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Dublin: 25 °C Saturday 18 August, 2018
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Here are your Division 1A and 1B Ulster Bank League previews

You can watch the Clontarf v UCD clash live from the comfort of your couch this evening, before a busy Saturday of AIL action.

DIVISION 1A

CLONTARF (3rd) v UCD (4th)

Castle Avenue, Friday, 7.30

This game will be streamed live on www.IrishRugby.ie.

Last April Clontarf lost to both UCD and Lansdowne before going on to be crowned champions. A repeat of those defeats, so early in the season, would certainly dent the north Dubliners’ confidence.

David Joyce Out-half David Joyce is the key man for Clontarf. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

David Joyce – the division’s top scorer with 35 points – missed two late kickable penalties during last week’s 9-6 loss at Lansdowne. The Irish Rugby TV-streamed visit of UCD to Castle Avenue gives Andy Wood’s men an immediate chance to bounce back.

Fresh from a bonus point win over Dolphin, the students will be no pushovers but Leinster ‘A’ call-ups have robbed them of some key individuals.

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All other games kick-off at 2.30pm tomorrow, unless stated.

BALLYNAHINCH (8th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd)

Ballymacarn Park

Second-placed Lansdowne are on course to finish the first block of league games with their fourth straight victory, but hosts Ballynahinch will provide a stiff test.

Mike Ruddock’s side squeezed past Clontarf in a defence-dominated clash last Saturday – a sign of their strength in depth was Ian Prendiville’s solid performance in place of injured prop Peter Dooley.

Last week’s losing bonus point at Cork Constitution showed ‘Hinch’s battling qualities. They lost 21-14 to Lansdowne in last season’s corresponding fixture, with back rower Charlie Butterworth – now a Ballynahinch and Ulster Ravens player – touching down for the Dubliners.

DOLPHIN (10th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (1st)

Musgrave Park

Top plays bottom and it is hard to see anything other than a fourth win on the bounce for free-scoring leaders Terenure College, who are already just six points shy of the 100-point mark.

James Blaney Terenure coach James Blaney will look to outsmart Dolphin. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Dolphin endured a 20-point defeat at UCD – the positives being tries for forwards Brian Quill and James Rochford – and this is their first meeting with Terenure in five years.

‘Nure venture south on the back of a 42-0 thrashing of Young Munster, with their right winger Shane Donovan currently averaging a try per game.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (7th)

Templeville Road

St. Mary’s College will chase their first home win of the season without two of their leading lights – out-half Cathal Marsh is on duty with Leinster ‘A’ and captain Kevin Sheahan injured his ribs against Old Belvedere.

Mary’s and Cork Constitution have the same lost-lost-won record after three rounds of the league, so this is an important fixture for both ahead of the four-week break.

Stand-in captain Darragh Lyons led by example in Constitution’s maiden win over Ballynahinch, but their Rob Sweeney-led scrum could give Mary’s a vital platform in what is expected to be a one-score game.

YOUNG MUNSTER (9th) v OLD BELVEDERE (5th)

Tom Clifford Park

Young Munster have been licking their wounds following last Saturday’s 42-0 hammering by table toppers Terenure, and a home success against Old Belvedere would be the ideal response.

Aidan Wynne and Conor Toolan Belvo's Aidan Wynne looks to shift the ball. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Staunton’s charges usually produce the goods in Greenfields – they beat UCD there a fortnight ago and garnered five home victories last season – but ‘Belvo were 13-10 winners on their last visit to Tom Clifford Park.

Still, the Dubliners will need other players to step up to the plate this weekend as Jack Conan and Steve Crosbie, who scored their 13 points against Munsters last November, are both subbing for Leinster of late.

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DIVISION 1B

All other kick-off at 2.30pm tomorrow, unless stated.

BELFAST HARLEQUINS (8th) v GARRYOWEN (3rd)

Deramore Park

Three wins out of four would be an encouraging return for new Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle heading into the early season break.

Belfast Harlequins are a tough proposition at Deramore Park but despite their derby success at Malone, Adam Larkin admitted there is still ‘a lot of work to be done’.

Both sides survived nervy finishes last weekend, with Garryowen holding on for a 23-18 verdict against Corinthians. More composure will be required if they are to win their first league meeting with ‘Quins since 2006.

BUCCANEERS (5th) v GALWEGIANS (1st)

Dubarry Park

A crunch Connacht derby with Buccaneers plotting the downfall of Division 1B leaders Galwegians who are on a three-match winning streak and oozing confidence.

‘Wegians did it the hard away against UL Bohemians, Ciaran Gaffney’s late drop goal earning them a 13-10 win. Their wingers Jerome Harimate and Matt Dever (three tries each) will need to be well policed by the Pirates, and that back-line firepower may just prove to be the difference.

Jerome Harimate with Stuart Simpson Jerome Harimate (left) is a real danger for 'Wegians. Source: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

However, Buccs are on a roll again after back-to-back victories over Garryowen and Shannon. Alan Gaughan’s presence at out-half has been vital with the Athlone native chipping in with 30 points so far.

CORINTHIANS (7th) v SHANNON (10th)

Corinthian Park

Hard to call this one given the patchy form of both sides, with Shannon currently winless and Corinthians’ bonus point victory over Malone their only success so far.

The Galway club picked up a losing bonus point away to Garryowen last week and would dearly love a repeat of last year’s 30-16 home success against Shannon.

The division’s bottom club will have to put together a full 80-minute performance in order to get a result. Shannon have been finishing games well, but it has been catch-up rugby for the most part with opponents able to build decent leads on them.

UL BOHEMIANS (4th) v BALLYMENA (2nd)

Thomond Park back pitch

The season may be just four weeks’ old, but already this looks like being a very important game for both UL Bohemians and Ballymena – two teams riding high in the top four at present.

Shane Airey in action Shane Airey has led the UL Bohs' backline from 10 this season. Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

Bohs were three-point losers to leaders Galwegians last week and now host the second-placed team, although Ballymena will not be at full strength given their provincial call-ups in recent days.

In a strange occurrence, all three of UL’s league games so far have had three-point winning margins – they beat ‘Quins and Trinity and a drop goal was the difference in the ‘Wegians match.

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v MALONE (6th)

College Park, 3pm

A big moment for Dublin University as they play on their new College Park pitch for the first time, and an opportune home game to turn their fortunes around.

Trinity have been unable to play at College Park since June 2013 but the newly-upgraded surface (sand carpet natural grass) should suit Trinity’s promising back-line, led by half-backs Jack McDermott and Angus Lloyd.

Malone will be out for revenge after losing twice to Trinity last season. Disappointed with last week’s derby loss to Harlequins, head coach Jacques Benade insisted: “We have some very talented young players, this is their first season but I am a bit disappointed with the players who started with us last year – they seem to be struggling a bit.”

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