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Tasty top of the table clash in Division 1A and all of the weekend's AIL previews

All of your Division 1A and 1B previews are right here.

Ulster Bank League

Saturday, 2.30pm kick-off unless stated

AIL Division 1A:

Lansdowne (1st) v Terenure College (2nd), Aviva Stadium (back pitch)

Friday, 7.30pm

Scott Deasy with Ian Hanly Lansdowne's Scott Deasy with Ian Hanly of Terenure in action (file pic). Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE LANSDOWNE JUGGERNAUT rolls on with seven wins already chalked up, but they cannot afford to be complacent with second-placed Terenure on the prowl and looking to recapture their early season form.

Scott Deasy delivered the telling blows in Lansdowne’s 9-0 win away to Clontarf last time out, but there were some excellent performances from the the Division 1A leaders’ supporting cast, including the second row pairing of the 22-year-old Jack Dwan and Josh O’Rourke.

The battle for lineout supremacy should be a closely-fought one with Alex Thompson and Michael Melia also impressing in ‘Nure’s engine room. The Lakelands outfit were 24-point losers on their most recent visit to the Aviva Stadium, but tonight’s top of the table clash should be a much tighter affair.

Dublin University (8th) v Garryowen (4th), College Park

Saturday, 2pm

With three wins in the last four rounds, Dublin University are on the cusp of breaking away from the bottom two. Eight points separates them from fourth-placed Garryowen, who make the trip on the back of a frustrating one-point Limerick Charity Cup final defeat to Nenagh Ormond.

The Light Blues claimed the derby spoils last time out in the league, with two Neil Cronin penalties seeing them edge out Young Munster, and they will be out for revenge against Trinity after losing twice to them last term. They travel without the Munster-tied Sam Arnold, Sean O’Connor and Bill Johnston.

The students welcome back fit-again former Ireland Under-20 captain Jack Kelly for his first start of the campaign. Tony Smeeth’s side will wear rainbow laces in their boots tomorrow to promote LGBT inclusivity in sport.

Buccaneers (10th) v UCD (6th), Dubarry Park

Stephen McVeigh Stephen McVeigh. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Buccaneers are in danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the table, with a seven-point gap to make up on St. Mary’s. Their results so far are not reflective of their performances, which included bonus point efforts against Terenure and Cork Constitution.

It will be interesting to see if Glasson man Stephen McVeigh, a UCD scholarship student, lines out against his former club, and how many of the students’ Ireland Under-20 and Sevens representatives are available for this midlands test.

The clubs last met in the league back in 2013, with a home win apiece. For tomorrow’s rematch, Buccs will hope to have versatile Kiwi forward Dan Law back in the starting pack, while a possible wing showdown between Rory O’Connor, who has run in six tries to date, and Ireland Under-20 starlet Tommy O’Brien is a mouth-watering prospect.

Cork Constitution (3rd) v St Mary’s College (9th), Temple Hill

Aidan Moynihan stepped into the boots of Tomas Quinlan to guide Cork Constitution to a five-point triumph at Buccaneers last time out, while Tim Maupin’s fourth try of the campaign was not enough to inspire St. Mary’s back to winning ways.

Mary’s lost a game against Trinity they could and perhaps should have won, with no scores forthcoming from two late penalties they sent to the corner. Injuries have hampered head coach Peter Burke’s ability to field a settled side.

Third-placed Cork Con lost their most recent home match to Young Munster, and with three defeats already compared to five during last season’s title-winning campaign, Brian Hickey’s men know they need to be at their best during these crucial winter games.

Young Munster (7th) v Clontarf (5th), Tom Clifford Park

Alan Tynan Alan Tynan. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

A heavyweight encounter to savour as Young Munster and Clontarf meet for the first time since last April’s super-charged semi-final which ended in a 37-29 victory for the north Dubliners at Castle Avenue.

There were narrow try-less defeats for both sides in the last round. Munsters will be pleased to have gotten Ireland Under-20 ace Alan Tynan back on the pitch, but Calvin Nash, who is on the Munster bench against Zebre, will be a notable absentee tomorrow.

