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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Tonight’s Cork derby between UCC and Dolphin kicks off the Ulster Bank League Division 1B fare this weekend, with former leaders UL Bohemians’ trip to promotion rivals Naas the pick of Saturday’s fixtures.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 26

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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UCC (7th) v DOLPHIN (9th), the Mardyke, Friday, November 25, 7.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LLWLWLW; Dolphin: LLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 61; Tries: Conor Barry, Chris McAuliffe 3 each; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 42; Tries: Ryan Murphy 2

Preview: Cork rivals UCC and Dolphin may be in the bottom half of the table, but their inspirational defensive stands against Ballynahinch and Naas respectively show they should be closer to the division’s business end.

As well as winning 15-10 away to ‘Hinch in round 7, UCC have beaten both Ballymena and Shannon at their Mardyke base, while Dolphin, who were five-point winners against Naas, are yet to win away from home this season.

Tries have been hard to come by for both sides – UCC with two in their last outings and Dolphin just one – so it could be left to UCC’s top scorer Kevin O’Keeffe (61 points) and whomever Dolphin have on kicking duty (Cian McGovern and Cillian Monahan both kicked in Barry Keeshan’s absence a fortnight ago) to decide the outcome of this floodlit derby.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win

NAAS (5th) v UL BOHEMIANS (2nd), Forenaughts

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WLLWWWL; UL Bohemians: WWWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 47; Tries: Fionn Carr 4; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 56; Tries: Jamie McNamara 5

Preview: A big test for both sides as Naas look to bounce back into the top four and UL Bohemians try to match the efforts of new leaders Buccaneers who were 24-16 winners at Forenaughts last month.

The fifth-placed Kildare men have been grinding out results as the division’s third lowest scorers, but they will need to take as many chances as possible against Bohs who are averaging 27 points per game.

Naas player-coach Johne Murphy said: “It was a disappointing one for us down in Dolphin in the last round. But we’re still in the hunt, so if we can kick on and win these last two games before Christmas, we’re right in the mix going forward into next year.”

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

BALLYNAHINCH (6th) v BALLYMENA (4th), Ballymacarn Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWLLWL; Ballymena: WWLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 29; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Sam Windsor 3 each; Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 37; Tries: Rodger McBurney, Mark Best 4 each

Preview: Ballynahinch have struggled noticeably at home in the league this season, a run of three defeats in their last four games seeing them slip down into the bottom half of the table.

‘Hinch, who advanced to another Ulster Senior Cup final last week, certainly have the players to challenge for promotion. Injuries rule out Aaron Cairns, John Donnan and Lorcan Dow, but the Ulster trio of Sam Windsor, Johnny McPhillips and David Busby should feature in the backs.

Ballymena got back to winning ways in a thrilling 69-point contest with Galwegians, and they look to have the stronger squad for this Ulster derby, with Kieran Treadwell and captain David Whann combining in the second row and the fit-again Ritchie McMaster, who kicked 15 crucial points against ‘Wegians, joining Dave Shanahan at half-back.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 17, 2012: Ballymena 24 Ballynahinch 43, Eaton Park; Saturday, February 23, 2013: Ballynahinch 66 Ballymena 5, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

SHANNON (10th) v OLD WESLEY (3rd), Coonagh

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLLWL; Old Wesley: WWLWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 33; Tries: Riley Winter, Shane Mullally 2 each; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 89; Tries: Ger Finucane 4

Preview: Coonagh is the venue for Shannon’s fourth home fixture of the league season. Marcus Horan’s young side started the month with a 17-10 dismissal of Dolphin and they are hoping to end it by upsetting third-placed Old Wesley.

November has been a positive period for the Parish club with five points gained from their last two outings. Wesley, though, might have too much quality, especially if ace place-kicker Barry McLaughlin (89 points) pushed past the century mark.

Looking to rebound from a 27-point hammering by Buccs, Morgan Lennon’s charges are tough to live with when they put their chances away. Indeed, Wesley have picked up three try-scoring bonus points in the last four rounds.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2015: Shannon 25 Old Wesley 17, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, February 6, 2016: Old Wesley 20 Shannon 18, Donnybrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win