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

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

Old Wesley lock JJ O'Dea leads the charge during their win away to Naas earlier this season ©Ken Richardson/Old Wesley RFC

Highfield, Old Belvedere and Old Wesley will all livestream their games on YouTube, and Wesley’s Energia Park showdown with Naas is drawing most of the attention in Division 1B this weekend.

ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:

ROUND 15: Saturday, March 5

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BANBRIDGE (9th) v NAVAN (10th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLLLLLLWWLLWL; Navan: LLLWWDLLLLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 89; Tries: Conor Field 6; Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 43; Tries: Paddy Fox, Evan Dixon, Sean McEntagart 5 each

Preview: A second half fightback was not enough for Banbridge against high-flying Naas, and they face Leinster opposition again tomorrow. Navan make the trip north, buoyed by their seven-point defeat of City of Armagh.

That was Navan’s first victory since early November and they are now level on points with Banbridge at the bottom of the table. Bann took plenty out of last week’s game given their Covid-19-disrupted build-up.

Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “The guys showed great spirit, but we have Navan now in a must-win game. We’ve picked up a few knocks, but we know that whatever team we field they’ll give it their all to keep Banbridge in the division.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2020: Banbridge 27 Navan 17, Rifle Park; Saturday, October 30, 2021: Navan 30 Banbridge 20, Balreask Old

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

CITY OF ARMAGH (6th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWWLLWWLLLWDLL; St. Mary’s College: LLWWWWWLDDWWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 99; Tries: Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon, Matthew Hooks 4 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 95; Tries: Myles Carey 9

Preview: Shea O’Brien is the talk of the town after the City of Armagh youngster earned an Ulster development contract. The 22-year-old was unable to inspire them to victory against Navan, with a number of chances going abegging.

“Through inaccuracy and impatience, we didn’t take our opportunities,” admitted Armagh head coach Chris Parker. “The boys know they can produce better and I look forward to seeing their reaction on the field this weekend.”

A massive match for St. Mary’s following their loss away to Shannon. The battle for the top four places is really intensifying, and players of the calibre of Conor Dean, top try scorer Myles Carey (9 tries) and Ronan Watters are vital to the Dubliners’ promotion challenge.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 12, 2019: St. Mary’s College 14 City of Armagh 20, Templeville Road; Saturday, October 30, 2021: St. Mary’s College 35 City of Armagh 13, Templeville Road

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

HIGHFIELD (2nd) v MALONE (8th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWWLDLWLW; Malone: WLLLLWLLDDLDLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: James Taylor 63; Tries: Paul Stack 6; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 64; Tries: Aaron Sexton 8

Preview: Highfield held onto second spot thanks to a narrow win over Old Belvedere. A rejigged back-line for tomorrow sees Shane O’Riordan, who kicked seven points last week, at out-half with James Taylor moving to midfield.

Ben Murphy returns on the right wing for the Corkmen, who won 20-17 at Malone back in October, and there are also starts for forwards Cillian Buckley, Sean Garrett and Eddie Earle.

The Cregagh Red Sox are looking to stay clear of relegation trouble. Last week’s performance against Old Wesley was a positive step despite the result. Their set-piece game was strong and Ulster starlet Aaron Sexton picked up his eighth league try.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2019: Highfield 27 Malone 6, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, October 30, 2021: Malone 17 Highfield 20, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v SHANNON (4th), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLWLLWLWL; Shannon: LWLWLDLWWDWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 103; Tries: James McKeown, John McKee, Joe Horan 5 each; Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan 66; Tries: Killian Dineen 6

Preview: Old Belvedere will field an unchanged team against Shannon, head coach Ray Monaghan keeping faith with the side that ran former table toppers Highfield very close in Cork last weekend.

‘Belvo’s skilful out-half Justin Leonard scored a dozen points, passing the century mark for the current campaign, and he will be a key man if they are to gain revenge for October’s 32-10 reversal at the hands of Shannon.

The Limerick club’s head coach Pat O’Connor commented: “Thrilled we came out on the right side of the scoreline against St. Mary’s. We’ve spoken about winning tight games and showing character, and we’ll need that again this week against Old Belvedere.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2019: Shannon 20 Old Belvedere 22, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, October 30, 2021: Shannon 32 Old Belvedere 10, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

OLD WESLEY (1st) v NAAS (3rd), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWLWWWWWWWW; Naas: LWLLWLWWWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 87; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 6; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 152; Tries: Donal Conroy 8

Preview: The two form teams in the division collide at Energia Park, with leaders Old Wesley on an eight-match winning streak and Naas climbing up to third place thanks to a run of seven wins in eight games.

Wesley were 36-20 winners when they visited the Cobras in October, coming from 14 points down to take a maximum haul with top-scoring winger Tommy O’Callaghan touching down twice.

The Dubliners will again look to curb the influence of Naas captain and ace goal-kicker Peter Osborne, who tops the scoring charts with a mammoth 152 points. Impressive young winger Donal Conroy is on eight tries for the season.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 12, 2019: Naas 10 Old Wesley 16, Forenaughts; Saturday, October 30, 2021: Naas 20 Old Wesley 36, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win