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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Highfield captain Fintan O'Sullivan is pictured in possession during their recent Division 1B victory over Old Belvedere ©Perfectlight/Voicu Duma

A hotly-contested Leinster derby between Naas and St. Mary’s College launches the seventh round action in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B. Highfield hold a six-point lead at the summit.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 30

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

#EnergiaAILTry Of The Month has returned for the 2019/20 season. The competition is in its third year and entries are now open to tries scored in all divisions of the Men’s and Women’s Energia All-Ireland League. Click here for entry information.

NAAS (9th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Forenaughts, tonight, 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLLLW; St. Mary’s College: WLLLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 28; Tries: Fionn Higgins 4; St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 44; Tries: Hugo Conway 4

Preview: Division 1B resumes tonight with second-from-bottom Naas hosting mid-table St. Mary’s. In-form winger Fionn Higgins whizzed through to score a superb last-gasp try against Shannon and end the Cobras’ losing run.

They will hope that Higgins’ memorable 85th-minute match winner can light the touch paper for a better set of results before Christmas. Mary’s did the double over Naas last season, winning the corresponding game 23-8 at Forenaughts.

With Ronan Watters in man-of-the-match form, Mary’s made it back-to-back victories a fortnight ago against Banbridge. Their young back-line continues to grow in stature, led by Ruairi Shields, the scorer of 44 points, and Ireland Under-20 international Cormac Foley.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 1, 2018: Naas 8 St. Mary’s College 23, Forenaughts; Friday, February 15, 2019: St. Mary’s College 18 Naas 11, Templeville Road

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

BANBRIDGE (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLWWL; Old Belvedere: WWWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 31; Tries: Stevie Irvine, Neil Kilpatrick, Greg Jones, Ryan Hughes 2 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 65; Tries: Jack Keating, John McKee 4 each

Preview: Although Banbridge lost 16-10 at Mary’s, winger Joe Finnegan’s late penalty salvaged a losing bonus point. Their rejigged back-line for tomorrow includes Bruce Houston at out-half and Finnegan’s switch to full-back.

Ulster’s Callum Reid, John Andrew, David O’Connor and Greg Jones are also pencilled in to start up front. Flanker Ethan Baxter is Old Belvedere’s only change following on from their 26-21 bonus point success at home to Malone.

Bann boss Mark McDonnell said: “I believe we’ve progressed since the first block of games. We had a target for how we wanted to play and what we wanted to achieve and we met that target. Now we’ve set ourselves some more immediate goals again.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 6, 2018: Old Belvedere 42 Banbridge 28, Anglesea Road; Saturday, April 13, 2019: Banbridge 34 Old Belvedere 14, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

HIGHFIELD (1st) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWW; City of Armagh: WWLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 48; Tries: Colin O’Neill 5; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 48; Tries: Andrew Willis, Shea O’Brien 3 each

Preview: Highfield are itching to play after receiving a walkover win against Navan most recently. This will be the unbeaten Cork club’s first outing in three weeks and brings back memories of the sides’ 2018 Division 2A play-off tie.

Back then, City of Armagh ran out 27-13 winners at Woodleigh Park on the way to clinching promotion. They leaked 40 points to Old Wesley in their most recent match, so a much-improved defensive display is key for Willie Faloon’s men.

Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker commented: “We’ve lost two games on the bounce and we definitely need to get back to winning ways and move back up the table. We’ve won down at Highfield before and we know what we have to do.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 6, 2018: Highfield 17 City of Armagh 10, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, April 21, 2018: Highfield 13 City of Armagh 27, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (7th) v NAVAN (10th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWWLL; Navan: LLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Callum Smith 25; Tries: Peter Cooper 3; Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly, Evan Dixon, Riaan van der Vyver 10 each; Tries: Colm O’Reilly, Evan Dixon, Riaan van der Vyver 2 each

Preview: Back-to-back losses have seen Malone slip down to seventh spot. They lie three places and 11 points ahead of lowly Navan, who head north after the senior squad’s recent mumps outbreak has cleared up.

Eager to bounce back from a frustrating opening series of five straight defeats, the Navan selection shows three changes as out-half Colm O’Reilly, hooker Shane Faulkner and openside Colm Carpenter all start.

Returning Ireland Under-20 starlet Stewart Moore is due to pair up in Malone’s midfield with Angus Curtis, who is on bench duty for Ulster with Angus Kernohan. Matthew Agnew and Azur Allison are added to the Cregagh Red Sox’s back row.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win

SHANNON (4th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Thomond Park back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWL; Old Wesley: WWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Pa Ryan 30; Tries: Pa Ryan 6; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 42; Tries: Ben Burns 3

Preview: Facing Shannon for the first time since March 2018, Old Wesley head to Limerick looking to protect their five-match unbeaten record. This top-four encounter is sure to draw a sizable crowd to Thomond Park’s back pitch.

There are minimal changes to the Wesley side that put six tries and 40 points past Armagh, as Josh Miller slots in at scrum half and Harry Noonan and Conor Maguire join Ben Burns – their hat-trick hero last time out – in the front row.

Wesley will have to curtail the influence of the division’s top try scorer, Shannon centre Pa Ryan. He is averaging a try per game at the moment, while Tadhg Bennett will need his troops to be at their best defensively after that late lapse at Naas.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 30, 2017: Old Wesley 17 Shannon 34, Donnybrook; Saturday, March 24, 2018: Shannon 24 Old Wesley 21, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win