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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Two Friday Night Lights derbies launch the latest round of Division 1B action, with Cork rivals UCC and Dolphin going head-to-head at the Mardyke tomorrow and Ballymena looking to get the better of in-form Ballynahinch at Eaton Park.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 11

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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UCC (5th) v DOLPHIN (10th), the Mardyke, Friday, 7.30pm
 
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LDLWWW; Dolphin: LWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 67; Tries: Cian Bohane, Murray Linn 3 each; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 31; Tries: Brian Scott 2
 
Preview: Two former Dolphin favourites, Cian Bohane and Ryan Murphy, will line out for UCC against their old club in an eagerly-awaited Friday Night Lights derby in Cork.
 
It was one away win apiece last season, but the students, under new head coach Brian Walsh, look stronger this term with centres Bohane and Murray Linn scoring six tries between them so far.
 
Dolphin are missing Barbarians debutant Brian Scott in the front row. Although they have only posted one win to date, Barry Keeshan and company are always dangerous in a one-off battle for local bragging rights.
 
Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 25, 2016: UCC 15 Dolphin 25, the Mardyke; Friday, February 3, 2017: Dolphin 9 UCC 19, Irish Independent Park
 
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win
 
BALLYMENA (7th) v BALLYNAHINCH (2nd), Eaton Park, Friday, 8pm
 
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WLLLWL; Ballynahinch: LWWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Brett Herron 55; Tries: Rodger McBurney 3; Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 49; Tries: Richard Reaney, Conor Kelly 3 each
 
Preview: Second-placed Ballynahinch’s visit to Ballymena tops the bills as one of five Ulster derbies in the league this weekend. The Braidmen are yet to win at home, going down to Dolphin, Banbridge and UCC.
 
Ulster’s Clive Ross and Marcus Rea will start in Ballymena’s back row tomorrow night, with Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain Angus Kernohan – the scorer of two tries against UCC – joined by the experienced Alan Smyth back at centre.
 
Ballynahinch, who return to Eaton Park for next week’s Ulster Senior Cup semi-final, look the stronger side on paper with Ulster’s Jonny Simpson, David Busby, Aaron Cairns, Johnny McPhillips and Jack Regan set to be involved.
 
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2016: Ballynahinch 18 Ballymena 28, Ballymacarn Park; Friday, February 3, 2017: Ballymena 12 Ballynahinch 24, Eaton Park
 
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
 
NAAS (6th) v SHANNON (1st), Forenaughts, 2pm
 
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: WWLLLL; Shannon: WWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Johne Murphy 23; Tries: Fionn Higgins, Michael Skelton 3 each; Shannon: Points: Conor Fitzgerald 78; Tries: Eathon Moloney, Conor Fitzgerald 4 each
 
Preview: Shannon are sitting pretty, armed with a seven-point lead at the top of the table, but this could be a close encounter if Naas manage to find top gear again.
 
Johne Murphy’s men were devastated to come away with nothing from Ballynahinch last week, having had the lion’s share of possession and territory. A frustrating fourth defeat in a row.
 
With a fine rendition of ‘There is an Isle’ afterwards, Shannon were near pitch-perfect in dismissing Banbridge 33-14. 20-year-old out-half Conor Fitzgerald is emerging as the division’s most consistent scorer (78 points), while their maul – with Munster’s Duncan Casey at the helm – takes some stopping.
 
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Shannon 10 Naas 14, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, March 11, 2017: Naas 21 Shannon 14, Forenaughts
 
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
 
BANBRIDGE (3rd) v OLD BELVEDERE (4th), Rifle Park
 
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Banbridge: WDWWWL; Old Belvedere: LLWDWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Ian Porter 66; Tries: Andrew Morrison 3; Old Belvedere: Points: Tim Foley 64; Tries: Shane McDonald 3
 
Preview: For this top-four meeting between Division 1B’s two newcomers this season, Banbridge welcome back captain Ian Porter and his brother John, fit-again winger, into the back-line.
 
Bann’s first league defeat since January – a 19-point reversal at Shannon – is unlikely to unsettle them, but Old Belvedere, who are unbeaten in four games, will target the maul and look to get the best out of Daniel Riordan and Shane McDonald out wide.
 
Bann boss Daniel Soper, who has the likes of Ulster’s Robert Lyttle and Greg Jones available again this week, said: “We’re still in a good position, one that we’re delighted to be in at this stage. Our back-line will probably be the strongest it’s been all season, on Saturday.”
 
Recent League Meetings – N/A
 
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win
 
UL BOHEMIANS (9th) v OLD WESLEY (8th), University of Limerick 4G pitch
 
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: LLWLLL; Old Wesley: LLLDLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Robbie Bourke 28; Tries: James Ryan 4; Old Wesley: Points: Jack Maybury 49; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan, Jack Maybury 3 each
 
Preview: These sides played out two very entertaining, high-scoring matches last season, with home wins for both. Sitting ninth and eighth in the table is certainly not where either want to be, currently.
 
UL Bohemians can take positives from their second half performance against Old Belvedere. Flanker James Ryan has been doing his best to inspire them with four tries in his last five outings.
 
Old Wesley are looking to back up their maiden victory of the campaign against Dolphin. Jack Maybury and Tommy O’Callaghan were two of their try scorers last Saturday – the back-three pair have now touched down three times in as many games.
 
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 1, 2016: UL Bohemians 29 Old Wesley 21, University of Limerick 4G pitch; Saturday, March 25, 2017: Old Wesley 31 UL Bohemians 27, Donnybrook
 
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win