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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Munster Academy out-half Jake Flannery featured for Shannon against Old Wesley in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B last Saturday ©Deryck Vincent

Division 1B rivals Shannon and Naas have both won their last three Energia All-Ireland League matches, so their meeting on Thomond Park’s back pitch on Saturday is shaping up to be a cracker.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: 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.

BANBRIDGE (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWLWL; St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 55; Tries: Peter Cromie 7; St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 62; Tries: Hugo Conway 6

Preview: Right winger Joseph Finnegan is bumped up from the bench as Banbridge’s only change to the team that lost 17-14 to Old Belvedere. Hooker Peter Cromie touched down for the seventh straight match, making him the division’s second top try scorer.

Ahead of the visit of St. Mary’s College, Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “They’ve had a couple of results go against them and now they find themselves second-from-bottom in the table, so that will certainly make them dangerous opponents.”

Mary’s have lost four of their last five games, three of them by five points or less. They are hoping that two recent training sessions with Joe Schmidt will help them to turn a corner. A repeat of November’s 16-10 victory over Banbridge would certainly lift confidence levels.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 26, 2019: Banbridge 18 St. Mary’s College 16, Rifle Park; Saturday, November 16, 2019: St. Mary’s College 16 Banbridge 10, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Banbridge to win

HIGHFIELD (1st) v NAVAN (10th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWLWLWW; Navan: LLLLLLLWLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 94; Tries: Colin O’Neill 6; Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 33; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 4

Preview: A collective clean bill of health allows Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan to name an unchanged team for this clash with struggling Navan. Their back-three have been finishing well, with Sam Burns and Ben Murphy scoring two tries each in the last two rounds.

This is Highfield’s first time to face Navan in five years, as the Meath men were unable to play their home fixture in November due to a mumps outbreak. The division’s bottom side are still searching for their second win after prevailing at Naas in December.

They were unable to capitalise on breaks by Riaan van der Vyver and captain Conor Ryan during last week’s 12-0 loss to Malone. It should be an interesting individual tussle tomorrow between respective number 8s Ryan and Miah Cronin, brother of Munster and Ireland prop James Cronin.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 21, 2015: Navan 3 Highfield 31, Balreask Old; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Navan v Highfield (walkover win), Balreask Old

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Highfield to win

MALONE (6th) v OLD BELVEDERE (5th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWWLLWLWWLW; Old Belvedere:WWWLLWLLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 51; Tries: Stewart Moore, Peter Cooper 4 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: Jack Keating, Jack Kelly, James McKeown 5 each

Preview: Determined to make it four victories in five rounds, Malone welcome back top-scoring out-half Jack Milligan as one of four back-line changes. With Stewart Moore on the Ulster bench, Gary Andrews and Nathan Brown link up in the centre.

Ricky Greenwood and Conor McMenamin swap in from the bench to rejoin the tight five, while 20-year-old Ulster Academy ace Azur Allison features at number 8 this week. Old Belvedere are just one bonus point ahead of Malone in the current standings.

Fifth-placed ‘Belvo are set to field an unchanged starting XV as they chase their third triumph in four rounds. Five-try winger James McKeown and Ariel Robles provide the threat out wide, and Balbriggan RFC product Dean Moore doubles up as captain and a talisman up front.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 9, 2019: Old Belvedere 15 Malone 12, Anglesea Road; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Old Belvedere 26 Malone 21, Ollie Campbell Park

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Malone to win

OLD WESLEY (2nd) v CITY OF ARMAGH (7th), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWLLL; City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 106; Tries: Ben Burns 5; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 78; Tries: Shea O’Brien, Andrew Willis 6 each

Preview: Old Wesley head coach Morgan Lennon keeps the changes to a minimum, adding Galway native Donnchadh Phelan to the engine room as they look to recapture the form they showed in November’s impressive 40-13 dismissal of City of Armagh.

Successive defeats to Malone, Highfield and Shannon have dented Wesley’s promotion bid, at the same time that Armagh have enjoyed back-to-back Ulster derby wins before picking up a losing bonus point last week against table-topping Highfield.

With Shannon paying them a visit next week, Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker commented: “It’s a difficult block of games, but if you can come out of it picking up points and wins then you’ll be in a really good place.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2019: Old Wesley 31 City of Armagh 10, Energia Park; Saturday, November 16, 2019: City of Armagh 13 Old Wesley 40, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Old Wesley to win

SHANNON (3rd) v NAAS (8th), Thomond Park back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWLLWLWWW; Naas: LLLLLWLWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Pa Ryan 45; Tries: Pa Ryan 9; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 70; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6

Preview: Shannon and Naas have both strung together three wins on the bounce, so something will have to give on Thomond Park’s back pitch. Their mid-November encounter was a close one, winger Fionn Higgins’ injury-time try guiding Naas to their first victory of the season (16-14).

Fit-again Shannon prop Tony Cusack will be pushing for more game-time after his successful return against Old Wesley last week. Now out of the bottom two, Naas are in very good scoring form with out-half Bryan Croke gunning for his third try in as many games.

Delighted with the tenacity shown late on against Wesley, Shannon assistant coach Pat Brown told SRTV: “It was a great performance in terrible conditions, we really dug deep. It was a real old-school AIL game. We’re starting to build a bit of momentum at the minute and it really showed at the end.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 6, 2018: Shannon 25 Naas 3, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, November 16, 2019: Naas 16 Shannon 14, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Preview: Shannon to win