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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Buccaneers will be officially crowned Division 1B champions at Dubarry Park tomorrow afternoon, while Galwegians and Dolphin are the clubs under most pressure in a relegation battle that is sure to go right down to the wire.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 15

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYMENA (8th) v SHANNON (7th), Eaton Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WWLWLLWWLDLWLLLLL; Shannon: LLLLLWLDLWWWLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Richie McMaster 65; Tries: Mark Best 5; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 65; Tries: Niall Mulcahy, Conor Glynn 4 each

Preview: Dolphin’s resurgence has drawn Ballymena and Shannon into the relegation picture, with both clubs within a five-point range of the second-from-bottom Corkmen ahead of a tense final day.

That means the winners here will be safe in Division 1B for another season and a draw would be enough for both sides. The Braidmen are battling injuries again, but the presence of Ulster’s Ross Kane will boost their front row and David Shanahan and Mark Best face late fitness tests.

Shannon have looked the more cohesive outfit in recent rounds, picking up a losing bonus point against champions Buccaneers last Saturday. Avenging September’s 25-19 defeat to Ballymena is well within their capabilities.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 27, 2016: Ballymena 30 Shannon 23, Eaton Park; Saturday, September 17, 2016: Shannon 19 Ballymena 25, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

BUCCANEERS (1st) v BALLYNAHINCH (6th), Dubarry Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWWDWWWWLWW; Ballynahinch: WLWLLWLLWWWLLLLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 136; Tries: Jordan Conroy 17; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 49; Tries: Jordan Grattan, Davy Nicholson 5 each

Preview: It was mission accomplished for Buccaneers two weeks ago and this will be their coronation as Division 1B champions, fittingly at their Athlone fortress in front of their own supporters.

Buccs have lost their last two games to Ballynahinch, including a promotion play-off twelve months ago (41-19), but they are a different animal now and they will be looking to end the campaign on a real high in what is likely to be captain Kolo Kiripati’s last game for the club.

Injuries and unavailability have hampered ‘Hinch and affected their results, with only win in their last six outings. David McGuigan and skipper Michael Graham will be absent from the back row tomorrow, but Ulster’s Peter Nelson, David Busby, Aaron Cairns and Craig Trenier are expected to feature.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 23, 2016: Promotion/relegation play-off: Ballynahinch 41 Buccaneers 19, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, September 17, 2016: Ballynahinch 35 Buccaneers 13, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

GALWEGIANS (10th) v NAAS (3rd), Crowley Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: LWLLLLLLWLLLWDLLL; Naas: WLLWWWLWLWWWLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 76; Tries: Aidan Moynihan 7; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 146; Tries: Fionn Carr, Peter Osborne, Peter Howard 6 each

Preview: Having been overhauled by Dolphin last Sunday, Galwegians are under pressure to deliver a winning performance at home to third-placed Naas who are set to contend for promotion in the play-offs.

‘Wegians have fallen to the bottom rung following three successive losses, leaving them two points behind second-from-bottom Dolphin. Even if they finish ninth, the dreaded play-offs with the Division 2A clubs await.

The westerners are hoping that their top try scorer Aidan Moynihan (7 tries) continues to find his way to the whitewash, while Naas’ in-form winger Peter Howard will be searching for his sixth try in five games.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 15, 2014: Galwegians 44 Naas 17, Crowley Park; Saturday, September 17, 2016: Naas 18 Galwegians 13, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

OLD WESLEY (4th) v UCC (5th), Donnybrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWLWWWLDWLLLWDWWL; UCC: LLWLWLWLLLWWWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: David Poff 6; UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 148; Tries: Conor Barry 5

Preview: Old Wesley’s 22-10 reversal at Dolphin last Sunday has given UCC an outside chance of squeezing into the promotion play-offs. They have a three-point gap to make up on fourth-placed Wesley.

Centre David Poff’s sixth try of the campaign was the only real highlight for Wesley, while the Cork youngsters will venture up to the capital in high spirits after edging out Galwegians in a seven-try thriller.

UCC’s ace place-kicker Kevin O’Keeffe is just ahead of Naas’ Peter Osborne – 148 points to 146 – at the top of the scoring charts entering this final round. Watch out too for the students’ out-half Charlie O’Regan who is chasing his third try in as many games.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 14, 2015: Old Wesley 34 UCC 12, Donnybrook; Saturday, September 17, 2016: UCC 20 Old Wesley 23, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v DOLPHIN (9th), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLLLWWLW; Dolphin: LLWLLLWWLLLLWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 103; Tries: Harry Fleming 8; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 95; Tries: Ryan Murphy 6

Preview: Dolphin deserve all the plaudits for a terrific run of results, chalking up three wins on the bounce. Last Sunday’s 12-point victory over Wesley was probably the best of the lot, topped off by winger Gerry Ryan’s intercept try.

They will be clinging onto the hope that another triumph, this time at second-placed UL Bohemians, could be enough to avoid automatic relegation. They could also live to fight another day in the play-offs.

Bohs have some business of their own to take care of. Second place and home advantage in the promotion play-offs is certainly a prize worth fighting for. Former Dolphin back Harry Fleming has burst into life for UL with a try in each of the last five rounds.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 5, 2016: Dolphin 16 UL Bohemians 18, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, September 17, 2016: Dolphin 10 UL Bohemians 41, Irish Independent Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win