The final third of the Energia All-Ireland League’s regular season begins with two Friday Night Lights derbies – unbeaten leaders Cork Constitution host UCC, and third-placed UCD make the short trip to Terenure College’s Lakelands Park.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 22
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.
CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v UCC (8th), Temple Hill, tonight, 8pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WWWWWWWWWWWW; UCC: WWWLLLLLLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Jack Crowley 37; Tries: Brian Hayes 7; UCC: Points: James Taylor 37; Tries: Murray Linn 5
Preview: UCC have picked up three losing bonus points in the last four rounds, showing how close they are coming to breaking that losing streak. It now stretches to nine games, and they remain locked in a three-way battle to avoid automatic relegation.
November’s home clash with Cork Constitution also saw the students earn a bonus point, going down 10-6. Openside flanker John Hodnett, a Munster debutant seven days ago, will feature from the start as UCC look to reverse that result under the Temple Hill floodlights.
Brian Hickey’s Con side are heavy favourites to keep up their winning form on home soil. There seems to be no stopping former Munster and Aurillac lock Brian Hayes who, following his score against Ballynahinch, is now the division’s joint-top try scorer with seven tries.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, April 5, 2019: Cork Constitution 37 UCC 19, Temple Hill; Friday, November 15, 2019: UCC 6 Cork Constitution 10, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (7th) v UCD (3rd), Lakelands Park, tonight, 8pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WWWLWLLLWLLL; UCD: LWWDWWWLWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 33; Tries: Sam Dardis 5; UCD: Points: James Tarrant 36; Tries: Ronan Foley, Jack Ringrose 5 each
Preview: Two hard-earned points were ripped out of Terenure College’s grasp last week with the concession of a last-gasp drop goal at Garryowen. So there is a huge amount riding on tonight’s result, given that they have become detached from the play-off chasers.
Visitors UCD are four places and 10 points better off than ‘Nure, a team they overcame 30-20 in November thanks mainly to winger Jack Ringrose’s hat-trick of tries. Lining out on the wing tonight for the students will be Leinster duo Adam Byrne and Barry Daly.
Both sides are hoping for much-improved conditions after last Saturday’s Storm Dennis-affected weather. The lineout battle will be keenly contested once again as former Ireland underage team-mates, Peter Claffey and UCD captain Jonny Guy, go head-to-head.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 26, 2019: Terenure College 49 UCD 21, Lakelands Park; Saturday, November 16, 2019: UCD 30 Terenure College 20, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th), Ballymacarn Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLWWLLLWLL; Dublin University: LLWWLLLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Sean O’Hagan 79; Tries: Aaron Cairns 7; Dublin University: Points: Micheal O’Kennedy 82; Tries: Ronan Quinn 4
Preview: After missing out on Ireland Under-20 selection, Luis Faria returns to club duty as one of five changes to the Dublin University team that lost 21-9 at home to Young Munster. He pairs up with captain James Hickey in a strong midfield combination.
With both sides level on 18 points at the foot of the table, this is a must-win encounter for both Ballynahinch and Trinity. Brian McLaughlin’s men, who have Jack Regan, Marcus Rea, Zack McCall and Conor Rankin available again, will be all out to avenge November’s agonising 35-34 defeat.
Speedster Paddy Opperman gets the nod on the left wing for the students, who have also added Ben Nel and Reuben Pim to their tight five. Pim covers the Leinster-enforced absence of Jack Dunne, while Alex Soroka’s involvement with the Ireland U-20s sees Alan Francis come in at blindside flanker.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 30, 2016: Ballynahinch 9 Dublin University 18, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Dublin University 34 Ballynahinch 35, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
CLONTARF (5th) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), Castle Avenue
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WLLWLLLWWLWL; Garryowen: LWLWWWWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Sean Kearns 100; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 5; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Heuston 57; Tries: Bryan Fitzgerald 5
Preview: If fifth-placed Clontarf are to miss out on a semi-final spot, they will have a number of narrow losses to reflect on. Last week saw them pipped by Lansdowne right at the death, leaving them with a seventh losing bonus point in as many defeats.
‘Tarf are craving the consistent set of results that Garryowen have produced, the Light Blues’ canny knack of winning tight contests evident again against Terenure. The availability tomorrow of Munster pair Alex Wootton and Sean O’Connor would be another welcome boost for the second-placed side.
It was a low-scoring affair when these clubs met at Dooradoyle back in November. A Diarmuid Barron-piloted lineout maul did the damage in the 51st minute, earning a penalty try and a yellow card in a hard-fought 13-10 victory for Garryowen.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 23, 2019: Garryowen 12 Clontarf 29, Dooradoyle; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Garryowen 13 Clontarf 10, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (6th) v LANSDOWNE (4th), Tom Clifford Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LLLDLWWWLLWW; Lansdowne: WLLLLLWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 90; Tries: Jordan Stewart, Evan Cusack, Evan O’Gorman, Luke Fitzgerald 3 each; Lansdowne: Points: Tim Foley 49; Tries: Adam Leavy, Adam Boland, Peter Sullivan, Dan Sheehan 3 each
Preview: Lansdowne have become specialists at snatching one-point wins – they have won all of their last four games by the minimum margin. Backs Harry Brennan and Peter Sullivan return to the starting line-up tomorrow, along with lock Cian O’Dwyer.
Young Munster will relish this shot at a seasonal double, having seen off the division’s bottom two with eight tries scored during their last 180 minutes of rugby. Out-half Evan Cusack’s excellent cross-field kick set up the last of them for Luke Fitzgerald at a rain-soaked Trinity.
Cusack’s opposite number Craig Ronaldson is also in terrific form for Lansdowne. The former Connacht back notched 19 points against ‘Tarf to move ahead of Eric Elwood as Lansdowne’s second leading All-Ireland League points scorer of all-time (402 points).
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 2, 2019: Lansdowne 25 Young Munster 24, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Lansdowne 0 Young Munster 7, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win