The crunch clashes keep coming in Division 1A with leaders Clontarf putting their unbeaten record on the line against second-placed Cork Constitution, while the Mardyke should draw a sizable crowd for the student derby between UCC and high-flying Dublin University.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CLONTARF (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Castle Avenue
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WWWWWW; Cork Constitution: WWWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 43; Tries: Mick McGrath, Cormac Daly, Sean O’Brien 2 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 41; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Rob Jermyn 4 each
Preview: The battle to be ‘Christmas number 1’ in Division 1A intensifies tomorrow with second-placed Cork Constitution visiting unbeaten leaders Clontarf. Con’s four try-scoring bonus points so far have them just a single point behind ‘Tarf.
Munster Academy back Shane Daly is expected to feature for the Corkmen after his try-scoring return at the Belfield Bowl last week. Con’s defence has been most impressive of late, leaking just three points to both Garryowen and UCD in the last two rounds.
It is always a titanic tussle between the packs when these sides meet, and while recent meetings have resulted in big wins either way, this looks set to be a one-score game. The pick of the individual battles may be Clontarf captain Michael Noone against Con number 8 Luke Cahill.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 16, 2017: Cork Constitution 30 Clontarf 18, Temple Hill; Saturday, April 14, 2018: Clontarf 43 Cork Constitution 12, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
SHANNON (5th) v LANSDOWNE (3rd), Thomond Park back pitch
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWL; Lansdowne: LLWWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 46; Tries: Jake Flannery 3; Lansdowne: Points: Harry Byrne, Scott Deasy 28 each; Tries: Eamonn Mills 5
Preview: The league’s record champions against the current title holders, and it has been a long time coming with Landowne’s most recent visit to Shannon over five-and-a-half years ago. Last week the Limerick men fell out of the top four after losing 31-19 at Dublin University.
Lansdowne captain Eamonn Mills took his try tally to five as they chalked up their fourth straight victory over Terenure College. Daniel McEvoy returns on the right wing tomorrow, with out-half Harry Byrne, who swaps in for Scott Deasy, Ronan Kelleher and Ian Prendiville completing the four changes.
It is a crucial period of the season for Shannon who have the small matter of next week’s derby trip to Garryowen ahead of them. This would be a terrific scalp for Tom Hayes’ charges to take, but third-placed Lansdowne look to have too much in their armoury on current form.
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, October 7, 2012: Lansdowne 48 Shannon 7, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, April 20, 2013: Shannon 38 Lansdowne 19, Coonagh
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v GARRYOWEN (7th), Lakelands Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LLLWLL; Garryowen: WWLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Matthew Byrne 20; Tries: Matthew Byrne 4; Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 36; Tries: Liam Cronin, Cian O’Shea 2 each
Preview: Terenure College did the double over Garryowen en route to reaching the semi-finals last season. That successful run seems a long time ago now with James Blaney’s men currently lying bottom of the table after five losses out of six.
Ben Healy kicked 22 points and winger Cian O’Shea bagged a brace of tries in Garryowen’s timely derby success at home to Young Munster. Munster Academy centre Matt More and Bryan Fitzgerald are the two changes in the back-line for tomorrow, with Munster’s fit-again flanker Conor Oliver set to start at openside.
Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle said: “Ben played his third game for us against Munsters, Matt More his first. A few more guys are now back available. Having lost three games already, we can’t really afford to lose any games – easily anyway. So we’re targeting all of these upcoming fixtures.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 7, 2017: Terenure College 27 Garryowen 20, Lakelands Park; Sunday, March 11, 2018: Garryowen 13 Terenure College 29, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v UCD (6th), Tom Clifford Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: WLWLLL; UCD: WDLWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 46; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 4; UCD: Points: Cillian Burke 19; Tries: Ronan Foley 3
Preview: UCD topped and tailed last season with two wins over Young Munster – 39-20 in Greenfields and 31-29 at Belfield – and need to recapture that sort of form after being held try-less by Clontarf and Cork Constitution in the last two rounds.
Talented Leinster ‘A’ back rower Ronan Foley, the students’ top try scorer with three so far, returns to the starting XV tomorrow in the only change made by head coach Andy Skehan, who cannot afford another low-scoring performance.
Munster flyer Calvin Nash will bolster the Cookies’ line-up, starting at outside centre for this seventh round clash. South African youngster Keynan Knox also comes in at tighthead prop in the second and final change to the side that went down 32-26 to Garryowen.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 16, 2017: Young Munster 20 UCD 39, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, April 14, 2018: UCD 31 Young Munster 29, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
UCC (9th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th), the Mardyke, 3pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLL; Dublin University: LDLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 35; Tries: John Poland 4; Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 64; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester 3 each
Preview: Donal Liddy continues on the right wing after coming in as a late replacement for Dublin University captain Colm Hogan last week. The skipper was a notable absentee, along with Michael Silvester and Leinster new cap Jack Kelly, as Trinity swept their way to a 31-19 win over Shannon.
The bonus point success was a ‘tremendous’ result according to Trinity boss Tony Smeeth who makes two personnel changes for this intervarsity showdown with UCC. Conor Dunne steps up at full-back with Liam Turner and Thomas Clarkson, two of their try scorers against Shannon, switching to the left wing and donning the number 3 shirt respectively.
Their Colours match would be an ideal time for UCC to end their six-match losing run. There were positives signs against Clontarf, especially with returning back rower Ryan Murphy and Cian Bohane scoring tries. Indeed, they are the highest scorers in the lower half of the table.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win