The top four teams from the opening round will meet in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, as newcomers Naas make the trip north to Ballymena and it will be first plays second when UL Bohemians host Ballynahinch on the University’s 4G pitch.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 24
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYMENA (3rd) v NAAS (4th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: W; Naas: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 15; Tries: Mark Best, Rodger McBurney, Jordan Foster 1 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 8; Tries: Fionn Carr, Henry Bryce 1 each
Preview: Two of the victorious teams from round 1 meet at Eaton Park where Ballymena have actually lost three of their last four league games. Putting that poor end to last season behind them, Andy Graham’s charges ran out 25-19 winners at Shannon last Saturday.
While new centre Mark Best led by example with 15 points, Ballymena leaked a total of 14 penalties in Limerick – including a yellow card – so they can ill-afford a repeat performance, especially with Naas’ Peter Osborne in very good form with the boot.
There should be some fireworks in the backs where Fionn Carr, player-coach Johne Murphy and Henry Bryce provide the momentum for the Kildare men. However, home advantage should propel the Braidmen to another win.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 30, 2013: Naas 14 Ballymena 18, Forenaughts
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BUCCANEERS (9th) v SHANNON (8th), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: L; Shannon: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Cian Romaine, Shane Layden 5 each; Tries: Cian Romaine, Shane Layden 1 each; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 19; Tries: Ronan McKenna 1
Preview: Both sides won at home in last season’s head-to-head and Buccaneers will certainly want to start on the right note in Athlone, after going down to 35-13 to Ballynahinch in their opener.
The Pirates’ basics were poor up north and few players impressed, apart from try-scoring lock Cian Romaine and debutant prop Dylan Quinn, so coach Brett Wilkinson will be demanding a big improvement second time out.
2015 Munster Junior Cup-winning star Ronan McKenna was Shannon’s lone scorer against Ballymena, accumulating 19 points, and Buccs will have to curb the talented number 10’s influence if they are to prevail.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 12, 2015: Buccaneers 21 Shannon 11, Dubarry Park; Saturday, April 16, 2016: Shannon 23 Buccaneers 12, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
GALWEGIANS (7th) v UCC (6th), Crowley Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: L; UCC: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Mitch Lam 8; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 1; UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 10; Tries: Conor Barry, Peter McCabe 1 each
Preview: Misfiring Galwegians let an opening win slip from their grasp away to Naas, conceding two decisive penalties in the final minutes as Brian McClearn’s coaching reign began on a losing note.
Putting that disappointing performance behind them, ‘Wegians return to Glenina where they beat this weekend’s visitors UCC, 23-17, in a Division 2A game in January 2014. Current captain Brian Murphy was one of their try scorers that day.
UCC went close to beating Old Wesley in a nip-and-tuck opener last week, with Munster development prop Peter McCabe’s late try securing a losing bonus point. A similar outcome may be their best hope in Galway.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2013: UCC 19 Galwegians 19, the Mardyke; Saturday, January 25, 2014: Galwegians 23 UCC 17, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
OLD WESLEY (5th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Donnybrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: W; Dolphin: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 13; Tries: Ger Finucane, Paul Harte 1 each; Dolphin: Points: Cillian Monahan, Cameron O’Shaughnessy 5 each; Tries: Cameron O’Shaughnessy 1
Preview: A big day for Old Wesley as they officially open their new pavilion and clubhouse at Donnybrook. Morgan Lennon’s men look well placed to mark the occasion with a win, especially if goal-kicking winger Barry McLaughlin continues to split the posts with regularity.
Their centre Isaac Leota from New Zealand, who teed up Paul Harte for a try against UCC, is shaping up to be a big addition to the Wesley back-line and the 4G pitch should be to his liking.
They face Cork opposition again in the form of Dolphin who will be really hurting after a 41-10 hammering by UL Bohemians. Their second row pairing of captain Dave O’Mahony and John Madigan will aim to inspire a much better showing from David Corkery’s young side.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 3, 2015: Dolphin 19 Old Wesley 24, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, February 27, 2016: Old Wesley 31 Dolphin 30, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v BALLYNAHINCH (2nd), University of Limerick 4G pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: W; Ballynahinch: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 16; Tries: Harry Fleming, Cathal Sheridan, Rick McKenna, Finbar Aherne, Jamie McNamara, Cian Aherne 1 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Sam Windsor 10; Tries: Sam Windsor 2
Preview: An intriguing early season contest between the divisional leaders after the opening round. UL Bohemians’ result against Dolphin was the most eye-catching of the day as they ran in six tries and centre Rick McKenna tallied up 16 points.
In bagging a brace of tries, Ulster’s Sam Windsor also starred in Ballynahinch’s runaway victory over Buccaneers. However, injuries and unavailability rule out Windsor, Chris Quinn, captain Mike Graham and Davy Nicholson for this trip south to Limerick.
New half-backs Johnny McPhillips and Angus Lloyd are pencilled in to start for ‘Hinch, setting up a crunch match-up with the UL Bohs pairing of Robbie Bourke and Cathal Sheridan, the former Munster player who is now a skills coach and player mentor with the UL Bohs Academy.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 14, 2012: UL Bohemians 16 Ballynahinch 20, Annacotty; Saturday, April 14, 2012: Ballynahinch 3 UL Bohemians 32, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win