Ulster Bank League Division 1A resumes tonight with two Friday Night Lights clashes in the capital, as St. Mary’s visit table toppers Lansdowne at headquarters, and two of the top-four hopefuls, Terenure and Clontarf, meet at Lakelands Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 17
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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LANSDOWNE (1st) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th), Aviva Stadium back pitch, tonight, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWWWWL; St. Mary’s College: WLLWLLLLLWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 141; Tries: Mark O’Keefe 6; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 66; Tries: Tim Maupin, Dave Fanagan 4 each
Preview: It will be interesting to see how leaders Lansdowne rebound tonight after losing their 12-match unbeaten record to Garryowen. A St. Mary’s side still scrapping for their Division 1A lives are a tough proposition.
26 points was the margin when these sides last met in October, and Lansdowne will be eager to get back into bonus point form with Harry Brennan and Daniel McEvoy – two of their four Ireland Club XV representatives – hungry for scores.
St. Mary’s captain Ciaran Ruddock and club-mates Tom O’Reilly and Darren Moroney, who are all pencilled in to start this evening, will also be on international duty against Scotland next week.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 3, 2017: Lansdowne 43 St. Mary’s College 20, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Friday, October 27, 2017: St. Mary’s College 7 Lansdowne 33, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (3rd) v CLONTARF (5th), Lakelands Park, tonight, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWLWLW; Clontarf: LWLWWWLWWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 77; Tries: Jake Swaine, Robbie Smyth 5 each; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 60; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7
Preview: It is difficult to split these sides on current form, with two wins and two defeats each in the last four rounds. Terenure struggled against bottom side Buccaneers but turned things around with three second half tries.
Captain Robbie Smyth, one of five Terenure men in the Ireland Club squad, is chasing his third try in as many games and fifth across the season. Matt Byrne and Tim Schmidt are set to come in as changes to the back-line tonight.
With five rounds to go and ‘Nure three points better off, Clontarf need a big performance and result under the Lakelands floodlights if they want to stay in the hunt for a semi-final spot. Adrian D’Arcy returns at openside for the visitors.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 3, 2017: Clontarf 6 Terenure College 13, Castle Avenue; Friday, October 27, 2017: Clontarf 29 Terenure College 17, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v BUCCANEERS (10th), College Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLLWWLWLLLWLL; Buccaneers: LLLLLLLWWLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Michael Silvester, James Fennelly 35 each; Tries: Michael Silvester 7; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 75; Tries: Rory O’Connor 7
Preview: There is a huge amount riding on the result of this basement battle. Bottom side Buccaneers could close the gap on Trinity to two or three points, whereas a win for the students would push the Pirates closer to automatic relegation.
Trinity really need to sharpen up in defence after leaking six tries at Cork Constitution two weeks ago and seven to Garryowen last Saturday. Martin Kelly and Tom Ryan come in at tighthead and number 8 respectively, in personnel changes.
Buccs can certainly take a lot of positives from their first half display against Terenure in an eventual 24-20 defeat. Tomorrow they welcome back top-scoring winger Rory O’Connor (seven tries), although impressive lock Peter Claffey misses out through injury.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 9, 2016: Dublin University 22 Buccaneers 23, College Park; Saturday, October 28, 2017: Buccaneers 14 Dublin University 30, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win
UCD (7th) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCD: WWLLLLWLLLLWL; Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Harry Byrne, Ciaran Frawley 44 each; Tries: Jamie Glynn 4; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 128; Tries: Liam Coombes, David Johnston 7 each
Preview: Having beaten table toppers Lansdowne and Dublin University at home over in the last fortnight, Garryowen are now tasked with taking that enviable winning form on the road.
David Johnston, who bagged a brace of tries against Trinity last week, and Liam Coombes are neck and neck in the try-scoring stakes with seven each. UCD’s ten bonus points have kept them away from the relegation scrap, but they really need to find some consistency.
College have only beaten Trinity and Buccaneers at home so far this season, and Ireland Sevens training will impact on their selection this weekend. They are also without versatile back Ciaran Frawley who is poised to make his senior debut for Leinster against the Scarlets.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 18, 2017: Garryowen 17 UCD 16, Dooradoyle; Saturday, October 28, 2017: Garryowen 27 UCD 20, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (6th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LLWLWWLLLWWWW; Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 43; Tries: Ben Kilkenny, Ger Slattery, Gavin Coombes 4 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 92; Tries: Ned Hodson, Rob Jermyn 4 each
Preview: Young Munster are back on home turf after road wins at Clontarf and St. Mary’s. A fifth straight victory would boost their play-off hopes further, while also denting Cork Constitution’s challenge for a home semi-final.
Second-placed Con will need no reminding that they have lost their last three matches against Munsters, including October’s meeting at Temple Hill where Shane Airey kicked a last-minute winner to make 20-19 and captain Ben Kilkenny scored a stunning try of the year contender.
This match-up brings together two of the top flight’s best defences, although their attacks are also shaping up well for the run-in with six tries each in the last round, including braces from Munsters centre Evan O’Gorman and Con winger Rob Jermyn.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 8, 2017: Young Munster 3 Cork Constitution 0, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, October 28, 2017: Cork Constitution 19 Young Munster 20, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win