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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

New leaders Buccaneers’ visit to third-placed Old Wesley and an eagerly-awaited Limerick derby between UL Bohemians and Shannon are the games that will command most of the attention in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 12

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v UCC (7th), Ballymacarn Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWLLW; UCC: LLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 29; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Sam Windsor 3 each; UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 56; Tries: Conor Barry 3

Preview: Boasted by their comeback win away to Galwegians, Ballynahinch showed plenty of character to get back to winning ways with Ulster prospects John Donnan and Jonny Murphy both impressing up front.

‘Hinch are without Johnny McPhillips and David Busby this weekend due to Ireland Under-20 and Sevens camps, but Michael Graham and James Simpson are back for the visit of UCC who are on the road for the second week running.

The Cork students were held try-less by Naas. Their ace place-kicker Kevin O’Keeffe has contributed 56 of their 111 points so far, and ‘Hinch’s greater scoring spread – they have averaged 29 points per game in the last three rounds – should see them through.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 29, 2011: Ballynahinch 31 UCC 11, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 11, 2012: UCC 13 Ballynahinch 12, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

DOLPHIN (10th) v NAAS (4th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLLL; Naas: WLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 42; Tries: Ryan Murphy 2; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 42; Tries: Fionn Carr 3

Preview: A hugely frustrating final quarter saw Dolphin lose their grip on a winning lead against Shannon, a big setback given they have only picked up one win and one losing bonus point in the opening six rounds.

They had the experienced 10-12 axis of Barry Keeshan and Denis Hurley in Limerick, and the pair could have a big say in this result with Hurley set to line out against his former Munster team-mate, Naas player-coach Johne Murphy.

Murphy has the Kildare men playing some great stuff, their ability to score late on proving decisive in two of their recent outings. With Old Wesley playing Buccaneers, another victory for Naas could enhance their top four standing.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

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

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: LWLLLL; Ballymena: WWLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Mitch Lam 22; Tries: Cormac Brennan, Rory Parata 3 each; Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 32; Tries: Mark Best, Rodger McBurney 3 each

Preview: Neither side would have envisaged being in the bottom half of the table a third of the way into the season. Galwegians have been guilty of a couple of alarming collapses, ruining some fine first half work.

They have chalked up six bonus points already, including two against ‘Hinch last time out. Connacht centre Rory Parata has run in three tries in his last two appearances for the Blues.

Prop Andrew Warwick, who penned a new contract with Ulster this week, will start for Ballymena who are bidding to end a two-game losing streak. Their provisional starting line-up also including Alan O’Connor and Stephen Mulholland up front and Dave Shanahan and Mark Best in the backs.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 1, 2014: Galwegians 22 Ballymena 23, Crowley Park; Saturday, February 21, 2015: Ballymena 17 Galwegians 25, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

OLD WESLEY (3rd) v BUCCANEERS (1st), Donnybrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWLWWW; Buccaneers: LWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 82; Tries: Ger Finucane 4; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 42; Tries: Jordan Conroy 7

Preview: This should be a belter of a game. Old Wesley and Buccaneers both registered five wins in the first six rounds, with the swashbuckling Pirates holding a narrow lead at the summit.

Buccs are on a revenge mission after letting Wesley off the hook in a 42-38 defeat at Donnybrook last season, an encounter in which Shane Layden and David Butler both suffered cruciate injuries on the 4G pitch.

Wesley’s four-try display at Ballymena showed their clinical edge, but the Athlone outfit, with winger Jordan Conroy now on seven tries, have the pace and power to win what should be a close contest.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 19, 2015: Old Wesley 42 Buccaneers 38, Donnybrook; Saturday, April 2, 2016: Buccaneers 25 Old Wesley 9, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v SHANNON (9th), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWWWL; Shannon: LLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 52; Tries: Jamie McNamara 5; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 33; Tries: Ronan McKenna, Riley Winter, Shane Mullally, Lee Nicholas, Conor Glynn, Richie Mullane 1 each

Preview: A Limerick derby with plenty riding on the result. UL Bohemians’ winning run came to a shuddering halt away to Buccaneers so it is vital that they bounce back quickly, while Shannon will be hugely keen to build on their maiden victory at home to Dolphin.

Form does go out the window in a local derby clash, but Marcus Horan’s men will have to work extremely hard to negate the 17-point differential between themselves and second-placed Bohs in the league standings.

The UL backs will be hoping for a better return after a quiet day against Buccs, while their forwards have shown a try-scoring touch with hooker David Rowsome notching a couple of well-taken scores.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, October 16, 2015: UL Bohemians 12 Shannon 14, Thomond Park; Friday, February 19, 2016: Shannon 22 UL Bohemians 25, Thomond Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win