Today’s Ulster Bank League previews

A look ahead to today’s action in Divisions 1A and 1B...

(2.30pm unless stated)

Division 1A

CLONTARF (5th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th), Castle Avenue

These two sides finished their opening games strongly last week, three closing penalties from Rob Keogh seeing Clontarf edge out UCD and Sean Kearns’ 16-point haul earned St. Mary’s a losing bonus point against Cork Constitution.

‘Tarf have some adjustments this week with Leinster lock Mick Kearney and injured Connacht prop Ivan Soroka (foot) both absent. The students outscored them by two tries to one, so Andy Wood will want a lot more from his back-line.

Mary’s have had an injury-disrupted start to the season. It will be interesting to see what difference Leinster’s Hayden Triggs can make as their forwards coach.

CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), Temple Hill.

Cork Con played in fits and starts against St. Mary’s but eventually got the job done. Two second half yellow cards did not help and Brian Hickey will want improved discipline from his charges in their first home outing.

Of course, this is a repeat of last April’s Division 1A semi-final which Con edged 22-16. Two late tries, including one from current captain and in-form centre Niall Kenneally, proved all important back then.

Former Con flanker Dan Walsh had a fine debut for Munsters last week, scoring a brace in their epic 36-35 defeat to Old Belvedere. Gearoid Lyons’ place-kicking paved the way for a narrow regular season win at Temple Hill last January, and Paul Downes will need to be just as accurate if the Cookies are to repeat that feat.

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v UCD (7th), College Park.

UCD will be kicking themselves after leaking some ‘costly’ match-deciding penalties to Clontarf in the closing stages. No better way to bounce back than against fierce rivals Trinity in this hotly-anticipated student derby.

UCD director of rugby Bobby Byrne expects a ‘tight and unpredictable game’, and there is likely to be little in it, especially if the hosts can build on their encouraging round 1 victory away to Terenure College.

UCD are dotted with Leinster Academy gems — Andrew Porter and James Ryan are potential stars of the future — but Trinity have some very talented players too. Watch out for skillful out-half Jack McDermott and versatile forward Pierce Dargan, who played US PRO Rugby for Ohio in recent months.

LANSDOWNE (1st) v TERENURE COLLEGE (9th), Aviva Stadium main pitch.

Former champions Lansdowne set out their stall with a bonus point win at Garryowen and their front row of Leinster’s Peter Dooley, ex London Scottish hooker Tyrone Moran and captain Ian Prendiville was in dominant scrum form.

New signings John O’Donnell and Alan Bennie have joined their Ireland Sevens skipper Tom Daly in a high quality Lansdowne back-line, one which Terenure will do well to stymie on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch. Despite Kevin O’Neill’s red card, ‘Nure will draw encouragement from their battling display against Trinity and they will need no reminding of the scoreline when they last met Mike Ruddock’s men — a stunning five-try 32-3 triumph at Lakelands last March.

OLD BELVEDERE (2nd) v GARRYOWEN (10th), Anglesea Road.

Old Belvedere hunt a second successive Limerick scalp after coming away from Young Munster with a thrilling 36-35 win. Former professional Daniel Riordan is already up and running with two tries, a tally matched by busy right winger Shane McDonald. The Light Blues, who have lost Conor Oliver and Alex Wootton to the Munster bench, need to tighten up their defence and discipline. Notably, they will come up against three former Garryowen players in the ‘Belvo pack — front rowers Ed Rossiter and Declan Lavery and recent signing, number 8 Dave Sherry.

DIVISION 1B:

BALLYMENA (3rd) v NAAS (4th), Eaton Park.

Two of the victorious teams from the first round meet at Eaton Park. Ballymena defeated Shannon last Saturday. While new centre Mark Best led by example with 15 points, Ballymena leaked a total of 14 penalties in Limerick — including a yellow card — so they can ill-afford a repeat performance, especially with Naas’ Peter Osborne in very good form with the boot. There should be some fireworks in the backs where Fionn Carr, player-coach Johne Murphy and Henry Bryce provide the momentum for the Kildare men.

BUCCANEERS (9th) v SHANNON (8th), Dubarry Park.

Both sides won at home in last season’s head-to-head and Buccaneers will certainly want to start on the right note in Athlone, after going down to 35-13 to Ballynahinch in their opener. The Pirates’ basics were poor up north and few players impressed, apart from try-scoring lock Cian Romaine and debutant prop Dylan Quinn, so coach Brett Wilkinson will be demanding a big improvement second time out. 2015 Munster Junior Cup-winning star Ronan McKenna was Shannon’s lone scorer against Ballymena, accumulating 19 points.

GALWEGIANS (7th) v UCC (6th), Crowley Park.

Misfiring Galwegians let an opening win slip from their grasp away to Naas, conceding two penalties in the final minutes as Brian McClearn’s coaching reign began on a losing note. Putting that behind them, ‘Wegians return to Glenina where they beat this weekend’s visitors UCC, 23-17, in a Division 2A game in y 2014. Current captain Brian Murphy was one of their try scorers that day. UCC went close to defeating Old Wesley last week, with Munster development prop Peter McCabe’s late try securing a losing bonus point.

OLD WESLEY (5th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Donnybrook.

A big day for Old Wesley as they officially open their new pavilion and clubhouse at Donnybrook. Morgan Lennon’s men look well placed to mark the occasion with a win, especially if goal-kicking winger Barry McLaughlin continues to split the posts with regularity.

Their centre Isaac Leota from New Zealand, who teed up Paul Harte for a try against UCC, is shaping up to be a big addition to the Wesley back-line and the 4G pitch should be to his liking. They face Cork opposition again in the form of Dolphin who will be really hurting after a 41-10 hammering by UL Bohemians.

UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v BALLYNAHINCH (2nd), University of Limerick 4G pitch.

An intriguing early season contest between the divisional leaders after the opening round. UL Bohemians’ result against Dolphin was the most eye-catching of the day as they ran in six tries and centre Rick McKenna tallied up 16 points. In bagging a brace of tries, Ulster’s Sam Windsor also starred in Ballynahinch’s runaway victory over Buccaneers.

However, injuries and unavailability rule out Windsor, Chris Quinn, captain Mike Graham and Davy Nicholson for this trip south to Limerick.


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