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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

It is first plays third in Ulster Bank League Division 1B on Saturday as pacesetters UL Bohemians put their unbeaten run on the line against Ballymena. Two of the other games are in Cork, including second-placed Buccaneers’ visit to battling Dolphin.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v NAAS (6th), Ballymacarn Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWL; Naas: WLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips, Jordan Grattan 15 each; Tries: Jordan Grattan 3; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 26; Tries: Fionn Carr 2

Preview: Two wins at home and two defeats on the road so far for Ballynahinch, who most recently took a step closer to an Ulster Senior Cup three in-a-row by reaching next month’s semi-finals.

Naas will be undaunted by the trip to Co. Down having already picked up a losing bonus point at Ballymena and registering a 14-10 win at Shannon last time out.

Although still hampered by injuries, ‘Hinch will have a number of players back from Ulster ‘A’ duty (including scrum half Angus Lloyd, tighthead Craig Trenier and lock John Donnan). That strength in depth, combined with home advantage, should see them come out on top against Johne Murphy’s men.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

DOLPHIN (9th) v BUCCANEERS (2nd), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWL; Buccaneers: LWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 30; Tries: Cameron O’Shaughnessy, Barry Fitzgerald, Dave O’Mahony, Karl Keogh, Ryan Murphy 1 each; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 34; Tries: Jordan Conroy 5

Preview: Buccaneers go on the Halloween hunt in Cork, eager to avenge last season’s two defeats to Dolphin. The hosts triumphed 24-23 at this venue almost a year to the day, with Munster’s Rory Scannell kicking four penalties.

While Scannell has since pushed on with the province, assistant coach Barry Keeshan’s left boot remains as accurate as ever, the veteran out-half garnering 28 points in his last two games.

However, if influential forwards Saba Meunargia and Rory Moloney are passed fit, and Buccs provide the division’s leading try scorer Jordan Conroy (five tries) with enough ball, the Athlone men should claim their fourth victory in a row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2015: Dolphin 24 Buccaneers 23, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, February 6, 2016: Buccaneers 22 Dolphin 32, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

OLD WESLEY (4th) v GALWEGIANS (7th), Donnybrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWLW; Galwegians: LWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 55; Tries: Ger Finucane 4; Galwegians: Points: Mitch Lam 22; Tries: Aidan Moynihan 2

Preview: Galwegians gave a really good account of themselves against leaders UL Bohemians in the previous round, a dominant final quarter including a try from debutant winger Matthew Quinn.

It is a performance to build on, particularly with their Connacht Eagles players returning from British & Irish Cup action. Their hosts Old Wesley were 34-33 winners on ‘Wegians’ last visit to Donnybrook in November 2012 when brothers Conor and Ivan Muldoon were in the westerners’ pack.

Wesley had a similar result two weeks ago, beating Ballynahinch 35-32 in a rip-roaring contest. They have the firepower to keep up their winning form on home soil, especially with the division’s top scorer Barry McLaughlin (55 points) and four-try centre Ger Finucane converting chances.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 3, 2012: Old Wesley 34 Galwegians 33, Donnybrook; Saturday, October 5, 2013: Galwegians 32 Old Wesley 13, Crowley Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

UCC (8th) v SHANNON (10th), the Mardyke

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LLWL; Shannon: LLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 38; Tries: Conor Barry 3; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 26; Tries: Ronan McKenna, Riley Winter, Shane Mullally, Lee Nicholas 1 each

Preview: A week on from Shannon legend Anthony Foley’s emotional send-off, the Parish club return to league action with a huge desire to end their current losing streak.

Beating teams in the lower reaches is a must if Shannon are to rid themselves of the basement tag. With three losing bonus points in the bank, a win over UCC could see them climb above the students and get a timely jolt of confidence.

UCC will not be too welcoming, though, as Ballymena found out to their detriment four weeks ago. The Cork youngsters, who have flanker Conor Barry (three tries) as their top try scorer, need a much-improved defensive display after leaking 49 points to Buccs last time out.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v BALLYMENA (3rd), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWW; Ballymena: WWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 47; Tries: Jamie McNamara 4; Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 32; Tries: Mark Best 3

Preview: Two central figures for both clubs during the first four rounds will be missing tomorrow, UL Bohemians’ talismanic scrum half Cathal Sheridan (fractured leg) and Ballymena’s top-scoring centre Mark Best who injured his thumb in B&I Cup action for Ulster ‘A’.

Key for the third-placed Braidmen will be cutting off the supply of ball to UL’s exciting back-line who, between them, have run in 15 tries in 320 minutes of rugby.

The quality of Ballymena’s pack, including Ulster’s Adam McBurney, Connor Smyth and Stephen Mulholland, could swing the forwards battle in their favour, but UL’s enviable attacking armoury should guide them to win number five. Kiwi top scorer Rick McKenna moves to scrum half to replace Sheridan, with Robbie Bourke in the number 10 shirt.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 28, 2015: Ballymena 15 UL Bohemians 5, Eaton Park; Saturday, January 9, 2016: UL Bohemians 15 Ballymena 17, Annacotty

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win