Top four contenders St. Mary’s College and Shannon meet in the match of the day in Division 1B. Mary’s are looking to bounce back from last week’s disappointing defeat to Old Belvedere.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:
ROUND 14: Saturday, February 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
HIGHFIELD (2nd) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Woodleigh Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWWLDLWL; Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLWLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: James Taylor 63; Tries: Paul Stack 6; Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 91; Tries: James McKeown, John McKee, Joe Horan 5 each
Preview: Winger James Daly and hooker Travis Coomey are the only changes to the Highfield side that struggled away to leaders Old Wesley. Worryingly, it was their third loss in five games since December.
The second-placed Corkmen are chasing a season’s double over Old Belvedere, who were beaten 24-20 at home in early November. A Miah Cronin brace of tries set Highfield on their way that day.
Leinster Academy hooker James McKee, who has five tries to his name, returns to Belvedere’s starting XV. He is the only change, although big second row Dean Moore is a welcome addition to the replacements bench.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 29, 2020: Old Belvedere 12 Highfield 17, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, November 6, 2021: Old Belvedere 20 Highfield 24, Ollie Campbell Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
MALONE (8th) v OLD WESLEY (1st), Gibson Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WLLLLWLLDDLDL; Old Wesley: WWWWWLWWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 50; Tries: Aaron Sexton 7; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 78; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 6
Preview: Malone remain winless in 2022 after going down 22-15 to Banbridge. They have three home matches remaining, and captain Dave Cave did manage to rescue a spirited late losing bonus point for them last week.
Old Wesley may be top of the table but Malone ran them close in November, and won their January 2020 encounter in Dublin, 12-9. For a similar result they will need a strong start and solid set-piece foundations.
However, there will only be one result if Wesley maintain the form that saw them put 30 points on Highfield. In-form winger Tommy O’Callaghan took his try tally to six, four of them coming since the turn of the year.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 11, 2020: Old Wesley 9 Malone 12, Energia Park; Saturday, November 6, 2o21: Old Wesley 16 Malone 11, Energia Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win
NAAS (4th) v BANBRIDGE (9th), Forenaughts
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LWLLWLWWWWLWW; Banbridge: LLLLLLLLWWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 139; Tries: Donal Conroy, Gary Kavanagh 7 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 89; Tries: Conor Field 6
Preview: Naas’ first ever victory over City of Armagh was typically hard-fought, a Will O’Brien brace – coupled with some gritty defence late on – seeing them prevail by a single point and stay on course for the play-offs.
Tomorrow’s visitors, Banbridge, returned to winning ways by overcoming Malone in a feisty Ulster derby. They targeted their opponents’ lineout, with second rows Chris Allen and Alex Thompson impressing on their return to the team.
Bann boss Mark McDowell commented: “We’ve gone from desperately looking for a win to not being totally satisfied with one (having missed out on the bonus point). But it’s a case of backing up that win with another one at Naas and then obviously Navan.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 29, 2020: Naas 3 Banbridge 6, Forenaughts; Saturday, November 6, 2021: Banbridge 22 Naas 28, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win
NAVAN (10th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Balreask Old
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLWWDLLLLLLL; City of Armagh: WWWLLWWLLLWDL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 43; Tries: Paddy Fox, Evan Dixon 5 each; City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 99; Tries: Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon, Matthew Hooks 4 each
Preview: Chris Colvin and Peter Lamb are both promoted from the City of Armagh bench to start against bottom side Navan. Replacing Ross Taylor, Colvin combines in midfield with captain Tim McNiece.
Navan are looking to right the wrongs of last week’s deflating 62-0 defeat at the hands of Shannon. Getting out of the bottom two remains possible, with third-from-bottom Malone just six points ahead of them.
With senior debutant Dylan Poyntz adding to their scrum efforts, Armagh head coach Chris Parker commented: “Our decision making on a few occasions let us down in the Naas game, and we need to eradicate the errors before this tricky trip to Navan.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 2, 2019: Navan 0 City of Armagh 19, Balreask Old; Saturday, November 6, 2021: City of Armagh 13 Navan 18, Palace Grounds
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v SHANNON (5th), Templeville Road
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LLWWWWWLDDWWL; Shannon: LWLWLDLWWDWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 82; Tries: Myles Carey 9; Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan 66; Tries: Lee Nicholas, Killian Dineen 5 each
Preview: A massive game for both teams here, particularly St. Mary’s College after their failure to put Old Belvedere away. Three tries, including centre Myles Carey’s ninth of the campaign, were not enough.
They will be wary of a Shannon side that put 62 unanswered points on Navan. The Limerick men also won on their most recent visit to Templeville Road, taking a 28-25 verdict thanks to a fine four-try display.
This is the first of back-to-back trips to the capital for Shannon, who have just two points to make up on Mary’s in third spot. However, Mary’s are unbeaten in five home matches since being pipped by Wesley in October.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2020: St. Mary’s College 25 Shannon 28, Templeville Road; Saturday, November 6, 2021: Shannon 17 St. Mary’s College 21, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win