While the Cookies and ‘Tarf do have some excellent attacking talents in the outside backs, the key contests are likely to be up front where the likes of Ivan Soroka, Colm Skehan, Royce Burke-Flynn and Peter Meyer will look to gain the edge at scrum time.

DIVISION 1B:

Old Belvedere (5th) v Naas (6th), Anglesea Road

Saturday, 2pm

Old Belvedere may have lost for the first time in five rounds, but picking up a hard-earned losing bonus point at Banbridge a fortnight ago should serve them well. In-form lock Jack Kelly is chasing his third try in as many games.

The first of two pre-Christmas trips to the capital comes at a good time for Naas, who bounced back brilliantly in the last round to end Shannon’s unbeaten run. Winger Fionn Higgins scored two tries from kicks, taking his season’s haul to five.

Both of these sides are gunning for their fourth win in eight games and as we head towards the midpoint of the league season, the pace will only quicken. What a day it would be for Naas to win at Anglesea Road before watching one of their own, Adam Byrne, make his debut for Ireland?

Old Wesley (7th) v Banbridge  (3rd), Donnybrook, 2pm

A general view of Donnybrook Stadium The match is in Donnybrook. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A terrific defensive performance, combined with Jack Maybury’s prolific scoring form, saw Old Wesley take the spoils at UL Bohemians last time out, and they will need more of the same when Banbridge come calling.

Bann, who edged out ‘Belvo to stay third in the table, visit Donnybrook for the first time in over three years. They have Robin Sinton and fit-again Ulster Academy back rower Caleb Montgomery available this week, with winger Conor Field hunting for his third try in four matches.

Bann head coach Daniel Soper said: “These three games before Christmas usually have a big bearing on league positions with teams making a big shift. We haven’t always done well against those teams at the bottom and Dolphin’s results have certainly picked up over recent weeks. But we’ve Wesley first on the 4G pitch at Donnybrook so that will be interesting.”

Dolphin (10th) v UL Bohemians (9th), Irish Independent Park

This Munster derby is sure to be ferociously competitive with both clubs scrapping for points at the foot of the table. With just one win apiece, it has been a difficult season so far for both Dolphin and UL Bohemians.

Chris Rowe’s Dolphin will hope for better luck after losing to a last-minute penalty from UCC, but the players and coaches were rightly encouraged by that resilient performance. They would love to repeat last April’s 16-10 success away to Bohs.

Wins have been frustratingly out of reach for UL in the last few rounds. Three losing bonus points on the bounce show how close the margins have been. Watch out for pack regulars James Ryan, Daragh Frawley and Joe Bennett who have scored eight tries between them so far.

Shannon (1st) v Ballymena (8th), Thomond Park (back pitch)

A general view of match balls Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Shannon and Ballymena have had a couple of weeks to mull over league defeats, Tom Hayes’ table toppers losing by three points to Naas and the Braidmen held scoreless by a Ballynahinch side inspired by Ulster players.

Importantly, Andy Graham’s charges recovered from that 27-0 reversal to qualify for the Ulster Senior Cup final thanks to last week’s 13-6 defeat of ‘Hinch. James Gallagher and Nacho Cladera Crespo are absent this week, but Callum Patterson, Brett Herron, David Shanahan, Adam McBurney and Marcus Rea are all set to start.

Shannon lost both of their clashes with Ballymena last season, going down by six and three points respectively, but they are a much-improved force this term. Top-scoring out-half Conor Fitzgerald’s duel with Herron should have a big influence on the outcome. The hosts are without Munster call-ups Ciaran Parker and Jack Stafford.

UCC (4th) v Ballynahinch (2nd), the Mardyke

UCC will target their fifth straight league victory when hosting second-placed Ballynahinch at the Mardyke. Young out-half James Taylor (77 points) landed a last-minute penalty against Dolphin to make it four wins on the trot.

‘Hinch travel south with a clear determination to defeat a top four team for the first time this season. They are aided in their quest by the availability of Ulster’s Peter Browne, Johnny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns and David Busby, but injury rules out prop Jonny Simpson.

The Cork students won both of last season’s meetings, triumphing 15-10 in County Down and 39-18 on home soil. Centres Cian Bohane and Murray Linn have had a big impact so far in the current campaign, contributing six tries between them.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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