Buccaneers have the Division 1B title wrapped up a couple of rounds early, but there is still plenty to sort out in terms of the top four and relegation.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BALLYNAHINCH (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (2nd), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWLLWLLWWWLLLLW; UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLLLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 49; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Davy Nicholson 5 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 103; Tries: Harry Fleming 7
Preview: Although the title race is over, second-placed UL Bohemians still have home advantage in the promotion play-offs to play for, with Old Wesley on the same 47-point total.
Ballynahinch’s dramatic win at Naas last week has pushed them up to sixth and away from relegation trouble. Injured duo Justin Rea and Jonny Blair will miss the rest of the season, with Ben Cullen and Blane McIlroy replacing them tomorrow.
The Red Robins outscored ‘Hinch by six tries to three when they hosted them back in round 2. Winger Jamie McNamara bagged two tries in that 38-22 win.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2012: Ballynahinch 3 UL Bohemians 32, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, September 24, 2016: UL Bohemians 38 Ballynahinch 22, University of Limerick 4G pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
NAAS (4th) v BALLYMENA (7th), Forenaughts
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WLLWWWLWLWWWLWLL; Ballymena: WWLWLLWWLDLWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 138; Tries: Fionn Carr, Peter Osborne 6 each; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 65; Tries: Mark Best 5
Preview: Naas’ 16-14 defeat to Ballynahinch was tough to take – David McGuigan’s late try saw them pipped to the post – and they entertain Ulster opposition for the second week running.
The Kildare men are fighting off UCC for the final play-off spot, with back-three regulars Peter Osborne and Peter Howard combining for six of the club’s last nine tries.
Ulster have released Dave Shanahan, Adam McBurney and Conall Boomer to start for visitors Ballymena, with Josh McIlroy, who impressed for the Ireland Students team against England, set to feature at outside centre.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 30, 2013: Naas 14 Ballymena 18, Forenaughts; Saturday, September 24, 2016: Ballymena 15 Naas 8, Eaton Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win
SHANNON (8th) v BUCCANEERS (1st), Thomond Park back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLLWLDLWWWLWLW; Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWWDWWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 57; Tries: Niall Mulcahy, Conor Glynn 4 each; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 136; Tries: Jordan Conroy 17
Preview: A week before they receive the Division 1B silverware, champions Buccaneers meet a Shannon side that are not quite out of the relegation mire yet.
With a safety net of seven points currently, Shannon are chasing their sixth win in eight league matches since Tom Hayes took the coaching reins.
The Limerick men look a much more cohesive team compared to the one that lost 27-3 in Athlone back in September, although Buccs will probably have too much for them again.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 16, 2016: Shannon 23 Buccaneers 12, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, September 24, 2016: Buccaneers 27 Shannon 3, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
UCC (5th) v GALWEGIANS (9th), the Mardyke
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LLWLWLWLLLWWWLWW; Galwegians: LWLLLLLLWLLLWDLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 139; Tries: Conor Barry 5; Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 71; Tries: Cormac Brennan, Aidan Moynihan 6 each
Preview: Tight wins over Buccaneers and Ballymena have UCC making a late charge for the play-offs. Naas, who hold a five-point lead, are in their sights.
The students have benefited from the place-kicking accuracy of the division’s top scorer Kevin O’Keeffe, whose 139 points amounts to 47% of UCC’s overall haul.
Near misses are dotted throughout Galwegians’ campaign. Encouragingly, the relegation-threatened westerners were 31-14 winners over the Corkmen in September, and a successful trip to the Mardyke could spark a late season revival.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2014: Galwegians 23 UCC 17, Crowley Park; Saturday, September 24, 2016: Galwegians 31 UCC 14, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
DOLPHIN (10th) v OLD WESLEY (3rd), Irish Independent Park, Sunday, April 9
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLLLWWLLLLWLWW; Old Wesley: WWLWWWLDWLLLWDWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 88; Tries: Ryan Murphy 6; Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: David Poff 5
Preview: They may still be bottom of the table, but Dolphin are finding form at just the right time, posting three wins in the last four rounds.
It has taken a massive collective effort but out-half Barry Keeshan (31 points in those four games) and number 8 Ryan Murphy (three tries) have stood out for their scoring contributions.
Old Wesley are bound for the play-offs, aided by centre David Poff’s five tries in his last four outings, and had 11 points to spare when they hosted Dolphin in round 2.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 27, 2016: Old Wesley 31 Dolphin 30, Donnybrook; Saturday, September 24, 2016: Old Wesley 21 Dolphin 10, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win