The second legs of the back-to-back matches in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B see a strong collective pursuit of promotion resume. Just two points separate Highfield and Old Wesley at the summit.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 11
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.
CITY OF ARMAGH (8th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Palace Grounds
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWL; Banbridge: LLLWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 69; Tries: Andrew Willis, Shea O’Brien 4 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 52; Tries: Peter Cromie 4
Preview: The division’s Ulster rivals collide once more as City of Armagh seek revenge for a nightmare second half the last day. Banbridge put 33 unanswered points on them to win 43-18 at Rifle Park and finish out 2019 with three league victories in a row.
Bann’s four-man Ulster contingent certainly helped in the last round, but it was full-back Adam Doherty who starred on the scoring front with 18 points. Armagh will need to tighten up their defence and discipline in order to curb his influence.
Expecting a big response from Armagh, Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “It was really pleasing not just to beat Armagh but also to deny them getting anything. But we’re under no illusions – it’s probably going to make the return fixture an even more feisty encounter when we go to them.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 19, 2019: City of Armagh 15 Banbridge 32, Palace Grounds; Saturday, December 14, 2019: Banbridge 43 City of Armagh 18, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win
NAVAN (10th) v NAAS (9th), Balreask Old
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLLLWL; Naas: LLLLLWLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 30; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 4; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 44; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6
Preview: Blindside flanker Colm Carpenter stepped up with a try-scoring man-of-the-match display in the previous round, helping Navan to break their Division 1B duck with a 15-12 win at Naas. Can they further boost their survival hopes at home tomorrow?
Ray Moloney’s men ended 2019 with a heavy loss to Old Wesley in their rescheduled fixture, however they begin the New Year with renewed confidence. They have seven points to make up on second-from-bottom Naas so this is a vital game for them.
The Cobras make a league visit to Balreask Old for the first time since October 2011. Having won at Old Belvedere in early December, they will be looking to the likes of Adam Coyle, captain Paulie Tolofua and David Benn to lay down a marker up front in their 2020 opener.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 2, 2012: Naas 27 Navan 12, Forenaughts; Friday, December 13, 2019: Naas 12 Navan 15, Forenaughts
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Navan to win
OLD BELVEDERE (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th), Ollie Campbell Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLL; St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: Jack Keating, John McKee, James McKeown, Jack Kelly 4 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 62; Tries: Hugo Conway 6
Preview: Old Belvedere want to put a run of three straight defeats behind them when they host St. Mary’s College in another mouth-watering Dublin derby. A tense first clash was decided by a single point, Mary’s prevailing 14-13 thanks to winger Hugo Conway’s sixth try of the campaign.
Old Belvedere are live streaming both their Men’s and Women’s league fixtures tomorrow on the club’s YouTube channel. They will be hoping that flanker Jack Kelly can continue his terrific recent try-scoring form with four touchdowns in his last six league appearances.
Mary’s have won four of their last five league matches, maintaining an upward trajectory with returning winger Ryan O’Loughlin a real game-breaker the last day. Their pack, under skipper Tom O’Reilly, clearly relished taking on ‘Belvo’s heavier set of forwards.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 2, 2019: St. Mary’s College 10 Old Belvedere 7, Templeville Road; Saturday, December 14, 2019: St. Mary’s College 14 Old Belvedere 13, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
OLD WESLEY (2nd) v MALONE (5th), Energia Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLW; Malone: LLWWLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 84; Tries: Ben Burns 5; Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 47; Tries: Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton, Stewart Moore 3 each
Preview: Old Wesley are right on Highfield’s tails after bouncing back with a 38-15 bonus point success against Navan before Christmas. With two tries and four successful kicks that night, full-back Rory Stynes is now the division’s leading scorer with 84 points.
Ed O’Keeffe and Josh Miller return to Wesley’s back-line this week, while the strong-carrying Mark Rowley slots back in at number 8 with Paul Derham reverting to the blindside position. David Poff’s second half try was their lone score at Malone last month.
Chris Henry’s Cregagh Red Sox deservedly won out 17-5 that day and make five personnel changes for the return match. Ulster Academy pair Matthew Agnew and Joe Dunleavy feature in the back row, and fellow provincial talent Stewart Moore, Ben Halliday and Ryan Clarke are also selected to start.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 26, 2019: Old Wesley 17 Malone 21, Energia Park; Saturday, December 14, 2019: Malone 17 Old Wesley 5, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
SHANNON (7th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Thomond Park back pitch
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWLLWL; Highfield: WWWWWWWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Billy Gray 36; Tries: Pa Ryan 7; Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 70; Tries: Colin O’Neill 6
Preview: League leaders Highfield got back to winning ways against Shannon last time out, but nine points was a tight enough margin. Home advantage and a complete 80-minute performance could see Tadhg Bennett’s young guns turn the tables on their Munster rivals.
The Corkmen will want more of the same from centre Ben Murphy who bagged a well-taken brace of tries in that ninth round meeting. Over the first half of the season, Tim Ryan’s charges had statistically the best attack and defence across the top two divisions.
Shannon were just a pass or two away from finishing off chances in the first clash, conjuring up a fine try from Jamie McGarry via Ikem Igwueru’s excellent break. The Limerick club’s set-piece work will have to be at its sharpest too, with their maul defence expected to be thoroughly tested again.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, December 14, 2019: Highfield 19 Shannon 10, Woodleigh Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win