Limerick bragging rights are on the line tonight when Young Munster seek revenge against Garryowen in the opening Ulster Bank League Division 1A match of 2018. Saturday’s bill is headed up by the top of the table clash of unbeaten leaders Lansdowne and Clontarf.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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YOUNG MUNSTER (6th) v GARRYOWEN (5th), Tom Clifford Park, tonight, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LLWLWWLLLW; Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 33; Tries: Ben Kilkenny 4; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 92; Tries: Liam Coombes, David Johnston 5 each
Preview: Ireland Under-20 international Alan Tynan is set to start at inside centre as Young Munster aim to build on their 15-5 home win over Terenure College last time out, which was confirmed by second half tries from young backs Conor Hayes and Jack Lyons.
Garryowen had Munster’s Sam Arnold and Sean O’Connor in their starting XV when they defeated Munsters 6-3 in November, with captain Neil Cronin landing two crucial penalties in the try-less affair at Dooradoyle. O’Connor will be on the bench tonight, while David Johnston features at full-back.
The Cookies will have some additional forward grunt down the final stretch as their captain and top try scorer this season, Ben Kilkenny, and Munster lock Fineen Wycherley will be keen to make an impact as replacements. With that in mind, Munsters should be able to make it one-all in this match-up for 2017/18.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 3, 2017: Garryowen 13 Young Munster 32, Dooradoyle; Friday, November 10, 2017: Garryowen 6 Young Munster 3, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v BUCCANEERS (10th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLW; Buccaneers: LLLLLLLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 92; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Conor Kindregan 3 each; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 61; Tries: Rory O’Connor 7
Preview: With their Munster Senior Cup six in-a-row dreams dashed by Garryowen, Cork Constitution will be doubly determined to begin 2018 with a bang. They visit City of Armagh in the Bateman Cup semi-finals next Saturday.
Although still bottom of the pile, Buccaneers will be no pushovers and Con know they cannot afford to be complacent as only five points separated the sides when Brian Hickey’s men overcame the Pirates 24-19 in Athlone in November.
Better service out wide could see Buccs’ top-scoring winger Rory O’Connor add to his seven-try tally, while the midlanders, who are without Connacht call-ups Conan O’Donnell and Paul Boyle, will need a rock-solid defensive performance up front as Con can be lethal from close-in lineouts and scrums.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 11, 2017: Buccaneers 19 Cork Constitution 24, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLLWWLWLLL; St. Mary’s College: WLLWLLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Michael Silvester, James Fennelly 35 each; Tries: Michael Silvester 7; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 39; Tries: Tim Maupin 4
Preview: Dublin University will have the trusty pair of Jack McDermott and the provincially-capped Angus Lloyd back at half-back for this must-win encounter with St. Mary’s. Their late loss to Clontarf makes this New Year’s fixture all the more important.
Having won 18-15 at Templeville Road in November, the students, who will field an unchanged pack, are gunning for a season’s double over St. Mary’s, a result which would see the sides swap places and move Mary’s back into the bottom two.
Number 8 Caelan Doris, who was man-of-the-match in Mary’s encouraging 22-6 victory at Buccaneers, is a big loss with a hamstring injury. Ireland Sevens flyer Terry Kennedy is another notable absentee, but Mary’s are always competitive no matter their selection and a close game awaits in the city centre.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 25, 2017: Dublin University 24 St. Mary’s College 37, College Park; Friday, November 10, 2017: St. Mary’s College 15 Dublin University 18, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
LANSDOWNE (1st) v CLONTARF (2nd), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWW; Clontarf: LWLWWWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 115; Tries: Mark O’Keefe 6; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 45; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7
Preview: A new year but Lansdowne supporters will be hoping for more of the same. Their 10 wins on the trot give them an 11-point lead at the summit and they can cement their position even more by defeating Clontarf, who currently head up the chasing pack.
The sides’ last two meetings were defence-dominated and decided by goal kicks, David Joyce landing four penalties in ‘Tarf’s 12-3 success at home last March, and Scott Deasy, who currently tops the scoring charts with 115 points, splitting the posts three times in Lansdowne’s 9-0 November win at Castle Avenue.
The north Dubliners’ best hopes rest on keeping it a low-scoring match again, as Lansdowne revel when it is a loose game – Alan Bennie, with a hat-trick, and two-try winger Mark O’Keefe starred in their pre-Christmas triumph over UCD. ‘Tarf have some scoring gems of their own, including the division’s joint-leading try scorer, centre Matt D’Arcy (7).
Recent League Meeting – Friday, March 3, 2017: Clontarf 12 Lansdowne 3, Castle Avenue; Friday, November 10, 2017: Clontarf 0 Lansdowne 9, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
UCD (7th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (4th), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCD: WWLLLLWLLL; Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Ciaran Frawley 42; Tries: Jamie Glynn, Stephen Murphy 3 each; Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 64; Tries: Jake Swaine 5
Preview: It has been a tough winter for UCD who are on a three-match losing run in the top flight. Leinster ‘A’ and Ireland Sevens call-ups have certainly hampered them, and the latter sees Hugo Keenan and Billy Dardis among a quartet of absentees tomorrow.
Terenure make the trip to Belfield with revenge on their minds after losing 22-17 to the students in November. A Gavin Mullin try proved the difference between the sides on a wet night at Lakelands, and three losses in the last four rounds have seen ‘Nure fall to fourth overall.
Jake Swaine, a regular starter in Terenure’s back-three, is a player to watch out for. He has chipped in with four tries in their last five outings, while UCD’s teenage out-half Harry Byrne has quickly adapted to Ulster Bank League rugby, landing 11 successful kicks in three games to take his season’s haul to 38 points.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 25, 2017: UCD 3 Terenure College 3, Belfield Bowl; Friday, November 10, 2017: Terenure College 17 UCD 22, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win