWWWWWLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Gearoid Lyons 85; Tries: Alan Kennedy 4; UCD: Points: Conall Doherty, Barry Daly 50 each; Tries: Barry Daly 10
Preview: Third plays host to second in an intriguing match-up, with Young Munster getting a dose of home comfort after a heavy beating at Clontarf, and UCD scrapping for a positive result after three losses in four games.
UCD slipped off top spot following last week’s hugely deflating 58-15 defeat to Cork Con, and will have to dig deep as they strive to become the first away team to win at Greenfields since Con themselves (6-3) 13 months ago.
The students were easy 56-22 winners when these sides met at Belfield in September, however the Cookies are a much-improved outfit since then and their pack continues to provide a very strong set piece platform.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 7, 2015: UCD 17 Young Munster 20, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, September 26, 2015: UCD 56 Young Munster 22, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win