All five Ulster Bank League Division 1A matches on Saturday see clubs from opposite halves of the table go head-to-head, including the visit of second-from-bottom Dublin University to Cork Constitution, who are the closest challengers to runaway leaders Lansdowne at present.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 3
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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BUCCANEERS (10th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (3rd), Dubarry Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LLLLLLLWWLLL; Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 65; Tries: Rory O’Connor 7; Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 74; Tries: Jake Swaine 5
Preview: It was the same old story for Buccaneers last week as their inconsistent play allowed UCD to build a 12-point lead, and a two-try finish from the Pirates proved not enough. They did at least get Ireland Sevens international Josh Rowland onto the field for his long-awaited debut at full-back.
With eight points to make up on the two teams above them, the ‘must-win’ tag is attached to all of Buccs’ remaining games. They have the personnel to do it – Peter Claffey and Paul Boyle, in particular, up front, and brothers Luke and Ben Carty, captain Shane Layden and seven-try winger Rory O’Connor behind the scrum.
Terenure put a lot into last Saturday’s titanic tussle with leaders Lansdowne, eventually going down 12-8. It will be difficult to match that intensity and accuracy again, but James Blaney’s men have performed well on the road against teams in the lower reaches of the table, defeating Dublin University, UCD and St. Mary’s so far.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 19, 2014: Terenure College 36 Buccaneers 29, Lakelands Park; Saturday, November 4, 2017: Terenure College 27 Buccaneers 21, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
CLONTARF (4th) v UCD (7th), Castle Avenue
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Clontarf: LWLWWWLWWWLL; UCD: WWLLLLWLLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 56; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7; UCD: Points: Harry Byrne, Ciaran Frawley 44 each; Tries: Jamie Glynn 4
Preview: Clontarf have been a bogey team for UCD, whether at home or away, and you would have to back ‘Tarf to get back to winning ways after falling short on the same 4G pitch against Young Munster last Saturday.
A third loss on the trot would likely knock Andy Wood’s men out of the top four and severely dent their collective confidence. Recapturing the form which saw them score four tries and 31 points on the students at Belfield in November has to be the aim.
UCD head coach Andy Skehan takes great pride in their current joint-top scorer Harry Byrne stepping up with the Ireland Under-20s, for whom College star Tommy O’Brien is now captain. They have the depth to cover the duo’s absence, but it may not be enough against a ‘Tarf back-line that will look to Matt D’Arcy for inspiration.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 15, 2017: Clontarf 37 UCD 28, Castle Avenue; Saturday, November 4, 2017: UCD 24 Clontarf 31, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th), Temple Hill
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLWWL; Dublin University: LLLWWLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 92; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Conor Kindregan, Ned Hodson 3 each; Dublin University: Points: Michael Silvester, James Fennelly 35 each; Tries: Michael Silvester 7
Preview: Cork Constitution’s losing bonus point at St. Mary’s was enough to keep them in second place, and they will be confident of earning their second successive season’s double over relegation-threatened Dublin University.
Still, there is no room for complacency as Trinity, who got the better of Mary’s in their last game, are a livewire team when on form. If Tony Smeeth selects the same side from the postponed Garryowen fixture, Jack Kelly will take over from the Ireland Under-20-tied Michael Silvester at full-back, with American Alex McDonald moving to the second row for Jack Dunne who is also away on international duty.
Former Ireland U-19 international Joe White is getting a good run at full-back for Cork Con, starting their last four matches and scoring tries against Buccaneers and Mary’s. More of the same should help Brian Hickey’s men stay in possession of their second home semi-final spot, for the time being.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 4, 2017: Cork Constitution 19 Dublin University 3, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 4, 2017: Dublin University 3 Cork Constitution 28, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
GARRYOWEN (6th) v LANSDOWNE (1st), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWLL; Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 92; Tries: Liam Coombes, David Johnston 5 each; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 135; Tries: Mark O’Keefe 6
Preview: With a waterlogged pitch meaning they were idle last week and two defeats prior to that, Garryowen really need to build some momentum. It has been business as usual for unbeaten Lansdowne who dug deep to see off Terenure’s challenge in tricky conditions last Saturday.
Number 8 Willie Earle stood out for the table toppers, driving the forwards on with his effectiveness on both sides of the ball. But will it be ‘unlucky 13’ for Lansdowne? They lost 19-10 to Young Munster on their most recent trip to Limerick, and had seven points to spare over Garryowen in their last visit to Dooradoyle.
The form of the Garryowen Under-20s is a boost to Conan Doyle’s senior Light Blues. They have won eight straight games in the Donal Walsh Trophy, with Currans youngster Jack Daly, who was due to start at openside in the postponed match against Dublin University, catching the eye.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 15, 2017: Lansdowne 40 Garryowen 17, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, November 4, 2017: Lansdowne 32 Garryowen 22, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (5th), Templeville Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLWLLLLLWLW; Young Munster: LLWLWWLLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 55; Tries: Tim Maupin 4; Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 43; Tries: Ben Kilkenny, Ger Slattery, Gavin Coombes 4 each
Preview: Both Peter Burke and Gearoid Prendergast would ideally like to pick unchanged teams after St. Mary’s and Young Munster claimed impressive wins over title-contending sides last weekend. However, injuries may impact on both selections.
Backs Calvin Nash and Shane Airey both picked up knocks during Munsters’ excellent 25-16 victory at Clontarf, but their pack looks in rude health judging by their efforts in an incredible 47 phases before captain Ben Kilkenny’s clinching try. The try-scoring return of centre Dan Goggin – and his new two-year contract with Munster – is a further boost.
Mary’s had a nightmare trip to Greenfields in November, crashing to a 51-7 defeat at the hands of the Cookies, but they are looking much sharper of late. Full-back Dave Fanagan’s brilliant brace in downing Cork Con, coupled with 18-year-old flanker Ronan Watters’ six turnovers on his first league start, are encouraging signs for the rest of their campaign.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 18, 2017: Young Munster 20 St. Mary’s College 18, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, November 4, 2017: Young Munster 51 St. Mary’s College 7, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win