A rip-roaring Limerick derby between Shannon and UL Bohemians will kick off the action in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend, with new leaders Ballynahinch’s clash with third-placed Banbridge commanding most of the attention on Saturday afternoon.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 17
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ulster Bank League Results Service: Send UBL to 51444. To unsubscribe send the word STOP to 0876445950. Search #UBL on Twitter for club updates.
SHANNON (2nd) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Thomond Park, tonight, 7.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: WWWWWWLWLWWLD; UL Bohemians: LLWLLLLWLLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Conor Fitzgerald 130; Tries: Conor Fitzgerald 7; UL Bohemians: Points: Robbie Bourke 56; Tries: James Ryan 5
Preview: Completing a season’s double over UL Bohemians would be an ideal way for Shannon to bounce back from two winless outings in the league, which have seen them knocked off the top of Division 1B.
Tony Cusack and Ronan Coffey, who made his Ireland Under-20 debut recently against France, are the two changes in the Shannon pack tonight. Captain Lee Nicholas reverts to the back row, with Kieran Dunne – a try scorer last time out against Banbridge – switching from wing to centre.
Bohs, who lost their home game with Shannon 27-22 in October, are unbeaten in 2018 with three wins from three. Their 34-19 dismissal of Old Belvedere last time out was particularly impressive, flanker James Ryan scoring his fifth try of the campaign. He is part of an unchanged Bohs packs this evening, with Adrian Enright and Matt McDonald added to the back-line.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 10, 2017: Shannon 43 UL Bohemians 20, Thomond Park; Friday, October 27, 2017: UL Bohemians 22 Shannon 27, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
BALLYMENA (9th) v NAAS (6th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WLLLWLLLWLLWL; Naas: WWLLLLWLWDLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Brett Herron 78; Tries: Rodger McBurney 5; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 80; Tries: Fionn Higgins 9
Preview: A series of late cry-offs weakened the Ballymena selection considerably for their trip to UCC a fortnight ago and they ended up leaking eight tries and 58 points in a humbling defeat to the students.
Lying second from bottom, the Braidmen are set to be boosted tomorrow by the inclusion of Ulster’s Callum Patterson, David Shanahan, Marcus Rea, Clive Ross and Ross Kane for this must-win encounter with Naas. Rodger McBurney and Stephen Mulholland face late fitness tests.
There are four changes in personnel to the Naas side that lost 27-24 to new leaders Ballynahinch. Player-coach Johne Murphy returns in midfield, while Stephen Lackey, Warren Larkin and Paulie Tolofua – one of their three call-ups to the Ireland Club squad – all start in the pack.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 8, 2017: Naas 40 Ballymena 15, Forenaughts; Saturday, October 28, 2017: Naas 13 Ballymena 19, Forenaughts
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
BALLYNAHINCH (1st) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Ballymacarn Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LWWWLWWWWLWWW; Banbridge: WDWWWLWLWWLWD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 83; Tries: Conor Kelly 6; Banbridge: Points: Ian Porter 103; Tries: Andrew Morrison 8
Preview: This Ulster derby looks like one to savour, with both sides very much still in title contention and pushing for automatic promotion to Division 1A. Ballynahinch have hit the summit following Richard Reaney’s late drop goal in a 27-24 victory at Naas.
‘Hinch will want to return the favour after losing 20-10 to Banbridge in October, and the Ulster contingent of Peter Browne, Peter Nelson, Aaron Cairns and Zack McCall could all see action in tomorrow afternoon’s rematch.
Talismanic captain Ian Porter is absent for Bann, and with Josh Cromie nursing a season-ending injury, Jason Gribben will get a rare start at scrum half. Young centre James Hume makes a welcome return following a six-month spell out with injury, while Conor Field is also back on the wing and Ulster have released forwards Eric O’Sullivan and Caleb Montgomery to get game-time.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 28, 2017: Banbridge 20 Ballynahinch 10, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: LLWDWWLWLWWLL; Dolphin: LWLLLLLLLLWLD
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Tim Foley 102; Tries: Shane McDonald 5; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 85; Tries: Brian Scott, James Rochford 2 each
Preview: Old Belvedere have fallen out of the top four after disappointing losses on the road to Naas and UL Bohemians, leaking eight tries and over 60 points in the process.
Bottom side Dolphin will want to pounce on any further defensive lapses if ‘Belvo do not improve that aspect of their game. A repeat of October’s 38-10 bonus point win over the Cork club would do nicely for Eddie O’Sullivan’s men.
However, Dolphin, who drew with Old Wesley last time out, have picked up points in all bar one round since that ‘Belvo defeat before Halloween. Their survival hopes will hinge on improving their try-scoring rate – only twice have they scored more than one try in a game so far in the campaign.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 28, 2017: Dolphin 10 Old Belvedere 38, Irish Independent Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
OLD WESLEY (7th) v UCC (4th), Donnybrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: LLLDLWWWLDLLD; UCC: LDLWWWWLWWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Jack Maybury 96; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 6; UCC: Points: James Taylor 125; Tries: Kevin Slater, Cian Bohane, Murray Linn 4 each
Preview: A crunch fixture for his Old Wesley side before Morgan Lennon coaches the Ireland Club XV against Scotland at Dubarry Park next Friday night. Having lost their grip on a 13-6 lead at Dolphin two weeks ago, Wesley are now winless in the last five rounds.
Lennon’s charges have fallen back towards the relegation-threatened sides and must make the most of three home matches in the closing rounds, beginning with this visit of Brian Walsh’s UCC outfit.
The Cork students ran riot against an under-strength Ballymena side, getting back to winning ways in fine style with out-half James Taylor nabbing a try and 23 points in all. Another profitable afternoon in attack would keep them on course for the play-offs.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 15, 2017: Old Wesley 19 UCC 5, Donnybrook; Saturday, October 28, 2017: UCC 31 Old Wesley 27, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win