It is tight at the top and bottom of Ulster Bank League Division 1A as the action resumes tonight with four ‘Friday Night Lights’ fixtures, including a heavyweight Limerick derby and three all-Dublin clashes.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Friday, November 25
Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated –
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ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWLWWLL; Lansdowne: WWLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 47; Tries: David Fanagan, Terry Kennedy, Darren Moroney, Cathal O’Flaherty, Ryan O’Loughlin 2 each; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 70; Tries: Joe McSwiney, John O’Donnell, Alan Bennie 3 each
Preview: It will be interesting to see what impact the recent break in fixtures has on these sides, mid-table St. Mary’s having lost their last two games by tight margins and Lansdowne winning three on the bounce to rise to second overall.
Lansdowne’s strength in depth is pushing through in timely fashion, ex-Buccaneer Jacob Walshe and Under-20 number 8 Paul Boyle shining in a superb pack effort against UCD (45-10) along with rock-solid lock Willie Earle who has now made 101 league appearances for the club.
10 tries scored in 160 minutes of rugby tells you how well the St. Mary’s attack is faring. It is their defending that really needs to sharpen up. Injuries and player unavailability remain issues for Jamie Cornett’s men who are winless at home, seven rounds in.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 7, 2014: St. Mary’s College 20 Lansdowne 38, Templeville Road; Saturday, December 20, 2014: Lansdowne 16 St. Mary’s College 10, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v CLONTARF (8th), Lakelands Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LLWLLLL; Clontarf: WLLWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 54; Tries: Jake Swaine, James O’Neill 3 each; Clontarf: Points: Rob Keogh 57; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 4
Preview: Terenure College and Clontarf are both going through difficult periods at the moment. The pair clashed in the 2015 Division 1A semi-finals but are currently taking up two of the bottom three rungs in the table.
Clontarf could do with a dose of Mick McGrath magic, the hirsute winger having returned to action in their round 7 defeat at Cork Constitution. A win by any margin at Lakelands would suffice for the results-starved north Dubliners.
Terenure have lost their last four on the bounce, their luck deserting them at times and especially against Young Munster last time out. Key back rowers James O’Neill and Kyle McCoy, this season’s captain, are setting high standards that their team-mates must match.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, October 30, 2015: Terenure College 3 Clontarf 13, Lakelands Park; Friday, February 5, 2016: Clontarf 18 Terenure College 14, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
UCD (9th) v OLD BELVEDERE (5th), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCD: LWLLLWL; Old Belvedere: WLWWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Cillian Burke 27; Tries: Jamie Glynn 4; Old Belvedere: Points: Willie Staunton 51; Tries: Shane McDonald 3
Preview: UCD endured a 35-point hammering by Lansdowne in the previous round, but would have been much closer had they finished a series of promising attacks. In the end, a superb dummy and sprint through from captain Jamie Glynn – his fourth try of the campaign – was their only five-pointer.
Like the students, Old Belvedere fell two places in the standings after a frustrating 27-7 home loss to Trinity. If they cut down on the turnovers and have Steve Crosbie back in the side, ‘Belvo might just avenge last season’s 20-12 reversal at Belfield.
UCD’s Bowl has been a hive of activity this month, including the hosting of three Ireland Women’s internationals, and another sizable crowd is expected tonight with student card holders admitted free of charge, and free Christmas-themed food on offer.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 5, 2015: UCD 20 Old Belvedere 12, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, January 2, 2016: Old Belvedere 6 UCD 23, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (1st) v GARRYOWEN (7th), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LWWLWWW; Garryowen: LWWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: David O’Mahony 65; Tries: Rob Guerin 4; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 56; Tries: David Johnston 3
Preview: Given the positions of these Limerick rivals in the table, you could chalk this down as a comfortable home win. But Garryowen showed in their 43-38 bonus point win over St. Mary’s that they will fight tooth and nail for a result.
Sam Arnold, who will make his Munster debut tomorrow, and David Johnston were the pick of their backs behind a resilient pack. However, Garryowen’s maul defence let them down at times and that is an area the table-topping Cookies are sure to target, with scrum half Rob Guerin (four tries) also waiting to pounce.
Last season’s corresponding fixture ended in a 16-all draw, hooker Liam McMahon’s try bringing Garryowen level in the final 10 minutes. The Light Blues lost April’s rematch 14-8, with winger Michael Vaughan’s late intercept score settling the issue.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, September 18, 2015: Young Munster 16 Garryowen 16, Tom Clifford Park; Friday, April 1, 2016: Garryowen 8 Young Munster 14, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), College Park, Saturday, November 26, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: WLWWWLW; Cork Constitution: WLLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 65; Tries: Colm Hogan 5; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 69; Tries: Shane Daly 5
Preview: This would be a brilliant appetiser to take in before Ireland’s 5.30pm clash with Australia. Just scoring difference has third-placed Trinity ahead of visitors Cork Constitution in the top flight standings.
Constitution’s form is marginally better with four wins in a row, out-half Tomas Quinlan (69 points) and full-back Shane Daly (5 tries) continuing to excel in the scoring stakes. Jack McDermott (65 points) and Colm Hogan (5 tries) have made similar contributions for the students so far.
Tony Smeeth’s youngsters were hugely impressive in eclipsing current leaders Young Munster (27-7) last time out and if they can hit the heights of that performance again, they should claim another big scalp from the south.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win