Ulster Bank League clubs around the country have their fingers crossed for dry weather conditions tomorrow. In Division 1B, leaders Buccaneers will put their 13-match unbeaten run to the test against a skilful UCC side.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 11
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ulster Bank League Results Service: Send UBL to 51444. To unsubscribe send the word STOP to 0876445950. Search #UBL on Twitter for club updates.
BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v OLD WESLEY (4th), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWLLWLLWWWLL; Old Wesley: WWLWWWLDWLLLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 49; Tries: Jordan Grattan 5; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: Ger Finucane, Paul Harte 4 each
Preview: Two successive defeats and then the postponement of last week’s match against Naas mean Ballynahinch have precious little momentum to take into this game with Old Wesley.
They are short a number of players due to the British & Irish Cup quarter-final involving Ulster ‘A’, but ‘Hinch have Craig Trenier back at tighthead prop and seconds player Ryan Wilson is getting a run at outside centre.
Morgan Lennon’s Old Wesley, who drew at Galwegians last Saturday, won 35-32 when hosting ‘Hinch in October and they should have the firepower to push further clear in fourth place.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Old Wesley 35 Ballynahinch 32, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
DOLPHIN (10th) v BALLYMENA (6th), Irish Independent Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLLLWWLLLLWL; Ballymena: WWLWLLWWLDLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 61; Tries: Ryan Murphy 5; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 48; Tries: Rodger McBurney, Mark Best, James Beattie 4 each
Preview: Dolphin gave a very good account of themselves against leaders Buccaneers in round 14. The 19-5 scoreline does not tell the full tale as the Corkmen missed 11 points via kicks as Barry Keeshan and Cian McGovern both miscued off the tee.
Only eight points separated Dolphin from Ballymena in their October meeting, so home advantage and a better conversion rate in the red zone should aid them in their Division 1B plight.
Mixed form and injuries have played their part in the Braidmen slipping down to sixth. They have 17 backs unavailable this week, including captain Martin Irwin and Ulster’s Dave Shanahan and Brett Herron. Ritchie McMaster and Glenn Baillie will start at half-back with Matthew Norris and Daryl Montgomery in the centre.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 2, 2016: Ballymena 22 Dolphin 23, Eaton Park; Saturday, October 8, 2016: Ballymena 24 Dolphin 16, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win
NAAS (3rd) v SHANNON (8th), Forenaughts
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WLLWWWLWLWWWL; Shannon: LLLLLWLDLWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 110; Tries: Fionn Carr 6; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 48; Tries: Niall Mulcahy 4
Preview: Without a match last week, Naas have not played since losing 16-13 at UCC three weeks ago. UL Bohemians have leapfrogged them into second, so they need a good response here against Shannon.
Their player-coach Johne Murphy and top-scoring scrum half Peter Osborne (110 points) will be on Ireland Club International duty next week as assistant coach and a first-time squad member.
Buoyed by their home win over UCC, Shannon are sure to give it their all but Munster ‘A’ and Ireland Under-20 commitments mean their back-line is severely depleted. Stephen and Conor Fitzgerald, Greg O’Shea and Jack Stafford are all unavailable.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Shannon 10 Naas 14, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win
UCC (7th) v BUCCANEERS (1st), the Mardyke
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LLWLWLWLLLWWWL; Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWWDWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 120; Tries: Conor Barry 5; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 121; Tries: Jordan Conroy 14
Preview: If October’s game is anything to go by, the crowd at the Mardyke can expect plenty of attack-minded rugby and scores. Buccaneers came out on top, 49-36, in Athlone with the division’s top try scorer Jordan Conroy (14 tries) bagging a brace.
One more win should be enough to seal automatic promotion for the Pirates. They hope to have Alan Gaughan back after an injury at training last week, while Connacht Academy prop Jamie Dever is a solid recent addition to the front row.
UCC have a canny knack of turning over higher-placed sides at home and their back-line can be very potent. Full-back Richard Walsh and out-half Tom Kiersey have both scored three tries in their last three outings.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Buccaneers 49 UCC 36, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v GALWEGIANS (9th), University of Limerick 4G pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLLLW; Galwegians: LWLLLLLLWLLLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 101; Tries: Finbar Aherne 6; Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 58; Tries: Cormac Brennan, Aidan Moynihan 6 each
Preview: One win in their last four and one win in their last five respectively. Results have been particularly hard to come by for both UL Bohemians and Galwegians of late.
It is Bohs’ early season exploits that have them still in the mix for promotion. Last week’s much-needed 30-23 victory over Ballymena, which saw Kiwi Rick McKenna pass the 100-point mark for the campaign, moved them back into second place.
Connacht Eagles-capped full-back Aidan Moynihan had a try-scoring contribution in Galwegians’ round 14 draw with Old Wesley, taking his tally for the season to six. He also touched down in October’s 27-23 loss to UL.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 10, 2015: UL Bohemians 15 Galwegians 18, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, October 8, 2016: Galwegians 23 UL Bohemians 27, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win