Malone are off to City of Armagh for their second successive Ulster derby in Division 1B. Leaders Highfield’s focus is also up north where bottom side Banbridge await them.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:
ROUND 7: Saturday, November 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BANBRIDGE (10th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Rifle Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLLLL; Highfield: WWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 40; Tries: Peter Cromie, Conor Field 2 each; Highfield: Points: James Taylor 33; Tries: Miah Cronin 5
Preview: Bottom side Banbridge will have it all to to do when unbeaten leaders Highfield pay them a visit. There was an explosion of points the last time the teams faced off, with ten tries scored.
Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “Highfield have a very big pack so at the very least we’ll have to match the physicality that we showed against Malone. Our set piece has been one of our brightest points this year.”
Highfield are without their leading try scorer Miah Cronin (5 tries) this weekend. Eddie Earle comes into the back row with Ryan Murphy moving to number 8. There are also starts for Shane O’Riordan at full-back and Daragh Fitzgerald at tighthead.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 12, 2019: Banbridge 28 Highfield 42, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
CITY OF ARMAGH (4th) v MALONE (8th), Palace Grounds
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWWLLW; Malone: WLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 60; Tries: Andrew Willis 4; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 44; Tries: Andy Bryans, Aaron Sexton 3 each
Preview: Both City of Armagh and Malone returned to winning ways last Saturday, showing encouraging signs heading into this provincial derby. Ulster’s Aaron Sexton touched down twice for Malone, the first one from a kick through.
The Cregagh Red Sox lost twice to Armagh in 2019/20, including a 22-20 reversal in the corresponding fixture. Armagh winger Andrew Willis grabbed a brace of tries against Naas, taking his club record to 55 AIL tries.
Armagh boss Chris Parker commented: “It was encouraging to see a reaction from the team after our below-par performance against Navan. AIL wins on the road are hard to come by, particularly in Naas. It sets us up well for tomorrow’s derby.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2019: City of Armagh 22 Malone 20, Palace Grounds; Saturday, January 25, 2020: Malone 7 City of Armagh 22, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win
OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Ollie Campbell Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWLLL; Old Wesley: WWWWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 42; Tries: James McKeown 5; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 29; Tries: Alastair Hoban, Nathan Randles, Tommy O’Callaghan 2 each
Preview: The Dublin 4 derby, live streamed on Old Wesley’s YouTube page, will see Old Belvedere looking to end a three-match losing streak. The last two have been narrow ones against Highfield and St. Mary’s.
There are two personnel changes to the Belvedere team from the Mary’s match, as Ariel Robles and Dean Moore return on the wing and at lock respectively. Fionn McWey shifts to openside flanker.
It was one win apiece when these sides met in 2019, Wesley triumphing 11-10 at Ollie Campbell Park. Scrum half Ben Murphy is hoping to get a run of games for Wesley after returning last week against Highfield.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 6, 2019: Old Belvedere 30 Old Wesley 24, Anglesea Road; Saturday, November 2, 2019: Old Belvedere 10 Old Wesley 11, Ollie Campbell Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
SHANNON (5th) v NAAS (6th), Thomond Park back pitch
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWLWLD; Naas: LWLLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 29; Tries: Daniel Okeke, Jake Flannery, Ikem Ugwueru, Killian Dineen 2 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 67; Tries: Bryan Croke 4
Preview: Shannon return to action after their trip to Navan turned into a Covid-19 cancellation. They are aiming to build momentum heading into the Christmas break, with three points separating them from the top four.
Speaking about playing for the club, Munster Academy back rower Daniel Okeke said: “It’s been good, happy to get my first start there against Old Belvedere. Playing AIL helps with our development, it’s a tough league.”
Naas, who lost 18-17 at Armagh last week, have top try scorer Bryan Croke (4 tries) back at out-half. Newbridge native Jack Barry slots in at loosehead prop and Paulie Tolofua will provide plenty of grunt off the back of the scrum.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 16, 2019: Naas 16 Shannon 14, Forenaughts; Saturday, February 22, 2020: Shannon 50 Naas 10, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v NAVAN (9th), Templeville Road
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LLWWWW; Navan: LLLWWD
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 47; Tries: Matt Timmons, Myles Carey 3 each; Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 17; Tries: Paddy Fox, Evan Dixon 3 each
Preview: St. Mary’s College, who are now up to third place, will be live streaming their clash with Navan on their YouTube channel. Steven Hennessy’s young side are chasing their fourth win in a row.
Navan’s league position of ninth belies how well they have been playing of late. They beat Banbridge and Armagh before last week’s cancelled fixture, with full-back Paddy Fox scoring three tries in his last three appearances.
The visitors will have to curb the influence of Mary’s midfield axis of Conor Dean, Mick O’Gara and Myles Carey. Dean has 47 points to his name, while centres O’Gara and Carey have contributed five tries between them.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 5, 2019: Navan 18 St. Mary’s College 23, Balreask Old
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win