Lansdowne the team to catch going into this weekend’s Ulster Bank League action
Ulster Bank League
Tom Fletcher of UCD celebrates scoring a try with Jimmy O’Brien.
Garryown (8th) v UCD (7th)
Dooradoyle – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
WITH THREE DEFEATS on the bounce, Garryowen desperately need a victory to settle back down. Scrum issues were apparent again at St Mary’s, where their pack were out-muscled and out-played.
UCD were very much second best when going down 45-8 to Lansdowne — winger Tom Fletcher’s sixth try of the campaign their lone riposte to the leaders’ dominance which was also evident at scrum time.
The students have lost Harry McNulty and Hugo Keenan to Ireland Sevens duty this weekend, which also rules out Garryowen starlet Steven McMahon. The Light Blues will look to half-backs Bill Johnston and Neil Cronin to provide some match-winning momentum.
Lansdowne (1st) v Dublin University (6th)
Aviva Stadium back pitch – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Lansdowne’s Dan McEvoy. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
Armed with an enhanced six-point advantage at the summit, Lansdowne are heavy favourites to win their first-ever home league match against Dublin University.
They served up a 45-8 beating to the top flight’s other student team UCD last week, their superior scrum setting the tone, the back-row in brilliant collective form and winger Daniel McEvoy’s hat-trick taking his season’s tally to nine tries.
Trinity were 11-point losers when these sides met in November, but showed their resilience when overcoming Old Belvedere last week for their first win in five rounds. They will need big performances from out-half Jack McDermott and flanker Brian du Toit again in order to trouble the table toppers.
Old Belvedere (9th) v Clontarf (4th)
Anglesea Road – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Eddie O’Sullivan has returned to coaching with Old Belvedere. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
There was no respite for Old Belvedere when going down to Trinity in their third straight defeat. Paul Cunningham and the newly-arrived Eddie O’Sullivan have a lot of work to do, with Belvo now in the bottom two.
Their indiscipline was ruthlessly punished by Trinity for 12 crucial points, and with tomorrow’s visitors Clontarf currently on course for the semi-finals, they will have to be squeaky clean within range of the posts.
‘Tarf were back near their best when defeating Cork Constitution 22-13 in muddy conditions, try scorer Mick McGrath and the recently returned Jason Harris-Wright hitting form just as the title race gathers pace.
Terenure College (10th) v Cork Constitution (3rd)
Lakelands Park – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Terenure’s Oisin Heffernan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
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Things seem to be finally clicking for Terenure, who have cut the deficit at the foot of the table to a single point. Having won away to Clontarf and Young Munster, ‘Nure will fear nobody during the season’s run-in.
Scoring four tries at Munsters is a hugely-impressive feat and the spine of the side looks much improved, with the likes of Sam Coghlan Murray, Conor Finn, Oisin Heffernan and Harrison Brewer all contributing handsomely.
Cork Con succumbed to Clontarf’s reinforced defence last Saturday but they have the firepower to bounce straight back. Look out for bruising lock Conor Kindregan, the reigning Division 1A Player of the Year, who is chasing his fifth try of the season.
Young Munster (2nd) v St Mary’s College (5th)
Tom Clifford Park – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Ciaran Ruddock of St Mary’s. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Young Munster are entering a key period of their season, looking to steady themselves after a rare home defeat last Saturday and build for next week’s Munster Senior Cup final against Cork Con.
St Mary’s pitch up looking to repeat what Terenure achieved at Greenfields and they will definitely need another big shift from second row Ciaran Ruddock, one of the leading forwards in the top flight and their man-of-the-match against Garryowen.
Leinster’s Cathal Marsh played a pivotal role in that game, kicking 12 points and setting up a try. If he is available again, his out-half duel with Cookies youngster Alan Tynan will be intriguing to watch.
Ballynahinch (4th) v Galwegians (9th)
Ballymacarn Park – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Ballynahinch centre Jordan Grattan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Two teams who could do with a positive result, especially second-from-bottom Galwegians who return to Ulster just a week on from their frustrating 14-13 loss at Ballymena.
