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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

The top of the table encounter between Buccaneers and UL Bohemians is the headline act in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, with the meeting of promoted sides Naas and UCC also set to be a cracking contest.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYMENA (5th) v OLD WESLEY (3rd), Eaton Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WWLWL; Old Wesley: WWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 32; Tries: Mark Best, Rodger McBurney 3 each; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 75; Tries: Ger Finucane 4

Preview: Ballymena’s challenge petered out against leaders UL Bohemians last week, so lying outside of the top four, they can ill-afford another defeat as the race for promotion hots up.

Visitors Old Wesley are two places and five points ahead of the Braidmen, their latest success seeing them overhaul Galwegians in an eight-try thriller. Ace goal-kicker Barry McLaughlin topped up his excellent 75-point season’s haul with a try.

But Ballymena have given away the least points so far in the second tier, and their mean defence may hold the key to deciding this round 6 fixture.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 5, 2015: Old Wesley 15 Ballymena 21, Donnybrook; Saturday, January 2, 2016: Ballymena 48 Old Wesley 0, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

BUCCANEERS (2nd) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Dubarry Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWWWW; UL Bohemians: WWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 41; Tries: Jordan Conroy 5; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 52; Tries: Jamie McNamara 5

Preview: A top of the table clash to savour with both Buccaneers and unbeaten UL Bohs brimming with talent and confidence. Buccs will be hoping five-try winger Jordan Conroy is back from illness, setting up a potential showdown out wide with Bohs’ own scoring star Jamie McNamara (five tries).

UL dispatched one of their main promotion rivals in beating Ballymena 25-15. They hold a five-point lead at the summit and a sixth straight win could put a significant distance between them and the chasing pack.

A high-scoring and entertaining contest is in the offing in Athlone, as the high-flying Red Robins have already scored 23 tries in their five league matches with Buccs (19 tries) not far behind.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 5, 2015: UL Bohemians 20 Buccaneers 13, University of Limerick 4G pitch; Saturday, January 2, 2016: Buccaneers 18 UL Bohemians 7, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

GALWEGIANS (8th) v BALLYNAHINCH (6th), Crowley Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: LWLLL; Ballynahinch: WLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Mitch Lam 22; Tries: Aidan Moynihan, Ed O’Keeffe, Rory Parata 2 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 19; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Sam Windsor 3 each

Preview: Three of Ballynahinch’s starters from last week – Sam Windsor, Conor Joyce and Jacob Stockdale – are in the Ulster matchday squad for tonight’s Edinburgh game, along with versatile back Aaron Cairns.

Hosts Galwegians will have the more settled team. Bottling up the frustration of their 35-25 defeat at Old Wesley, Brian McClearn’s men should be primed for a big performance in Glenina.

These two clubs were relegated from the top flight last season and with both in the bottom half of the table currently, the result here could have a galvanising effect on the victors.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 28, 2015: Galwegians 33 Ballynahinch 16, Crowley Park; Saturday, January 9, 2016: Ballynahinch 33 Galwegians 16, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win

NAAS (4th) v UCC (7th), Forenaughts

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WLLWW; UCC: LLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 37; Tries: Fionn Carr 3; UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 50; Tries: Conor Barry 3

Preview: Naas are really warming to their task in Division 1B, lowering the colours of both Shannon and Ballynahinch in the past fortnight with eight tries to boot – two of them from right winger Rob O’Connor.

Before the start of the season, the fourth-placed Kildare men would have targeted this game as a ‘must win’. They came up with UCC from 2A last term having done the double on the students (34-27 at home and 20-15 at the Mardyke).

However, the Cork side have triumphed over Ballymena and Shannon in recent weeks with goal-kicker Kevin O’Keeffe (50 points) nailing some vital kicks. Captain Kevin Slater and Charlie O’Regan marshal their potent back-line.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 26, 2015: Naas 34 UCC 27, Forenaughts; Saturday, March 5, 2016: UCC 15 Naas 20, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

SHANNON (10th) v DOLPHIN (9th), Thomond Park back pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLL; Dolphin: LLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 26; Tries: Ronan McKenna, Riley Winter, Shane Mullally, Lee Nicholas 1 each; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 37; Tries: Ryan Murphy 2

Preview: Shannon and Dolphin finished sixth and seventh respectively last season and occupy the bottom two positions at present, with both sides scrapping desperately for a victory.

The presence of defence/lineout coach Tom Hayes on the pitch helped Shannon stay in the hunt against UCC until they leaked a late try. Their young out-half Conor Fitzgerald had a very good day with the boot, landing some tough kicks, but injuries are hampering their selection.

Dolphin, 31-22 losers at Buccaneers in the last round, need to tighten up their defence for this Munster derby, although their cohesive attacking play is delivering tries with six in their last three outings (including two touchdowns from skipper Ryan Murphy).

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 28, 2015: Shannon 30 Dolphin 19, Coonagh; Saturday, January 9, 2016: Dolphin 3 Shannon 13, Irish Independent Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win