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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Navan and Banbridge played out a titanic seven-try tussle at Balreask Old in Division 1B last weekend ©Navan RFC

The final round of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B action before Christmas gets underway tonight with a crunch Leinster derby between basement-dwelling duo Naas and Navan.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 14

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 NAVAN (10th), Forenaughts, tonight, 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLLLWLW; Navan: LLLLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 42; Tries: Fionn Higgins 5; Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 20; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 3

Preview: Naas’ 19-12 win at Old Belvedere showed the strides being made under new head coach Dan van Zyl. Tonight’s Leinster derby is a key game for them in their drive to break out of the bottom two, with a six-point gap to make up on Malone and St. Mary’s College.

Bryan Croke and Peter Osborne are knitting together as a dynamic half-back duo, the former’s clever chip-and-collect setting up Osborne’s try against ‘Belvo. Bottom side Navan ran Banbridge very close last week in their ongoing search for a first victory.

Australian recruit Chris Ebeling is promoted from the bench as Navan’s lone personnel change, taking over in midfield from the injured Riaan van der Vyver, their top try scorer so far with three. Player-coached Ray Moloney continues at full-back.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 15, 2011: Navan 7 Naas 13, Balreask Old; Friday, November 2, 2012: Naas 27 Navan 12, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

BANBRIDGE (5th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLWWLWW; City of Armagh: WWLWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 34; Tries: Greg Jones, Peter Cromie 3 each; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 61; Tries: Andrew Willis, Shea O’Brien 3 each

Preview: Banbridge showed plenty of character in coming from 15 points down against Navan to win with a bonus point. Replacement Neil Kilpatrick’s charge-down of a last-gasp drop goal attempt made certain of their fourth win in five games.

Adam Doherty, Jonny Little, John Andrew, Stuart Cromie and Stevie Irvine all return for this mouth-watering Ulster derby, with Bann boss Mark McDowell warning: “Defensively we had a few issues that Navan were able to exploit. We’ll certainly need to be better when we play Armagh.”

Willie Faloon’s Armagh side ended a three-match losing run when edging out Malone 22-20. Their power-packed maul earned them three tries, including a penalty try. The bonus point lifted them up to sixth place, putting them just two points outside the top four.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 15, 2018: Banbridge 14 City of Armagh 15, Rifle Park; Saturday, January 19, 2019: City of Armagh 15 Banbridge 32, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

HIGHFIELD (1st) v SHANNON (4th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 66; Tries: Colin O’Neill 6; Shannon: Points: Billy Gray 36; Tries: Pa Ryan 7

Preview: A super-charged Munster derby is in prospect here, with Highfield itching to respond to their first league defeat and stay top of the tree for Christmas. A last-minute maul effort was foiled as they went down 25-22 to second-placed Old Wesley.

Sam Burns, Luke Kingston and Mark Dorgan are the changes to the Highfield back-line this week, while Michael Dillane and Jack Duffy gain starts in the pack. It is a historic occasion tomorrow as the Cork club host Shannon for the first time ever in the league.

With the division’s leading try scorers – Highfield winger Colin O’Neill (6 tries) and Shannon centre Pa Ryan (7) – on show, Shannon boss Tadhg Bennett said: “We need to try and follow up with another win and build some momentum. We know it’s going to be a massive task, but it’s one that we’re definitely up for and one that we’re definitely capable of.”

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (7th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWWLLWL; Old Wesley: WWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 40; Tries: Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton, Stewart Moore 3 each; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 66; Tries: Ben Burns 3

Preview: With a number of players required by Ulster ‘A’, Malone have a lot of squad rotation this week with starts handed to Andy Bryans, Angus Curtis, Callum Smith, Angus Kernohan, Connor Spence, Ross Kane, Conor McMenamin, James McAllister, Claytan Milligan and James Welling.

Malone’s maul defence let them down against Armagh, so the set piece is sure to be a key battleground when Wesley put their seven-match winning streak on the line. The Dubliners won 16-12 at Gibson Park last December thanks to Rory Stynes’ two second-half penalties.

Behind an unchanged pack, Wesley head coach Morgan Lennon has made two alterations to the back-line that started last week’s impressive win over leaders Highfield. Ireland Sevens cap James O’Donovan is reunited with David Poff in the centre, while Paul Harte fills the left wing berth.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 8, 2018: Malone 12 Old Wesley 16, Gibson Park; Saturday, January 26, 2019: Old Wesley 17 Malone 21, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWL; Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 56; Tries: Hugo Conway 5; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: Jack Keating, John McKee, James McKeown 4 each

Preview: Two of the losing teams from last week meet in an eagerly-awaited Dublin derby. It was one win apiece between St. Mary’s College and Old Belvedere last season, the hosts winning the corresponding fixture 10-7 thanks to out-half Conor Dean’s clutch of points.

Captain Steve Crosbie, the division’s current top scorer with 79 points, is absent from the Belvedere line-up with Tom Molony stationed at inside centre and Justin Leonard coming in at out-half. Jack Keating, Joe Horan, Adam Howard, Cathal McGettigan and Colin Mallon are the other changes.

Mary’s boss Steven Hennessy wants to make Templeville Road a fortress again, and that starts with winning tomorrow afternoon. “A bit like last year it looks like being another topsy-turvy league,” he said. “A win this weekend and with other fixtures, you could just one, two, three or even four places – it’s that tight.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 3, 2018: Old Belvedere 29 St. Mary’s College 24, Anglesea Road; Saturday, March 2, 2019: St. Mary’s College 10 Old Belvedere 7, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win