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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

The latest round of Ulster Bank League Division 1B matches is launched tonight with an Ulster derby between Ballymena and unbeaten Banbridge and a Dublin 4 duel between Old Belvedere and Old Wesley.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYMENA (8th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Eaton Park, tonight, 7.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WLL; Banbridge: WDW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Brett Herron 17; Tries: Rodger McBurney 2; Banbridge: Points: Ian Porter 38; Tries: Tom Caesar, Andrew Morrison 2 each

Preview: Unbeaten Banbridge visit Ballymena in Division 1B’s first Friday Night Lights fixture of the season, with Ulster’s Brett Herron and David Shanahan piloting the hosts from half-back.

The Braidmen have slipped to back-to-back defeats and have been regular visitors to the ‘naughty step’ with nine yellow cards in the opening three rounds. Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain Angus Kernohan is set for his second league start on the wing, with Ulster’s Adam McBurney and Clive Ross bolstering the pack.

Robert Lyttle returns on the wing for Bann whose head coach Daniel Soper said: “We’ve already hit our target for points for the first block of four games with Ballymena still to come. They could well have their Ulster half-backs playing and we know the impact that Ian Porter and Michael Lowry have had on our team. So, we’re ready for a tough game.”

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 23, 2013: Ballymena 15 Banbridge 17, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v OLD WESLEY (10th), Anglesea Road, tonight, 7.30pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: LLW; Old Wesley: LLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Tim Foley 25; Tries: Pat Hughes, Ed Rossiter, Max Ludwig 1 each; Old Wesley: Points: Josh Miller 7; Tries: Josh Pim, Eoghan O’Reilly, Donnchadh Phelan, David Rowley, James O’Donovan 1 each

Preview: Eddie O’Sullivan has unsurprisingly kept faith with the bulk of the team that secured his first league win as Old Belvedere head coach – a 24-23 nail-biter at UCC last Saturday afternoon.

There are two notable personnel changes up front where 23-year-old French prop Omar Dahir comes in for his first league start in ‘Belvo colours, while Jack Kelly makes a welcome return to the second row.

James Burton, Stephen Boyle and Aaron Atkinson, the former Garryowen scrum half, have been bumped up from the Old Wesley bench. Atkinson and Tim Clifford will lead a much-changed Wesley back-line as the basement side target a morale-boosting derby victory.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

BALLYNAHINCH (4th) v UL BOHEMIANS (6th), Ballymacarn Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LWW; UL Bohemians: LLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 25; Tries: Richard Reaney 3; UL Bohemians: Points: James Hart 16; Tries: Ed Kelly, Daragh Frawley, James Ryan, Darragh O’Grady, James Hart, Harry Fleming, Joe Bennett, Robbie Bourke 1 each

Preview: Ulster Under-19 captain Claytan Milligan, who made his senior debut for Ballynahinch last week, is set to continue at hooker for the visit of UL Bohemians to Ballymacarn Park.

27-year-old tighthead Jonny Simpson is the elder statesman in a ‘Hinch front five which also includes Campbell Classon, last year’s Wesley College skipper, and Ireland U-20-capped duo John Donnan and Jack Regan.

Munster half-back James Hart made an immediate impact on his UL Bohemians debut last Saturday and his availability could make or break Bohs’ bid for their third win over ‘Hinch in the space of twelve months.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 24, 2016: UL Bohemians 38 Ballynahinch 22, Annacotty; Saturday, April 8, 2017: Ballynahinch 8 UL Bohemians 13, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

NAAS (2nd) v UCC (7th), Forenaughts

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WWL; UCC: LDL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Johne Murphy 23; Tries: Fionn Higgins 3; UCC: Points: James Taylor 30; Tries: Cian Bohane 3

Preview: The ever-versatile Fionn Carr and Ross Bailey-Kearney, who touched down twice against Banbridge, are set to pair up at centre for Naas’ round 4 match against UCC tomorrow.

Following last week’s 42-35 loss at Bann, Naas player-coach Johne Murphy returns at out-half and Connacht prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy is set for some game-time off the bench.

Winless UCC could do with a change of luck after being pipped by ‘Belvo in the previous round. They will need a big shift from their young half-backs James Taylor and John Poland, who come up against the wily Murphy and Max Whittingham.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2016: Naas 10 UCC 6, Forenaughts; Saturday, February 18, 2017: UCC 16 Naas 13, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

SHANNON (1st) v DOLPHIN (9th), Thomond Park back pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: WWW; Dolphin: LWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Conor Fitzgerald 30; Tries: Tony Cusack, Sean McCarthy, Stephen Fitzgerald, Conor Fitzgerald, Fionn McGibney, Eathon Moloney, Duncan Casey, Kelvin Brown 1 each; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 26; Tries: Brian Scott 2

Preview: A second Munster derby for Shannon to finish off the league’s first block of fixtures, and with home advantage, they should make it four wins from four.

Having won recently in Ballymena, Thomond Park will hold no fear for second-from-bottom Dolphin who are always capable of negating home advantage, especially with Barry Keeshan and Munster prop Brian Scott in the team.

Nonetheless, Tom Hayes’ table-topping Shannon side are a tough nut to crack when their confidence is up. Their Munster Academy scrum half Jack Stafford and sub-Academy lock Ronan Coffey are growing in influence with each passing game.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2016: Shannon 17 Dolphin 10, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, February 18, 2017: Dolphin 24 Shannon 11, Irish Independent Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win