Something will have to give at Energia Park where unbeaten pace-setting pair Highfield and Old Wesley go head-to-head in the latest round of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B action.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 7
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.
SHANNON (6th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (4th), Thomond Park back pitch, 1.30pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWLL; St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Pa Ryan 30; Tries: Pa Ryan 6; St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 50; Tries: Hugo Conway 4
Preview: An earlier kick-off given Munster’s big European encounter, Shannon have an opportunity to leapfrog fourth-placed St. Mary’s College and right the wrongs of their recent narrow reversals at the hands of Naas and Old Wesley.
Mary’s head south to Limerick in pursuit of their fourth straight victory. Six points has been their biggest winning margin of late so they are grinding out results in close contests. They are boosted by the return of highly-rated number 8 Ronan Watters in their only personnel change.
Shannon boss Tadhg Bennett said: “We’ve gone back to the drawing board and seen where we went wrong. We don’t fear any team. On our day we think we can beat any team in the league, so it’s just another game coming on Saturday for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 26, 2015: St. Mary’s College 45 Shannon 12, Templeville Road; Saturday, March 5, 2016: Shannon 3 St. Mary’s College 24, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
OLD WESLEY (2nd) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Energia Park, 2pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWW; Highfield: WWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 56; Tries: Ben Burns 3; Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 59; Tries: Colin O’Neill 5
Preview: The big one in Division 1B this weekend as high-flying Highfield travel for their first away date with Old Wesley since March 2013. Player-coach Tim Ryan is set to stick with the winning formula from last week’s hard-fourth 21-13 success against City of Armagh.
It is Munster opposition again for second-placed Old Wesley following on from their 24-20 triumph at Shannon. Ed O’Keeffe moves into midfield to make up a new midfield pairing with David Poff, while Richie Walsh is added to the back-three.
Wesley’s pack is unchanged and faces its stiffest test of the season to date against Highfield’s much-vaunted eight. Two of the division’s best goal-kickers also go head-to-head with Wesley full-back Rory Stynes sitting on 56 points, just three behind the Cork club’s ace out-half Shane O’Riordan.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 30, 2013: Old Wesley 48 Highfield 15, Donnybrook; Saturday, November 30, 2013: Highfield 28 Old Wesley 19, Woodleigh Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
CITY OF ARMAGH (8th) v MALONE (5th), Palace Grounds
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLL; Malone: LLWWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 61; Tries: Andrew Willis, Shea O’Brien 3 each; Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 30; Tries: Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton 3 each
Preview: A mouth-watering Ulster derby is down for decision, with City of Armagh looking to rediscover their winning touch after three defeats in a row. Former captain Chris Colvin, a key operator in midfield, and influential prop Daryl Morton are set to start tomorrow.
Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker said they ‘got the performance they wanted but not the result’ away to Highfield. Malone will be brimming with confidence after putting 40-plus points on Navan, with returning centre Stewart Moore scoring two of their seven tries in the rout.
The Ulster prospect is set to start again, this time alongside Nathan Brown in the Cregagh Red Sox’s midfield. Ben McCaughey switches to full-back with the wing berths filled by Mike Melville and David McMaster, while there are starts up front for Ben Halliday, Dan Kerr, Peter Cooper and Joe Dunleavy.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 20, 2018: City of Armagh 32 Malone 3, Palace Grounds; Saturday, March 23, 2019: Malone 16 City of Armagh 7, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win
NAVAN (10th) v BANBRIDGE (7th), Balreask Old
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLL; Banbridge: LLLWWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 13; Tries: Evan Dixon, Riaan van der Vyver 2 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 34; Tries: Greg Jones 3
Preview: Navan coaches Ray Moloney and James O’Neill will feature in the team to take on Banbridge, with full-back Moloney anchoring a back-three which now includes Evan Dixon on the right wing. Strong-carrying South African Riaan van der Vyvyer returns in midfield alongside Kyle Dixon.
The Meath men’s other changes will see O’Neill line out at openside flanker and Conor Hand switches to the engine room. Banbridge, who last played Navan over eight years ago, reward seconds players Max Lyttle and Reuben McCreery with starts after impressing last week in a thrilling win against Old Belvedere.
Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “No game away from home is easy. If this isn’t a season-defining game for Navan then it’s not far off that. We’re under no illusions about the challenge facing us. We treat all teams with the same respect.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 15, 2011: Navan 6 Banbridge 20, Balreask Old; Saturday, October 1, 2011: Banbridge 16 Navan 12, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win
OLD BELVEDERE (3rd) v NAAS (9th), Ollie Campbell Park, 5pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWL; Naas: LLLLLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 77; Tries: Jack Keating, John McKee, James McKeown 4 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 33; Tries: Fionn Higgins 5
Preview: Ariel Robles and Aaron Atkinson come into Old Belvedere’s back-line following a thoroughly frustrating 28-27 defeat away to Banbridge. A fumbled pass close to the Bann line, in the final minutes, consigned the Dubliners to their third loss in four matches, but they remain third overall.
Leinster ‘A’ prop Roman Salanoa is the lone change up front for ‘Belvo who know just how tough Naas can be as opponents. Only two points separated these sides in both of their league meetings last season, with the Cobras prevailing 20-18 at Anglesea Road in very dramatic fashion.
Peter Osborne’s superb last-gasp penalty from distance did the job for Naas. It is no surprise to see Osborne (33 points) and Fionn Higgins (5 tries) leading the way as their current top scorers, but more firepower is required if they want to extricate themselves from the bottom two.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 15, 2018: Naas 8 Old Belvedere 10, Forenaughts; Saturday, January 19, 2019: Old Belvedere 18 Naas 20, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win