There is a repeat of one of last season’s semi-finals and a meeting of the two of Division 1A’s current top three sides, as the Ulster Bank League returns to take centre stage this weekend.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CLONTARF (4th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Clontarf: LWLWWWLWWWL; Young Munster: LLWLWWLLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 45; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7; Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 43; Tries: Ben Kilkenny, Ger Slattery 4 each
Preview: Lansdowne’s clinical attack was too much for Clontarf three weeks ago. How they bounce back from that stinging 38-8 defeat will tell a lot about ‘Tarf’s ambitions for the rest of the season. There is no need to panic, though.
Back-to-back home matches offer Andy Wood’s men an ideal opportunity to strengthen their position in the top four, although Young Munster will have other ideas. The Cookies will bring plenty of fire from the south, determined to avenge November’s 23-22 loss to ‘Tarf.
Their return to Castle Avenue will also bring back bad memories of last April’s semi-final when their team selection was hampered by a British & Irish Cup fixture clash. Hooker Ger Slattery remains a vital cog up front for the Limerick men, crossing for his fourth try of the campaign in their recent 25-0 derby win over Garryowen.
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, April 23, 2017: Semi-Final: Clontarf 37 Young Munster 29, Castle Avenue; Saturday, November 25, 2017: Young Munster 22 Clontarf 23, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
GARRYOWEN (5th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (8th), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWLL; Dublin University: LLLWWLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 92; Tries: Liam Coombes, David Johnston 5 each; Dublin University: Points: Michael Silvester, James Fennelly 35 each; Tries: Michael Silvester 7
Preview: There were contrasting fortunes for these clubs in the last round, as Garryowen fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of Young Munster, and the return of Jack McDermott at out-half helped Dublin University overcome St. Mary’s on a 25-10 scoreline.
The Light Blues remain well in the hunt for a semi-final spot, and their capturing of the Munster Senior Cup title last week will certainly boost confidence levels. The next week is crucial for Garryowen’s league ambitions with both Trinity and leaders Lansdowne visiting Dooradoyle.
Losing four players to the Ireland Under-20 squad, including seven-try full-back Michael Silvester (the division’s joint-top try scorer), will really test Trinity’s strength-in-depth. However, if they can reach the heights they hit against Mary’s, the students could run Conan Doyle’s charges close.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 4, 2017: Dublin University 19 Garryowen 3, College Park; Saturday, November 25, 2017: Dublin University 28 Garryowen 37, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLWLLLLLWL; Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 49; Tries: Tim Maupin 4; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 92; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Conor Kindregan, Ned Hodson 3 each
Preview: St. Mary’s have some obvious aspects of their game to improve after their defence leaked three tries to Dublin University and gave away too many penalties. They entered the New Year with a 12-man injury list, including talismanic back rower Caelan Doris who has a serious hamstring injury.
On the positive side, Sean Kearns, Richie Halpin and Nick McCarthy are all showing good form as Mary’s look to regroup and move away from relegation trouble. In addition, they should have beaten tomorrow’s opponents, Cork Constitution, at Temple Hill in November.
In a dramatic finish, a last-gasp penalty from Tomas Quinlan rescued a 21-19 win for Cork Con that day, and they have manoeuvred themselves into second place since then. Their number 8 Luke Cahill has impressed of late, scoring and setting up tries against Buccaneers in the league and also touching down against Armagh in the Bateman Cup.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 15, 2017: Cork Constitution 34 St. Mary’s College 27, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 25, 2017: Cork Constitution 21 St. Mary’s College 19, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (3rd) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Lakelands Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWLW; Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 71; Tries: Jake Swaine 5; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 133; Tries: Mark O’Keefe 6
Preview: The Lansdowne juggernaut rolls on to Lakelands Park where hosts Terenure College have posted four wins out of five so far this season. ‘Nure’s recent form has been up and down, but Sam Coghlan Murray’s third try in as many games helped them overhaul UCD 31-26 in the last round.
As their unblemished 11-match record shows, Lansdowne have been the top flight’s most consistent performers and they were close to their best when serving up a 30-point defeat to Clontarf. As ever, Scott Deasy shone brightly at out-half, and he has contributed 133 of the leaders’ 329 points to date.
Mike Ruddock’s men, who have also qualified for the Bateman Cup final, will know they are in for a tough test after November’s bruising encounter with Terenure. A controversially-awarded try from winger Daniel McEvoy while Lansdowne were down to 13 men halted ‘Nure’s momentum in a 21-13 win for the headquarters club.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 8, 2017: Terenure College 36 Lansdowne 17, Lakelands Park; Friday, November 24, 2017: Lansdowne 21 Terenure College 13, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
UCD (7th) v BUCCANEERS (10th), Belfield
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCD: WWLLLLWLLLL; Buccaneers: LLLLLLLWWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Harry Byrne 44; Tries: Jamie Glynn 4; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 61; Tries: Rory O’Connor 7
Preview: UCD’s current four-match losing run began with a 19-13 reversal away to Buccaneers, and with the Athlone outfit visiting tomorrow for the return fixture, Andy Skehan’s youngsters will give it their all in pursuit of revenge.
Going down 31-26 to Terenure last time out, College were held scoreless in the second half while leaking an alarming 24 points. Attack-wise, captain Jamie Glynn has led by example with four tries, while teenage out-half Harry Byrne has also caught the eye on the way to earning Ireland Under-20 selection.
Bottom side Buccs have had some encouraging results against UCD, doing the double on them in 2012/13 and emerging as 19-13 victors in Athlone in November. Rory O’Connor, with his seventh try of the campaign, and skipper Shane Layden both crossed the whitewash that day and will be key men if the Pirates are to prevail at Belfield.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 16, 2013: UCD 19 Buccaneers 13, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, November 25, 2017: Buccaneers 19 UCD 13, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win