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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Old Belvedere scrum half Marcus Walsh releases possession away from a ruck during their Division 1B clash with Highfield back in November ©Perfectlight/Voicu Duma

The clubs in the top half of the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B table are all on the road this weekend, with Tadhg Bennett’s Shannon, who have climbed into second place, making the long trip north to City of Armagh.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 29

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 (7th) v SHANNON (2nd), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLWWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLWLWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 80; Tries: Shea O’Brien 7; Shannon: Points: Pa Ryan 55; Tries: Pa Ryan 11

Preview: An intriguing clash here as resurgent Shannon look to complete a season’s double over City of Armagh. With the division’s top try scorer Pa Ryan now with eleven to his name and Ben Daly earning rave reviews at out-half, the Limerick men make the trip in confident mood.

Their head coach Tadhg Bennett told SRTV: “Going north is never easy but we’ll prepare well and look at their last couple of games, see what they have. But we’ll focus a lot on ourselves and try and echo what we did against Naas. We’re travelling on the back of four wins and we’re hoping to pick up one more.”

Back-to-back losses have Armagh down in seventh place, yet they are only four points outside of the top four. Winger Shea O’Brien has taken his handsome season’s haul to seven tries, and Willie Faloon will want a return to winning ways ahead of next week’s Ulster Senior Cup final against Ballynahinch.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Shannon 26 City of Armagh 14, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

NAAS (9th) v BANBRIDGE (5th), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLLLWLWLWWWL; Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 75; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 55; Tries: Peter Cromie 9

Preview: It was back down to earth with a bump for Naas last Saturday, the Cobras enduring a 40-point reversal at the hands of Shannon. Indiscipline and individual errors played their part in a deflating performance, although it should not take the shine off their previous three victories on the trot.

With his side making the trip on the back of two successive defeats, Banbridge head coach Mark McDowell said: “We paid the price for a poor start against St. Mary’s. Collectively we didn’t produce as good a performance as we’re capable of. The Naas game now is a huge fixture for us.”

Ulster’s Greg Jones, who had ‘some great tackles and carries’ last Saturday, continues at number 8 in a Bann team that shows three personnel changes. Winger John Porter and Ulster pair Jonny Stewart and John Andrew all come in, with prolific hooker Peter Cromie switching to the back row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 23, 2019: Banbridge 21 Naas 42, Rifle Park; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Banbridge 13 Naas 3, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

NAVAN (10th) v OLD WESLEY (3rd), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLLLWLLLLL; Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 33; Tries: Riaan van der Vyver 4; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 106; Tries: Ben Burns 5

Preview: Navan certainly put it up to Highfield in the first half last week, keeping the deficit to just five points. The closing 40 minutes saw the table toppers pull away but Ray Moloney’s charges can take a good handful of positives forward into tomorrow’s home game.

Third-placed Old Wesley arrive at their Leinster rivals having edged out Armagh 14-12 thanks to two scrum-inspired penalty tries. Head coach Morgan Lennon has kept the changes to a minimum, bringing in current Ireland Under-20 prop Harry Noonan for some valuable game-time.

With Malone and Banbridge nipping at their heels, it is vital that Wesley put together consecutive victories for the first time since early December. They were 38-15 winners over Navan before Christmas, and still have full-back Rory Stynes (106 points) out in front as the division’s top scorer.

Recent League Meeting – Thursday, December 19, 2019: Old Wesley 38 Navan 15, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLLWLWL; Highfield: WWWWWWWLWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 79; Tries: James McKeown 6; Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 102; Tries: Colin O’Neill, Ben Murphy 6 each

Preview: Old Belvedere have struggled for consistency since the turn of the year, twice following up a win with a defeat. They showed in early November that they are more than a match for Highfield, eventually falling to a 14-10 loss in a hard-fought tie at Woodleigh Park.

For tomorrow’s game which will be streamed live on the Old Belvedere TV YouTube channel, Leinster Academy flanker Martin Moloney makes a welcome return from injury, Sean McCrohan is also added to the back row, and a third change sees David Butler selected at inside centre.

With his side now ten points clear at the summit, Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan told Irish Rugby TV: “Things are going quite well for us and hopefully we can get a couple more wins. Belvedere away is a very, very tough game. But that group of lads, they’ve got a winning mentality. Good teams know how to win, and that’s what we’ve been building these last few years.”

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Highfield 14 Old Belvedere 10, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v MALONE (4th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWLLLW; Malone: LLWWLLWLWWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 62; Tries: Hugo Conway 6; Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 57; Tries: Peter Cooper 5

Preview: St. Mary’s College are missing Ryan O’Loughlin and Jack Dilger, a try scorer last week, for the visit of fourth-placed Malone. There are positional switches for Matthew Timmons and Peter Starrett to cover the pair’s absence.

Top scorer Ruairi Shields returns at full-back for the Dubliners who also bump up second row Liam Curran from the bench. Mary’s ran out 13-8 winners over the Cregagh Red Sox in November, Shields kicking two penalties and converting prop Michael McCormack’s try.

Malone look in much better shape now, though, and head coach Chris Henry, on the back on last Saturday’s 21-16 success against ‘Belvo, is able to slot Ulster representatives Stewart Moore, Angus Kernohan, Andrew Warwick and Ross Kane back into his starting XV.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 6, 2019: St. Mary’s College 38 Malone 36, Templeville Road; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Malone 8 St. Mary’s College 13, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win