St. Mary’s may have the title and automatic promotion wrapped up, but there are still some key issues to iron out at both ends of the table on the final day of action in Division 1B.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 16
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BELFAST HARLEQUINS (10th) v BALLYMENA (3rd), Deramore Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Belfast Harlequins: LLLLLLLLLLWLLLLWL; Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWWWLLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Belfast Harlequins: Points: Mark Best 63; Tries: Mark Glover 4; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 105; Tries: Rodger McBurney 10
Preview: Neither club can improve their league position with Belfast Harlequins already relegated and third-placed Ballymena bound for the Division 1A relegation/promotion play-offs.
But this Ulster derby is surely to be keenly contested, as bottom side ‘Quins look to salvage some pride and the visiting Braidmen try to end a poor run of results (five defeats in six games).
Andy Graham’s men had four points to spare (27-23) when they hosted ‘Quins back in September and with top try scorer Rodger McBurney now in double figures (10 tries), they have the firepower to complete a season’s double.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 3, 2015: Ballymena 17 Belfast Harlequins 13, Eaton Park; Saturday, September 12, 2015: Ballymena 27 Belfast Harlequins 23, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
DOLPHIN (7th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (1st), Irish Independent Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLWWLLWLLLWWLLW; St. Mary’s College: WWWLWWWWWWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 76; Tries: Chris Rowe 7; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 153; Tries: Mark Fallon, Ryan O’Loughlin, Darragh Fanning 6 each
Preview: St. Mary’s have completed their mission to secure automatic promotion back to the top flight, sealing the Division 1B title with a 9-5 defeat of close rivals Dublin University last time out.
With just one loss in 17 games, Jamie Cornett’s side will be determined to sign off with another victory on the road. However, they can expect a hot reception from Dolphin who still have to ensure their Division 1B status for next season.
The Corkmen, who are two points clear of the relegation play-offs spot, have struggled against Mary’s in the recent past, going down 45-18 and 46-10 in their last two meetings. But their desire to avoid the drop could drive them to a much-needed win here.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2015: St. Mary’s College 45 Dolphin 18, Templeville Road; Saturday, September 12, 2015: St. Mary’s College 46 Dolphin 10, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWWWWWWWLWWWWWL; Blackrock College: WWLLLLLWLWLLLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 155; Tries: Tim Maupin 11; Blackrock College: Points: Jack O’Carroll 61; Tries: Mikey Carroll, Sean Coughlan 4 each
Preview: Second-from-bottom Blackrock College gave themselves a shot at avoiding the relegation play-offs when they edged out Shannon 21-19 in the previous round. Beating second-placed Trinity is a very tough ask, though.
The students are smarting from losing the title decider to St. Mary’s, while they will want to avenge September’s 11-10 defeat to Blackrock. Again, watch out for their wingers Tim Maupin (11 tries) and Max McFarland, who touched down twice for the Ireland Universities side against England last week.
Jack O’Carroll’s goal-kicking was crucial for ‘Rock against Shannon, and the talented half-back will need to be on top form again if the visitors are to finish higher than ninth in the table.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 12, 2014: Blackrock College 12 Dublin University 26, Stradbrook; Friday, September 11, 2015: Blackrock College 11 Dublin University 10, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
OLD WESLEY (5th) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Donnybrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWLLWLLLLWWLWLL; UL Bohemians: LWLLLWLLWLLLWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 145; Tries: Ian Cassidy 5; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 117; Tries: Darren Moroney, Ian Condell 4 each
Preview: Eighth-placed UL Bohemians are one of the four sides battling to avoid that relegation play-offs spot. They head to Dublin with the confidence of four wins in five outings.
But their hosts, Old Wesley, also have plenty to play for. They lost to Buccaneers last time out, but could still pip Buccs to fourth place and entry into the Division 1A relegation/promotion play-offs.
It all makes for a fascinating encounter at Donnybrook and the margin is sure to be tighter than last September’s clash in Limerick where Wesley were 33-5 runaway winners.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, September 12, 2015: UL Bohemians 5 Old Wesley 33, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
SHANNON (6th) v BUCCANEERS (4th), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLWWWWLLWWLLLLL; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLWWWLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 84; Tries: Will Leonard 6; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 115; Tries: Rory O’Connor 12
Preview: Another match with a lot riding on the result. Marcus Horan’s Shannon have lost their last five games and are in danger of falling into the clutches of the Division 1B relegation play-offs.
For fourth-placed Buccaneers, they enter the final round with a three-point advantage over Old Wesley in the race for a top four finish and entry into the Division 1A relegation/promotion play-offs.
The midlanders have enough in the tank to extend their season by another week or two, especially with key winger Rory O’Connor (12 tries) hunting for more scores and experienced number 8 Kolo Kiripati leading by example in the forwards.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 10, 2015: Buccaneers 25 Shannon 7, Dubarry Park; Saturday, September 12, 2015: Buccaneers 21 Shannon 11, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win