ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, September 23 – Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated
CLONTARF (8th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Castle Avenue, tonight, 7.30pm
The first Friday Night Lights clash of the Division 1A campaign sees St. Mary’s visit Clontarf, aiming for their second win under new head coach Peter Burke. Their second row pairing, captain Ciaran Ruddock and try-scoring man-of-the-match David O’Connor, were hugely influential in last week’s six-point success at Garryowen.
Clontarf return home after a disappointing outing against Cork Constitution. They leaked 30 points and four tries to the reigning champions and New Zealander Andy Wood will want their defence back in tip-top shape as soon as possible.
St. Mary’s won last season’s corresponding fixture 23-20, with young out-half Sean Kearns kicking the decisive 77th-minute penalty. ‘Tarf need to improve their home form after losses to Mary’s, Old Belvedere, Terenure College and Young Munster in 2016/17.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Clontarf: L; St. Mary’s College: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Conor Jennings 6; Tries: Matt D’Arcy, Vakh Abdaladze 1 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 8; Tries: David O’Connor 1.
GARRYOWEN (6th) v BUCCANEERS (7th), Dooradoyle
Home defeats have Garryowen and Buccaneers in the lower half of the table after round 1. With five debutants on board, Buccs had a strong first outing against Lansdowne, the 19-10 scoreline not telling the full story. Their new number 8 Paul Boyle delivered a man-of-the-match display.
The Light Blues, with a reinforced and bruising pack, ran out of steam in the second half against St. Mary’s, going down 13-7. Their first half scrum dominance, which earned them a penalty try, was relinquished and Buccs will certainly look to match Mary’s in playing to a high tempo.
If the centre pairings remain the same from last week, there should be an intriguing battle between Garryowen’s Munster prospects, David Johnston and Peadar Collins, and Buccaneers’ new captain Shane Layden and fellow former Connacht back Danie Poolman.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Garryowen: L; Buccaneers: L.
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: -; Tries: -; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 5; Tries: Conor McKeon 1.
LANSDOWNE (4th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (9th), Aviva Stadium main pitch
Memories of Lansdowne’s dramatic extra-time semi-final win over Young Munster from 2015 will flood back when the sides run out onto the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch tomorrow. The headquarters club won a tricky opener at Buccaneers, with debutant scrum half Charlie Rock touching down soon after his introduction.
As ever when these sides collide, the forward exchanges could be match-defining. Improving their discipline against Buccs with their front row to the fore, Lansdowne had a 10-3 second half penalty count in their favour, while two of Munsters’ tries in their 39-20 reversal against UCD came from muscular mauls.
It was one win apiece last season, Scott Deasy landing four successful kicks to add to Lansdowne’s four tries in a 30-24 home victory on the Aviva’s back pitch. Munsters won the rematch at Greenfields 19-10 thanks to Ireland Under-20 international Alan Tynan’s 14 points from the tee.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: W; Young Munster: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 14; Tries: Charlie Rock 1; Young Munster: Points: Paul Downes, Peter Meyer, Ger Slattery, Mark O’Mara 5 each; Tries: Peter Meyer, Ger Slattery, Mark O’Mara 1 each
TERENURE COLLEGE (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd), Lakelands Park
Terenure College shot straight to the top of the table courtesy of an astute 24-0 four-try dismissal of Dublin University. It was a business-like start from ‘Nure, with their new lock combination of Michael Melia, one of the try scorers, and Alex Thompson looking the part.
Hosting the defending champions will reveal a fair bit more about the Dubliners’ current state and their chances of challenging for the top four. They lost twice to Cork Constitution last season, with Tomas Quinlan kicking 11 points as the Leesiders took a 16-10 verdict at Lakelands.
Out-half Quinlan continued where he left off in May with a 15-point contribution in last week’s 30-18 victory over Clontarf. The hunger remains strong among the Constitution collective, while newer players like Alex McHenry and Ross O’Neill are already making their mark.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Terenure College: W; Cork Constitution: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Oisin Heffernan, Michael Melia, Sam Coghlan Murray, Stephen O’Neill 5 each; Tries: Oisin Heffernan, Michael Melia, Sam Coghlan Murray, Stephen O’Neill 1 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 15; Tries: Shane Daly, Rob Jermyn, Brendan Quinlan, Tomas Quinlan 1 each
UCD (2nd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (10th), Belfield Bowl
UCD and Dublin University begin another chapter in their fierce rivalry and another year together in the top flight. Their league openers could not have been any different, College pocketing five points away to Young Munster and injury-hit Trinity being shut out by a rejuvenated Terenure at home.
But with a number of UCD’s backs involved with the Ireland Sevens core squad, some disruption to their team selection is expected both this week and next. In naming their team, Trinity welcome back Ireland Under-20 international Michael Silvester at full-back and Joe Horan, who has recovered from a torn ACL, comes in at hooker.
Former Italy Under-20 lock Vittorio Mantegazza, noted as a serious lineout operator, is an interesting inclusion in the visitors’ second row. Tony Smeeth will want a big physical performance from ‘Vitto’, as the director of rugby admitted last week: “We looked a bit young out there (against Terenure). At point of contact we got savaged. It’s tough rugby in this league.”
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCD: W; Dublin University: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Ciaran Frawley 12; Tries: Jimmy O’Brien, Emmet MacMahon, Harry McNulty, Jamie Glynn 1 each; Dublin University: Points: -; Tries: -
BALLYMENA (5th) v DOLPHIN (10th), Eaton Park
Ballymena showed plenty of character to turn a 12-point interval deficit into a 21-18 win at Old Wesley. First half yellow cards for Stephen Mulholland and Adrian Hamilton had the Braidmen in obvious trouble, but they found their way with Ulster out-half Brett Herron kicking 11 points.
