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Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Old Wesley's JJ O'Dea takes on the Highfield defence during the sides' January 2020 tussle at Woodleigh Park ©Ken Richardson/Old Wesley RFC

Something will have to give at Woodleigh Park where Highfield and Old Wesley, with five wins each so far, meet in a mouth-watering Division 1B top of the table clash.


ROUND 6: Saturday, November 20

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

‘Energia AIL: A 30 Year Rugby Legacy’, will air on TG4 this Sunday at 5.15pm, and will be available episodically to watch on YouTube from next Monday.

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

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWW; Old Wesley: WWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Miah Cronin 25; Tries: Miah Cronin 5; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 27; Tries: Alastair Hoban, Nathan Randles, Tommy O’Callaghan 2 each

Preview: Highfield welcome back out-half James Taylor from injury for this eagerly-awaited first-versus-second encounter. There are four personnel changes to the team that won 24-20 at Old Belvedere.

Luke Kingston replaces Sam Burns at full-back, while Travis Coomey and Ian McCarthy both get the nod to start in the front row. Highfield and Old Wesley are level on 22 points, with five wins and two bonus points each.

Wesley got one over the Corkmen in late 2019, winning 25-22 at home, but lost the return fixture 26-13. Their back row of Will Fay, Alastair Hoban and Reuben Pim was very effective against Malone last time out, particularly in defence.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2019: Old Wesley 25 Highfield 22, Energia Park; Saturday, January 25, 2020: Highfield 26 Old Wesley 13, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (9th) v BANBRIDGE (10th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WLLLL; Banbridge: LLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 37; Tries: Andy Bryans 3; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 29; Tries: Peter Cromie 2

Preview: There is an Ulster flavour to both selections for this provincial derby, Aaron Sexton and Lewis Finlay bookending the Malone back-line and David O’Connor lining out at blindside flanker for Banbridge.

Malone have sadly lost Josh Pentland to retirement, the centre recovering from a spinal injury but opting to hang up his boots. Head coach Wilbur Leacock said he was ‘a key member of the squad’ and ‘an outstanding young man’.

Hoping his side can end their losing streak, Bann boss Mark McDowell said: “We’re working hard in training, ironing out those little glitches that are costing us. I remain confident that we will soon embark on a run of wins to lift us off the bottom.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: Malone 22 Banbridge 15, Gibson Park; Saturday, October 19, 2019: Malone 34 Banbridge 17, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win


NAAS (6th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (4th), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LWLLW; City of Armagh: WWWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 55; Tries: Bryan Croke, Peter Osborne 3 each; City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 52; Tries: Shea O’Brien, Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon 2 each

Preview: Naas and City of Armagh met twice in 2019, playing out a 23-all draw at Forenaughts before the Ulstermen prevailed 13-6 at home the following October. So expect another tight margin in this latest rematch.

The division’s two highest scorers feature tomorrow, with Naas captain Peter Osborne, who converted all four of their tries at Banbridge, tallying up 55 points so far. Armagh’s Kyle Faloon is just three behind him.

Armagh head coach Chris Parker commented: “We used the free week to refocus on our next series of matches in the run up to the Christmas break. We need to be more composed in the opposition 22 and convert our chances into points.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 26, 2019: Naas 23 City of Armagh 23, Forenaughts; Saturday, October 5, 2019: City of Armagh 13 Naas 7, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

NAVAN (8th) v SHANNON (5th), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLWW; Shannon: LWLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 17; Tries: Paddy Fox, Evan Dixon 3 each; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 29; Tries: Daniel Okeke, Jake Flannery, Ikem Ugwueru, Killian Dineen 2 each

* Covid-19-affected match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 19, 2019: Shannon 16 Navan 3, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LLWWW; Old Belvedere: WLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 38; Tries: Matt Timmons, Myles Carey 3 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 31; Tries: James McKeown 4

Preview: Old Belvedere make three personnel changes for this Dublin derby, Jack Keating adding his pace to the back-three and there are starts up front for Fionn McWey and Jack Breen. Paddy Dowling switches to the blindside.

St. Mary’s College are on a roll, even absorbing an injury crisis in the lead up to their 21-17 victory at Shannon. Dan Lyons stepped into the breach, switching from the back row to loosehead prop.

Lyons’ forward colleague, Mick McCormack, is gaining a reputation for his scrummaging and played for Leinster ‘A’ last week. Mary’s centres Myles Carey and Mick O’Gara are also catching the eye, scoring a combined four tries in the last two rounds.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 14, 2019: St. Mary’s College 14 Old Belvedere 13, Templeville Road; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Old Belvedere 15 St. Mary’s College 10, Ollie Campbell Park

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