‘Wegians are without Ed O’Keeffe and Conor Lowndes who are away with the Ireland Sevens squad this weekend, while Ballynahinch’s injury list includes Craig Trenier, Jonny Simpson, Lorcan Dow and Aaron Cairns.
‘Hinch won 30-24 out west in early November and they should complete the double over Brian McClearn’s men, with in-form centre Jordan Grattan hunting for his third try in as many games.
Dolphin (1oth) v Shannon (8th)
Irish Independent Park – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Shannon’s Stephen Fitzgerald in action for Munster A. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
Shannon could put some significant distance between themselves and bottom side Dolphin with their fourth straight win since Tom Hayes took over as head coach.
Hayes and backs coach David O’Donovan have overseen some excellent results, including last week’s derby success against promotion-chasing UL Bohemians, and Shannon could climb to seventh by tomorrow evening.
You cannot write off David Corkery’s Dolphin, though. They are capable of turning it on at home where they claimed the scalps of Galwegians and Naas earlier in the campaign.
Old Wesley v (6th) v Ballymena (5th)
Donnybrook – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Barry McLaughlin is a big loss for Wesley. Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO
This is a tricky time for Old Wesley who have lost their last three games. Another defeat could leave them in limbo between the promotion chasers and the relegation battle below.
Injuries, including the loss of the division’s top scorer Barry McLaughlin (117 points), have hampered Wesley’s selection in recent rounds. Flanker and captain Darren Horan has provided some inspiration with two tries over the last fortnight.
Their visitors Ballymena have been battling injuries too, but they did get back to winning ways against Galwegians last Saturday. Ulster’s Brett Herron is set to start at out-half, with Mark Best and skipper Martin Irwin pairing up in midfield.
UCC (7th) v Naas (3rd)
The Mardyke – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Paulie Tolofua of Naas. Source: Presseye/Freddie Parkinson/INPHO
Undoubtedly two of the best performers from round 12, with UCC scoring six tries against Ballynahinch and Naas running in five at home to Dolphin.
So, a high-scoring and entertaining clash looks likely here. If it remains tight, there are two top class kickers to call upon in UCC winger Kevin O’Keeffe (105 points) and Naas scrum half Peter Osborne (97).
The Kildare men have been the more consistent operators and must be backed to continue their winning run. Ireland U20-capped prop Adam Coyle continues to look the part in a solid Naas front row.
UL Bohemians (2nd) v Buccaneers (1st)
University of Limerick 4G pitch – 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, 18 February)
Buccaneers coach Brett Wilkinson. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Leaders Buccaneers come calling at what seems a difficult time for UL Bohemians. The Limerick outfit are licking their wounds after back-to-back defeats, including a disappointing reversal to local rivals Shannon.
Those results have seen Buccs push 11 points clear at the summit, but with the Pirates’ top try scorer Jordan Conroy (13 tries) and Shane Layden both on Ireland Sevens duty this weekend, UL are hoping to take advantage of their absence.
Bohs have to come out firing and Kiwi out-half Rick McKenna could have a key influence on proceedings. He faces a mouth-watering match-up with Buccs number ten Alan Gaughan who is scoring points for fun of late.
Banbridge v Nenagh Ormond
Rifle Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Cashel v Belfast Harlequins
Spafield — 2.30pm, Saturday
Highfield v Blackrock College
Woodleigh Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Malone v Galway Corinthians
Gibson Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Queens University v Sunday’s Well
Dub Lane — 2.30pm, Saturday
City Of Derry v Bective Rangers
Judge’s Road — 2.30pm, Saturday
Dungannon v Wanderers
Stevenson Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
MU Barnhall v Greystones
Parsonstown — 2.30pm, Saturday
Old Crescent v Thomond
Rosbrien — 2.30pm, Saturday
Skerries v Thomond
Holmpatrick — 2.30pm, Saturday
Bangor v Kanturk
Upritchard Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Navan v Rainey
Balreask Old — 2.30pm, Saturday
Seapoint v Midleton
Kilbogget Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Sligo v Boyne
Hamilton Park — 2.30pm, Saturday
Tullamore v Bruff
Spollanstown — 2.30pm, Saturday
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