There are some eagerly-awaited rematches across Division 1B’s round 10 schedule, with Highfield gunning for Shannon who ended the table toppers’ eight-match winning run before Christmas.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:
ROUND 10: Saturday, January 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
NAAS (4th) v NAVAN (9th), Forenaughts, tonight, 8pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LWLLWLWWW; Navan: LLLWWDLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 109; Tries: Bryan Croke, Peter Osborne, Donal Conroy, Gary Kavanagh 4 each; Navan: Points: Paddy Fox 25; Tries: Paddy Fox 5
Preview: There were just five points in it when Naas claimed a 22-17 verdict at Balreask Old before Christmas. Winger Sam Cahill’s first senior try helped the Cobras to make it three wins on the trot.
For tonight’s home fixture, powerful ball carrier Paulie Tolofua returns at the base of the Naas scrum. Front rowers Conor Doyle and John Sutton are the two other changes.
Full-back Paddy Fox sped through for his fifth try of the campaign in the first game, earning a losing bonus point for battling Navan. Harry Hester, Mark Farrell and Ronan Meegan are promoted from the bench, while prop Niall Farrelly also starts.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 11, 2020: Navan 10 Naas 19, Balreask Old; Friday, December 10, 2021: Navan 17 Naas 22, Balreask Old
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win
HIGHFIELD (1st) v SHANNON (5th), Woodleigh Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWWL; Shannon: LWLWLDLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: James Taylor 45; Tries: Miah Cronin 5; Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan 35; Tries: Killian Dineen 3
Preview: Highfield are live-streaming their home date with Shannon on YouTube, a huge game in the context of their season as they look to right the wrongs of last month’s disappointing 6-0 reversal.
Two John O’Sullivan penalties did the business for Shannon, whose head coach Pat O’Connor said: “Highfield are the standard bearer in this league, it was a massive win. We showed a lot of grit in the last five minutes. We’re learning as a group to eke out wins.”
Highfield, who ran Young Munster close in the Munster Senior Cup recently, registered a 19-10 victory when they hosted Shannon in the league, just over two years ago. Ben Murphy (2) and Miah Cronin were their try scorers.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 11, 2020: Shannon 31 Highfield 13, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, December 11, 2021: Shannon 6 Highfield 0, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
MALONE (8th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Gibson Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WLLLLWLLD; St. Mary’s College: LLWWWWWLD
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 46; Tries: Aaron Sexton 6; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 47; Tries: Myles Carey, Ronan Watters 5 each
Preview: You could not take your eyes off these sides’ first meeting before Christmas, it ebbed and flowed throughout with a dozen tries and an incredible 42-all final scoreline at Templeville Road.
With 10 players involved who came through the club’s minis/youth system, Malone put their injury woes behind to earn an action-packed draw. They followed up last week by reaching the Ulster Senior Cup quarter-finals.
The points kept Mary’s right in contention for the play-offs, moving them up to third. Unfortunately they are set to lose talented youngster Mick O’Gara to a six-month stint Stateside with Utah Warriors, which will break up his impressive centre partnership with Myles Carey.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 29, 2020: St. Mary’s College 7 Malone 19, Templeville Road; Saturday, December 11, 2021: St. Mary’s College 42 Malone 42, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win
OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v BANBRIDGE (10th), Ollie Campbell Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLWL; Banbridge: LLLLLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 68; Tries: James McKeown 5; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 61; Tries: Conor Field 4
Preview: Old Belvedere are much-changed compared to the team that lost 18-13 at Banbridge last time out. Gavin Nugent, Jack Gilheany and out-half Tommy Whittle are selected to start in the backs.
Leinster Academy hooker John McKee, who turns 22 next month, is one of five changes up front. Bann’s maiden win of the campaign was a huge shot in the arm, especially coming just before the mid-season break.
Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “I felt we exerted pressure throughout. We didn’t give away penalties and from their 22 we forced them to exit, we just kept pinning them back. That was the secret of the win – hopefully it’s the spark that pushes us on.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 15, 2020: Old Belvedere 17 Banbridge 14, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, December 11, 2021: Banbridge 18 Old Belvedere 13, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
OLD WESLEY (2nd) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Energia Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWLWWW; City of Armagh: WWWLLWWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 42; Tries: David Poff 4; City of Armagh: Points: Rory Campbell 46; Tries: Aaron Sexton 4
Preview: Like a number of other clubs in the last round, Old Wesley pulled off a hard-fought victory, edging out City of Armagh 19-16 at the Palace Grounds. David Poff ran in his third try in as many games.
Morgan Lennon’s men did the double over Armagh during the 2019/20 season, but the Ulster side return to Dublin in battle-hardened form, following last week’s Bateman Cup semi-final against Lansdowne.
For tomorrow’s YouTube-streamed game, Armagh have made six changes, including half-backs Romain Morrow and Gerard Treanor and the lock pairing of John Glasgow, an Ireland Under-20 prospect, and James Crummie.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 22, 2020: Old Wesley 14 City of Armagh 12, Energia Park; Saturday, December 11, 2021: City of Armagh 16 Old Wesley 19, Palace Grounds
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win