Half-backs Herron and David Shanahan are on the Ulster bench tonight, so their availability to Ballymena will depend on what game-time they get against the Dragons. Dolphin deserved something from their opener against Naas, but fell 10 points short despite Munster prop Brian Scott’s brace of tries.
Although Ballymena are the stronger side on paper and have home advantage, Dolphin showed in last season’s meeting that they are more than capable of winning at Eaton Park. Three Barry Keeshan penalties had them in a good position at half-time before they eventually lost 24-16.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: W; Dolphin: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Brett Herron 11; Tries: Callum Patterson, Rodger McBurney 1 each; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan, Brian Scott 10 each; Tries: Brian Scott 2
BALLYNAHINCH (8th) v OLD WESLEY (6th), Ballymacarn Park
Ballynahinch and Old Wesley played out two of the most entertaining Division 1B ties last term, with the Dublin 4 outfit winning both games and outscoring ‘Hinch by 63 points to 46 in the process.
‘Hinch were not clinical enough with ball in hand as they went down 13-6 at Old Belvedere in round 1. Kiwi out-half Tim Cossens was their only scorer in Dublin. Ireland Under-20 international Johnny McPhillips is poised to return from injury, while fellow Ulster squad members Peter Browne, Aaron Cairns and Jonny Simpson are also in the mix.
First half tries from Josh Pim and Eoghan O’Reilly should have propelled Wesley to an opening win against Ballymena. However, Morgan Lennon’s men lost their grip on a 12-point advantage and they can ill-afford a similar slump against Ulster opposition again this week.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: L; Old Wesley: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Tim Cossens 6; Tries: -; Old Wesley: Points: Josh Miller, Josh Pim, Eoghan O’Reilly 5 each; Tries: Josh Pim, Eoghan O’Reilly 1 each
BANBRIDGE (2nd) v UCC (7th), Rifle Park
Banbridge made quite a statement with their 20-13 first round victory at UL Bohemians. Debutants Nick Timoney, who was superb in and around the breakdown, and Robert Lyttle, who set up the match-winning try for fellow newcomer Tom Caesar, both impressing.
Back rowers Timoney and Greg Jones will miss Bann’s date with UCC, while Lyttle’s involvement will depend on his Ulster game-time. Locks Robin Sinton and Kallan Martin are both injured. Head coach Daniel Soper said: “UCC have been a good side for a number of years and already had a season in Division 1B. They’ve recruited well and I expect another tight affair.”
The Cork students fell just short against Shannon, losing out to a late try. James Taylor, CBC Cork’s 2016 Munster Schools Senior Cup-winning out-half, kicked 11 points for Brian Walsh’s young side who will be looking to get the most out of retired Munster centre Cian Bohane.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Banbridge: W; UCC: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Ian Porter 15; Tries: Ian Porter, Tom Caesar 1 each; UCC: Points: James Taylor 11; Tries: Murray Linn 1
NAAS (1st) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Forenaughts
Naas will look to unleash Fionn Carr off the bench after he missed last week’s bonus point triumph away to Dolphin. Player-coach Johne Murphy has made two changes up front, David Benn coming in to captain the team from the second row with Connacht’s James Connolly filling the openside berth.
Leaking a last-minute converted try, UL Bohemians were beaten at home by Division 1B new boys Banbridge. Bohs will need to take more of their try-scoring opportunities, a couple of times they got within five metres of the Bann line but came away with nothing.
Robbie Bourke remains a reliable goal-kicker for the Limerick club and his duel with Murphy could decide the outcome. Naas won both meetings last season by just three points, Murphy landing a late drop goal in a 13-10 home win and 12 points from the tee seeing them prevail 27-24 at UL.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Naas: W; UL Bohemians: L
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Johne Murphy, Fionn Higgins, Michael Skelton 10 each; Tries: Fionn Higgins, Michael Skelton 2 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Robbie Bourke 8; Tries: Ed Kelly 1
SHANNON (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Thomond Park back pitch
Shannon were one of only two Limerick clubs to win last Saturday, across the entire Ulster Bank League. It was a memorable day for their front row against UCC, a maul forcing a penalty try and Conor Glynn’s strong run setting up fellow prop Tony Cusack’s match-winning try.
Eddie O’Sullivan’s new-look Belvedere team got the job done against Ballynahinch, winning 13-6 thanks to out-half Pat Hughes’ 68th-minute try. Their trip to Thomond Park will be something of a homecoming for ‘Belvo’s player/forwards coach Fergal ‘Stretch’ Walsh, who was a fixture in the Shannon second row for a number of years.
The clubs have not met in league action since February 2013 when Walsh, Duncan Casey and Niall Ronan were part of the Shannon pack. Flanker Ronan was one of the try scorers in Shannon’s 28-17 defeat of ‘Belvo at Thomond that day.
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: W; Old Belvedere: W
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Conor Fitzgerald 8; Tries: Tony Cusack 1; Old Belvedere: Points: Tim Foley 8; Tries: Pat Hughes 1
Blackrock College v Cashel, Stradbrook.
Galwegians v City of Armagh, Crowley Park.
Greystones v Corinthians, Dr Hickey Park.
Malone v Highfield, Gibson Park.
Queen’s University v Nenagh Ormond, Dub Lane.
Skerries v Wanderers (tonight 19.30), Holmpatrick.
City of Derry v Belfast Harlequins, Judge’s Road.
Navan RFC v Rainey, Balreask.
Old Crescent v MU Barnhall.
Sundays Well v Dungannon, Independent Park.
Omagh v Midleton, Mellon Playing Fields.
Seapoint v Bangor, Kilbogget Park.
Sligo v Malahide, Hamilton Park.
Tullamore v Thomond, Spollanstown.
Bective Rangers v Bruff (Saturday 18.30), Donnybrook.
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