Two of the Ulster Bank League’s form teams meet at Temple Hill tomorrow where Buccaneers stand in the way of Cork Constitution and another Bateman Cup final appearance. Up in the capital, Old Belvedere and Ballynahinch will clash in the other last-four fixture.
ULSTER BANK BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 21
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd, Div 1A) v BUCCANEERS (1st, Div 1B), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Cork Constitution: WLLWWWWWW; Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 104; Tries: Shane Daly 5; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 78; Tries: Jordan Conroy 8
Provincial Cups – Cork Constitution (Munster Senior Cup): Beat UL Bohemians 27-6; Beat Nenagh Ormond 57-10; Beat Highfield 31-15; Buccaneers (Connacht Senior Cup): Beat Sligo 75-5; Beat Corinthians 17-10 (final)
Preview: This is set up to be a humdinger of a tie with cup holders Cork Constitution riding high in the top flight and Buccaneers setting the pace in Division 1B with an impressive eight-match winning streak.
Indeed, some of the sides’ top performers this season are part of the current Ireland Sevens squad, including leading try scorers Shane Daly and Jordan Conroy who were both part of last week’s Sevens training camp in Cardiff.
As well as leading the charge for promotion, Buccs completed their first Connacht Senior League and Cup double in 10 years when they defeated Corinthians 17-10 a fortnight ago, setting up this Bateman Cup trip to Leeside.
Provincial ‘A’ matches will rob both Con and Buccs of some key men – centre Daly and Pirates locks Cian Romaine and Daniel Qualter among them – but there is strength in depth in the respective squads overseen by coaches Brian Hickey and Brett Wilkinson.
Promising Under-20 scrum half Frankie Hopkins is set to feature for the Athlone outfit along with the fit-again Rory O’Connor and powerful captain Kolo Kiripati. Out-half Alan Gaughan has been in rejuvenated form and his kicking duel with Constitution star Tomas Quinlan could be a key contest.
As talented a bunch as Buccs are, Con’s cup pedigree – tested severely by Highfield in extra-time in last week’s Cork Charity Cup final – is something they are hugely proud of. They are chasing an unprecedented fifth Bateman Cup title in a row and home advantage should aid their passage through to another All-Ireland decider.
Recent Meeting – Saturday, March 21, 2015: Bateman Cup semi-final: Buccaneers 25 Cork Constitution 36, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
OLD BELVEDERE (6th, Div 1A) v BALLYNAHINCH (6th, Div 1B), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLLW; Ballynahinch: WLWLLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Willie Staunton 54; Tries: Shane McDonald 3; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 41; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Sam Windsor, Davy Nicholson 3 each
Provincial Cups – Old Belvedere (Leinster Senior League Cup): Beat Old Wesley 18-16; Beat Terenure College 16-11; Beat UCD 19-10; Beat Lansdowne 16-13 (final); Ballynahinch (Ulster Senior Cup): Beat Rainey Old Boys 20-11; Beat Banbridge 32-5; Beat Dungannon 27-10 (final)
Preview: Both sitting sixth in their respective divisions, Old Belvedere and Ballynahinch are targeting a New Year cup boost ahead of next week’s resumption of the Ulster Bank League in the top two tiers.
Ballynahinch fell at this hurdle last season, losing 35-31 away to Galwegians, and were also beaten by Clontarf in a 2015 semi-final. Indeed, there has been no Ulster presence in a Bateman Cup final since Ballymena contested the 2012 decider.
Leinster Senior League Cup winners Belvedere would also love to break up Munster’s dominance of this competition, and after struggling for results in Division 1A for a spell, they overcame St. Mary’s 15-0 in early December and began 2017 with a 26-12 Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final win over UCD last Sunday.
‘Belvo have a strong forward platform, led by tighthead Declan Lavery and number 8 David Sherry, and Daniel Riordan, top try scorer Shane McDonald and David Brandon, who bagged a brace against Mary’s, offer a considerable attacking threat in the back-three.
Although disappointed to lose the services of their own number 3 Jonny Simpson, who will make his first start for Ulster tomorrow, Ballynahinch are hugely proud of the strides he has made. They are also hit hard by Ulster ‘A’ call-ups, with David Busby, Johnny McPhillips, John Donnan, Conor Joyce and Lorcan Dow among the absentees this weekend.
The Co. Down outfit do have some potential match winners in ace goal-kicker Chris Quinn and experienced centre Stuart Morrow, and the back row battle will certainly have some added spice with former ‘Hinch captain Paul Pritchard now lining out for Belvedere.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 3, 2015: Ballynahinch 24 Old Belvedere 34, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 27, 2016: Old Belvedere 19 Ballynahinch 14, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
– The final is scheduled for the weekend of April 29/30
(i) If teams are tied at full-time, extra-time of 10 minutes each way will be played
(ii) If still tied, the team that has scored the most tries will be the winners
(iii) If still tied, the away team will be declared the winners
Clubs may tog out up to seven replacements for both the semi-finals and the final and rolling substitutions will apply.
All-Ireland Cup Champions’ Roll Of Honour:
2015/16 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2014/15 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2013/14 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2012/13 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2011/12 – Garryowen (Bateman Cup)
2010/11 – Bruff (Bateman Cup)
2009/10 – Cork Constitution
2008/09 – Ballynahinch
2007/08 – Shannon
2006/07 – Garryowen
2005/06 – Cork Constitution