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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Highfield's in-form winger Ben Murphy takes on the Old Wesley defence during last month's top of the table clash in Division 1B ©Perfectlight/Voicu Duma

A week on from their Dalriada Cup success at Energia Park, some of the Ireland Club XV players will be in opposition when promotion hopefuls Old Wesley and Shannon clash in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B.


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.

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

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWLL; Naas: LLLLLWLWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 62; Tries: Hugo Conway 6; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 60; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6

Preview: Another tight encounter is in prospect here, St. Mary’s College winning their last two tussles with Naas by seven and six points respectively. Yet, the Kildare men have started 2020 in brilliant fashion, including a thumping 39-12 defeat of Old Belvedere.

Naas are poised to climb out of the bottom two – and above St. Mary’s – if they can make it three wins on the trot. Dan van Zyl’s men turned in a superb first half against ‘Belvo, scoring 29 unanswered points, and that has to be the blueprint as they look to move out of relegation trouble.

St. Mary’s really need to convert more of their chances. As the second lowest scorers in the division, they are yet to register a try-scoring bonus point but did notch a season-high three tries in the previous round against Shannon.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 15, 2019: St. Mary’s College 18 Naas 11, Templeville Road; Friday, November 29, 2019: Naas 10 St. Mary’s College 16, Forenaughts

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

CITY OF ARMAGH (5th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLWW; Highfield: WWWWWWWLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 73; Tries: Shea O’Brien, Andrew Willis 6 each; Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 89; Tries: Colin O’Neill 6

Preview: A big test of City of Armagh’s recent improved form as they entertain table toppers Highfield. Their 22-7 victory at Ulster rivals Malone saw Willie Faloon’s charges back close to their best, with wingers Shea O’Brien and Andrew Willis now on six tries each.

Speaking of form players, Highfield out-half Shane O’Riordan, who has crossed twice in the last two rounds, is on the cusp of breaking the 100-point barrier. Ben Murphy is another back to watch out for, chasing his fifth try in four matches.

There are two changes to the Highfield side that won 26-13 at home to second-placed Old Wesley a few weeks ago. Sam Burns gets the nod at full-back, while Michael Shinkwin swaps in for player-coach Tim Ryan at tighthead prop.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 21, 2018: Highfield 13 City of Armagh 27, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, November 30, 2019: Highfield 21 City of Armagh 13, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Highfield to win

NAVAN (10th) v MALONE (7th), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLLLWLLL; Malone: LLWWLLWLWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 33; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 4; Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 51; Tries: Stewart Moore 4

Preview: Ulster pair Angus Kernohan and Stewart Moore will team up in Malone’s midfield, their much-changed back-line including Jonny Milliken at full-back and Callum Smith at out-half. Claytan Milligan switches back to hooker alongside Peter Cooper and Ross Kane.

Bottom-placed Navan, who are 16 points adrift, were desperately close to picking up losing bonus points in their opening two games of 2020. They finished nine points behind Naas and ten in arrears to Banbridge.

It is all about building positive blocks in matches for Ray Moloney’s side, improving their decision-making and cutting down on the errors that have exposed them against teams with greater levels of experience. Malone should prove too strong for the second time this season.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 30, 2019: Malone 43 Navan 3, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Malone to win

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLLWL; Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: Jack Keating, Jack Kelly, James McKeown 5 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 55; Tries: Peter Cromie 6

Preview: It was a first half to forget for Old Belvedere at Naas last time out, their slide down to sixth place denting confidence levels. They are entering a make-or-break few weeks with back-to-back meetings with Banbridge, Malone and leaders Highfield.

Bann hooker Peter Cromie has played a leading role in their climb back up to third in the table. Six tries in as many games is a brilliant haul for the Newry-born 25-year-old, who has been capped by Ulster at underage and ‘A’ levels.

Praising his forwards’ efforts against Navan a few weeks ago, Bann boss Mark McDowell said: “I was pleased for our pack, which apart from Ulster Academy prop Callum Reid, was entirely a club team. The lineout was very good and a step in the right direction.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2019: Banbridge 34 Old Belvedere 14, Rifle Park; Saturday, November 30, 2019: Banbridge 28 Old Belvedere 27, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Banbridge to win

OLD WESLEY (2nd) v SHANNON (4th), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 101; Tries: Ben Burns 5; Shannon: Points: Pa Ryan 45; Tries: Pa Ryan 9

Preview: Two of Shannon’s leading lights return to the scene of the Ireland Club XV’s Dalriada Cup success last Friday night. Scrum half Aran Hehir and centre Pa Ryan claimed the man-of-the-match awards across the two matches against Scotland.

Ryan will certainly be a marked man, his nine-try haul making him the division’s leading try scorer so far. The Limerick men are hoping to avenge November’s 24-20 loss to Old Wesley and erase the current four-point gap between the sides.

Second-placed Wesley are aiming to put back-to-back defeats to Malone and Highfield behind them. Ian Condell’s inclusion in the back row sees Paul Derham revert to number 8, while there are also starts for Craig Miller at scrum half and Ben Burns and James Burton in the front row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2018: Shannon 24 Old Wesley 21, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, November 30, 2019: Shannon 20 Old Wesley 24, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Old Wesley to win