The focus of Ireland and Munster fans is on events in Edinburgh this weekend, but there is plenty of high quality Ulster Bank League action to whet appetites tonight with three Dublin derbies in the capital along with the mouth-watering rematch of Limerick rivals Garryowen and Young Munster.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Friday, February 3
Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated –
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CLONTARF (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WLLWLLLWWW; Terenure College: LLWLLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Rob Keogh 77; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 6; Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 63; Tries: Marc Hiney 4
Preview: Mick McGrath was back with a bang last Saturday, running in a quartet of tries to continue Clontarf’s dominance over Trinity. The defending champions won their two games on an aggregate of 62-0.
Given their current plight, a fired-up Terenure side should provide a stiff test under the Castle Avenue floodlights. Last week’s 27-17 win over Garryowen was a galvanising result, with centre Marc Hiney scoring his fourth try in as many games.
‘Tarf had eight points to spare when they beat ‘Nure in late November and they should have the forward power to complete the double, boosted by hooker Jason Harris-Wright who recently returned to his former club.
Recent League Meeting – Friday, February 5, 2016: Clontarf 18 Terenure College 14, Castle Avenue; Friday, November 25, 2016: Terenure College 13 Clontarf 21, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
GARRYOWEN (5th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (2nd), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWWLLLWWWL; Young Munster: LWWLWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 81; Tries: David Johnston, Liam Coombes, Steven McMahon, Andrew O’Byrne, Hugh O’Brien-Cunningham 3 each; Young Munster: Points: David O’Mahony 72; Tries: Rob Guerin, Jack Harrington 4 each
Preview: The absence of Calvin Nash, who will make his Munster debut tonight, and Dan Goggin will hit the Young Munster back-line – one which thwarted leaders Lansdowne’s highly-regarded attack last week.
However, Cookies boss Gearoid Prendergast has plenty of talent across his squad and the timely return of second row and captain Sean Duggan will aid them in their bid to overturn November’s 13-11 derby defeat to Garryowen.
The Light Blues’ discipline let them down at Terenure, three yellow cards proved particularly costly, and Conan Doyle’s charges know a strong scrum and low penalty count will be vital against vengeful Munsters.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, April 1, 2016: Garryowen 8 Young Munster 14, Dooradoyle; Friday, November 25, 2016: Young Munster 11 Garryowen 13, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
LANSDOWNE (1st) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WWLLWWWWWL; St. Mary’s College: LWLWWLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 105; Tries: Daniel McEvoy, Alan Bennie 4 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 47; Tries: David Fanagan 3
Preview: Scott Deasy had an off-day with the boot against Young Munster, but Lansdowne’s league record points scorer will not mind seeing the blue jerseys of St. Mary’s again. Back in November, he slotted eight out of nine attempts at Templeville Road.
Deasy’s 20-point haul that night came in a 45-21 bonus point win and Mike Ruddock will want to get his back-line purring after they were stifled by second-placed Young Munster last time out.
St. Mary’s drew plenty of encouragement from their 27-18 dismissal of Old Belvedere, driven on by man-of-the-match Dave Fanagan’s dynamic play from out-half and their Brian McGovern-inspired pack. But Lansdowne should prove too strong on their home patch.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 20, 2014: Lansdowne 16 St. Mary’s College 10, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Friday, November 25, 2016: St. Mary’s College 21 Lansdowne 45, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v UCD (7th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWWWLLLWL; UCD: LWLLLWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Willie Staunton 62; Tries: Shane McDonald 4; UCD: Points: Cillian Burke 27; Tries: Jamie Glynn, Tommy O’Brien, Tom Fletcher 4 each
Preview: Stretched by injuries and provincial and now Ireland Under-20 call-ups, UCD’s form has been understandably inconsistent of late but their halting of Cork Constitution’s winning run last week was hugely impressive.
Great work in defence and at lineout time, combined with some clinical finishing from Stephen Murphy and Leinster ‘A’ captain Peadar Timmins, saw them take a 17-3 verdict. So their confidence is up for this trip to nearby Anglesea Road.
Four losses in their last five league matches have shoved Belvedere down to sixth place, just above the students. The home support should inspire a much-improved performance from them and maybe another try from their top scorer Shane McDonald (4 tries), who ran in a fantastic solo effort against Mary’s in round 10.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 2, 2016: Old Belvedere 6 UCD 23, Anglesea Road; Friday, November 25, 2016: UCD 23 Old Belvedere 11, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th), Temple Hill, Saturday, February 4, 4.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WLLWWWWWWL; Dublin University: WLWWWLWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 107; Tries: Shane Daly 5; Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 65; Tries: Colm Hogan 6
Preview: Cork Constitution will be determined to right the wrongs of last week’s 17-3 reversal at UCD, the Leesiders losing for the first time in seven rounds and also suffering a rare try drought.
Just like UCD, Dublin University are attempting to emerge from a very testing winter period. They have lost four of their last five league matches and Ireland Under-20 debutants Jack Kelly and Colm Hogan are now away on international duty.
Constitution had 20 points to spare over Trinity in November’s meeting in the capital and they look odds-on to complete the double – unless Tony Smeeth’s youngsters can recapture their best form.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 26, 2016: Dublin University 10 Cork Constitution 30, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win