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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Malone toppled second-placed Old Wesley last time out, with tries from Dave Cave and Angus Kernohan in a 12-9 win ©Deryck Vincent

If you take out Shannon’s standout win over leaders Highfield, the average winning margin in the last round of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B was just six points. The competitiveness of clubs at both ends of the table is ratcheting up with each passing week.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 25

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.

BANBRIDGE (4th) v NAVAN (10th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWL; Navan: LLLLLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 52; Tries: Peter Cromie 5; Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 33; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 4

Preview: Only two points separated these teams when they clashed last month, so Navan travel with quiet confidence that they can reverse the result and pick up a much-needed second victory in four rounds.

The division’s bottom side have promoted backs Shane Walshe and Chris Ebeling from the bench this week. Banbridge make three changes, bringing in Hugo Harbinson and Jonny Stewart behind the scrum and Dale Carson fills the blindside flanker berth.

Bann boss Mark McDowell commented: “We lacked sharpness against Armagh, a lot of the problems were self-inflicted and I think those are the things that are easiest to fix. Navan are in desperate need of a win, so it’s going to be another big challenge.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 1, 2011: Banbridge 16 Navan 12, Rifle Park; Saturday, December 7, 2019: Navan 22 Banbridge 24, Balreask Old

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Banbridge to win

HIGHFIELD (1st) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWLWL; Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 78; Tries: Colin O’Neill 6; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 93; Tries: Ben Burns 5

Preview: Highfield head into this top of the table encounter with their confidence dented by recent results. Losses at Old Wesley and Shannon – the latter by a surprising 18-point margin – have cut their lead at the summit to a single point.

Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan has made six personnel changes, most of them up front where Michael Dillane, Eoin Keating, Dave O’Connell, the Division 2A Rising Star in 2018/19, and Cathal Gallagher are all handed starts.

Beaten 12-9 by Malone, second-placed Wesley suffered a rare home reversal in the tenth round. Backs James O’Donovan, Richie Walsh, Tom Kiersey and Charlie O’Regan all return tomorrow, while hooker Craig Telford is the fifth and final change.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 30, 2013: Highfield 28 Old Wesley 19, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, December 7, 2019: Old Wesley 25 Highfield 22, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Highfield to win

MALONE (6th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (8th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWWLLWLWW; City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 49; Tries: Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton, Stewart Moore, Angus Kernohan 3 each; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 71; Tries: Shea O’Brien 5

Preview: December and January have been positive months for these Ulster rivals, Malone winning three of their last four games – they lie just a point outside of the top four – and Armagh were victorious in two of the last three.

Willie Faloon’s Armagh charges defeated Rainey Old Boys 28-18 last week to reach another Ulster Senior Cup final. He was particularly pleased with their ‘strong set piece and defence’ in their two 2020 outings to date.

Facing his former Ulster team-mate, Malone boss Chris Henry watch his team lose 22-20 at Armagh last month. Their victory over Wesley shows what they are capable of – Ulster Academy players Graham Curtis, Matthew Dalton and Azur Allison are among their personnel changes tomorrow.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 23, 2019: Malone 16 City of Armagh 7, Gibson Park; Saturday, December 7, 2019: City of Armagh 22 Malone 20, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Malone to win

NAAS (9th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLLLWLWLW; Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 51; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: Jack Keating, Jack Kelly 5 each

Preview: Naas have yet to string together successive wins this season, so it would be a significant result if they were to complete the double over Old Belvedere. The second-from-bottom Cobras need to keep within reach of the teams above them.

Belvedere head coach Andy Kenny makes some tweaks to the starting XV from the 15-10 triumph over St. Mary’s. Fergus Flood comes in at full-back, with Jerry Cahir, Joe Horan, James Bollard and Gerard Hill added to the tight five.

The sides’ recent tussle at Anglesea Road saw Naas finish as 19-12 victors. Their performance was ignited by centre James Hawkey’s excellent fourth-minute try, the result of some brilliant handling from backs and forwards alike.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 19, 2019: Old Belvedere 18 Naas 20, Anglesea Road; Saturday, December 7, 2019: Old Belvedere 12 Naas 19, Ollie Campbell Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Naas to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (7th) v SHANNON (5th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 62; Tries: Hugo Conway 6; Shannon: Points: Billy Gray 46; Tries: Pa Ryan 7

Preview: Shannon secured the result of the round a fortnight ago, claiming the scalp of the league leaders. They have not enjoyed back-to-back league wins since October, and consistency has been an issue too for St. Mary’s.

They are two of six clubs with a won-five-and-lost-five record so far, with Mary’s lack of a try-scoring bonus point meaning they are down in seventh spot. Indeed, the Dubliners have scored more than 16 points on just one occasion so far.

Seeking a season’s double over Mary’s, Shannon head coach Tadhg Bennett said: “We’ve prepared well for them, we know what they’re going to bring. We played them recently and had a good (24-11) win, but we know it’s going to be much tougher going up there.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 5, 2016: Shannon 3 St. Mary’s College 24, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, December 7, 2019: Shannon 24 St. Mary’s College 11, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Shannon to win