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All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster plays host to three of the All-Ireland League Division 1B matches this weekend, including the provincial derby between Ballynahinch and Banbridge and the top of the table clash which sees leaders Naas visit Malone.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 24

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Clubs are invited to post the best tries from their All-Ireland League fixtures on the club’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages using the hashtag #AILTry and tag @irishrugby. The scorer of #AILTry of the Month will receive a voucher for €;250 and each of the monthly winners will be entered into the #AILTry of the Season competition.

BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Ballymacarn Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LDWWL; Banbridge: LWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Hilton Gibbons 28; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell, Richard Reaney, James Simpson 3 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 41; Tries: Peter Cromie 5

Preview: Having both ended the first block of games on a losing note, Ballynahinch and Banbridge will be doubly determined to get back to winning ways. Particularly ‘Hinch who lost three times in the league to Bann last season, including April’s 28-24 play-off reversal at Rifle Park.

Ulster prop Kyle McCall could make his return from an elbow injury in the ‘Hinch front row, while fellow provincial players Zack McCall and Peter Nelson may also feature. Ballynahinch assistant coach Tom Rock is expecting ‘a tough game from Banbridge who are a physical side with few weaknesses who play a good brand of rugby’.

Robert Logan and Ian Porter are in charge of Bann this week following the birth of head coach Simon McKinstry’s baby son. Injuries and unavailability mean six personnel changes for the visitors, including the selection of half-backs Josh Cromie and Niall Armstrong, and both Ben Carson and David McCann in the back row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 17, 2018: Ballynahinch 14 Banbridge 29, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, April 21, 2018: Banbridge 28 Ballynahinch 24, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

CITY OF ARMAGH (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (6th), Palace Grounds

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: LDWLW; Old Belvedere: WDLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 30; Tries: Andrew Smyth 3; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 40; Tries: Jack Keating 5

Preview: Jonny Morton and Gareth McNiece have been promoted from the City of Armagh bench to start against Old Belvedere. Morton fills the hooker berth, with Nigel Simpson’s injury seeing McNiece start at openside flanker and James Hanna switch to the blindside.

Armagh boss Willie Faloon will have to carefully manage his squad as they are playing for the next ten weeks across the All-Ireland League and Bateman Cup, as well as two Ulster competitions. Simpson and Michael Hoey are on the injury list along with teenage flanker Ryan O’Neill (knee).

Connacht centre Peter Robb is set to get some game-time with Belvedere, replacing Ben Carty as the only chance to the team that defeated 29-24 last time out. Jack Keating, the division’s joint-top try scorer with five tries, will be looking to add to his tally from the right wing.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

MALONE (2nd) v NAAS (1st), Gibson Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WWLWW; Naas: WWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 16; Tries: Josh Pentland, David Irvine, David McMaster, Ben McCaughey 2 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 58; Tries: Andy Ellis, Fionn Higgins 4 each

Preview: A crunch encounter for both sides with Naas knowing that a win would add significant momentum to their promotion push. They won 25-8 on their most recent visit to Gibson Park in March 2016, with tries from Fionn Higgins, current captain Paulie Tolofua and Rob O’Connor.

Malone will be quietly confident of getting a result themselves, having matched Naas’ four victories so far. They dug deep to win at Buccaneers last time out and make three changes for tomorrow with Michael Shiels selected in the second row and Matthew Hadden and Dave Cave added to the back row.

Connacht flanker James Connolly is one of three changes to the Naas team that finished strongly to claim a 31-23 bonus point win at Old Wesley two weeks ago. Prop Jordan Duggan and Jordan Fitzpatrick, who joins player-coach Johne Murphy in midfield, are the other only alterations for the Cobras.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 19, 2015: Naas 34 Malone 40, Forenaughts; Saturday, March 26, 2016: Malone 8 Naas 25, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

OLD WESLEY (8th) v BALLYMENA (10th), Energia Park, Donnybrook

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WDLWL; Ballymena: LLWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 33; Tries: Paul Harte 3; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 39; Tries: Tim Small, David Whann, John Andrew, Glenn Baillie, Connor Smyth, JJ McKee 1 each

Preview: With their game against Naas rescheduled, this is the second of third successive home matches for Old Wesley. They are yet to win at Energia Park this season, following a nine-all draw with Old Belvedere and that frustrating late loss to the Kildare men.

They are five points better off than bottom-placed Ballymena who will make a number of changes on the back of their disappointing Ulster derby defeat to Armagh. Bruce Houston and injured centre Glenn Baillie are missing from the back-line, with Rodger McBurney set to return at full-back and Ulster’s Clive Ross expected to start at blindside.

Speaking to Irish Rugby TV, Old Wesley head coach Morgan Lennon said: “We’ve obviously got two very tough home games coming up against Ballymena and Ballynahinch, which we know there will be contracted guys involved. The bottom line is every game is crucial in 1B. It’s so competitive and we want to compete at the top end.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 16, 2017: Old Wesley 18 Ballymena 21, Donnybrook; Saturday, April 14, 2018: Ballymena 22 Old Wesley 21, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (7th) v BUCCANEERS (9th), Templeville Road

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLWL; Buccaneers: LLWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 26; Tries: Mark Fogarty, Cormac Foley 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 40; Tries: Darragh Corbett 4

Preview: St. Mary’s College and Buccaneers are both looking to rebound from narrow losses in the last round – five points and one point respectively. Behind an unchanged pack, Mary’s bring in Paddy O’Driscoll at scrum half and Dave Fanagan and Hugo Conway in the back-three.

Both clubs were in Division 1A last season with last December’s 11-10 triumph at Templeville Road being one of Buccaneers’ two wins across the entire season. They broke their duck in Division 1B last month – at to Old Wesley – but had gone down to Ballynahinch and Malone since then.

Buccs are hoping to have club captain Shane Layden and Rory Grenham back after lengthy spells out with injury, and one of the early season positives for the Pirates has been the four tries registered by winger Darragh Corbett, all scored in the last three rounds.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 2, 2017: St. Mary’s College 10 Buccaneers 11, Templeville Road; Saturday, December 9, 2017: Buccaneers 6 St. Mary’s College 22, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win