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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

There are a number of eagerly-awaited encounters in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, and chief amongst them is the meeting of promotion-hunting Dublin University and Ballymena.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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SHANNON (6th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st), Thomond Park back pitch, 1.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLWWWWLLWWLLL; St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 75; Tries: Will Leonard 6; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 140; Tries: Mark Fallon, Ryan O’Loughlin, Darragh Fanning 6 each

Preview: St. Mary’s College look in unstoppable form at present with 11 wins on the trot, but this trip down to Thomond Park is a potential banana skin.

After losing to Ballymena, Shannon are eight points adrift of the top four and a promotion play-off spot. Turning over the league leaders is a must if they are stay in mathematical contention.

That looks a very tough ask, though, especially if Mary’s continue their free-scoring exploits. They racked up 50 points against Blackrock, with key backs Ryan O’Loughlin and Darragh Fanning taking their tallies for the season to six tries each.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 6, 2013: St. Mary’s College 27 Shannon 20, Templeville Road; Saturday, September 26, 2015: St. Mary’s College 45 Shannon 12, Templeville Road

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

BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th) v OLD WESLEY (4th), Deramore Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLLLLWLLLL; Old Wesley: WWWWLLWLLLLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 49; Tries: Mark Glover 4; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 136; Tries: Ian Cassidy 5

Preview: Belfast Harlequins are all but relegated at this stage, sitting rock bottom and trailing UL Bohemians by 14 points with three rounds remaining.

Both ‘Quins and Old Wesley have something to fight for, so a very fiercely-fought encounter is in the offing. The Dubliners are holding onto fourth place at present and that final promotion play-off spot.

September’s meeting resulted in a runaway 33-8 victory for Wesley and while the margin should be tighter this time, Morgan Lennon’s men are favoured to complete the double over the division’s bottom side.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, September 26, 2015: Old Wesley 33 Belfast Harlequins 8, Donnybrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

BLACKROCK COLLEGE (8th) v BUCCANEERS (5th), Stradbrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Blackrock College: WWLLLLLWLWLLLWL; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 45; Tries: Mikey Carroll, Sean Coughlan 4 each; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 102; Tries: Rory O’Connor 12

Preview: Fifth-placed Buccaneers are banking on a win away to Blackrock in order to keep the pressure on Old Wesley in the battle for a top four finish.

Buccs, whose talented young out-half Conor McKeon has now passed the century mark (102 points), scored 32 and 30 points respectively in their most recent two victories over ‘Rock.

On paper, they should prevail at Stradbook, but their south Dublin hosts mustered three tries against table-topping Mary’s in the previous round and can a very dangerous outfit when on their game. 

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 29, 2014: Buccaneers 32 Blackrock College 18, Dubarry Park; Saturday, September 26, 2015: Buccaneers 30 Blackrock College 28, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

DOLPHIN (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLWWLLWLLLWWL; UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLLWLLLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 52; Tries: Chris Rowe 6; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 97; Tries: Darren Moroney, Ian Condell 4 each

Preview: Only six points separate the clubs in ninth, eighth and seventh, and two of them meet on Saturday as Dolphin entertain second-from-bottom UL Bohs in Cork.

Both of them lost last time out, Dolphin being pipped by Old Wesley in a 61-point cliffhanger and UL Bohs falling away in the second half against Trinity.

Talismanic Dolphin lock Chris Rowe (6 tries) and Bohs captain Ian Condell (4) have been in top try-scoring form, while the kicking battle between Barry Keeshan and Rick McKenna could be all-important in a tight contest.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 2, 2013: Dolphin 27 UL Bohemians 9, Musgrave Park; Saturday, September 26, 2015: UL Bohemians 13 Dolphin 28, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd) v BALLYMENA (3rd), College Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWWLWWWW; Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWWWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 146; Tries: Tim Maupin 9; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 94; Tries: Rodger McBurney 7

Preview: It could be a two-horse race for automatic promotion if Dublin University see off Ballymena’s challenge at College Park where the students have lost just once this season.

Top spot is still within reach for both sides – Ballymena (52 points), Trinity (59) and St. Mary’s (63) – so there is a huge amount riding on this game, with Tony Smeeth’s young guns looking to avenge September’s 35-24 loss to the Braidmen.

Andy Graham knows that if his forwards can get a stranglehold on proceedings, they can use their power to set up opportunities for top try scorer Rodger McBurney (7 tries). The same is true for Trinity and their quick-witted American winger Tim Maupin (9 tries).

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 1, 2015: Dublin University 18 Ballymena 16, College Park; Saturday, September 26, 2015: Ballymena 35 Dublin University 24, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win