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Cork Con welcome table-toppers Lansdowne while Buccaneers face stiff fight for survival

Your AIL Division 1A and 1B previews.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE

DIVISION 1A

BUCCANEERS (10th) v CLONTARF (6th)

Dubarry Park, Friday, 8pm

Matt DÕArcy Matt D'Arcy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Division 1A’s bottom side Buccaneers could hardly have a tougher plight. They are eight points adrift and their final four games are all against clubs currently chasing semi-final places.

Again, a very promising two-try start against Trinity gave Buccs just a losing bonus point in the end. Young scrum half Conor McKeon and lock Cian Romaine both stood out, but the collective effort needs to be much better.

Clontarf were 20-points winners when they hosted the Pirates in October, and they will fancy their chances tonight with their two Ireland Club international representatives, Matt D’Arcy and Michael Noone, both available for selection.

Recent League Meeting: Saturday, October 7, 2017: Clontarf 26 Buccaneers 6, Castle Avenue

GARRYOWEN (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd)

Dooradoyle, Sunday, 2.30pm

James Blaney Terneure’s coach James Blaney. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The Ireland Club international squad have moved their training day from Sunday in order to not make an impact on selection for this weekend’s rearranged Ulster Bank League fixtures.

It is a big boost for Garryowen and Terenure, who have a combined seven players involved in Ireland’s two-match series against Scotland, including impressive captain Neil Cronin who has tallied up 135 league points for the Light Blues this season.

The Limerick men have won their last three matches and currently hold onto the last semi-final spot. Home advantage has been the difference in these clubs’ most recent meetings, with ‘Nure winning the last two encounters in the capital since early 2017.

In-form winger Sam Coghlan Murray has bagged four tries in his last six outings for James Blaney’s second-placed side.

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, January 28, 2017: Terenure College 27 Garryowen 17, Lakelands Park; Saturday, October 7, 2017: Terenure College 27 Garryowen 20, Lakelands Park

CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v LANSDOWNE (1st)

Temple Hill, Sunday, 3pm

Rob Jermyn and Ross Deacon Cork Con's Rob Jermyn evades the challenge of Lansdowne's Ross Deacon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cork Constitution’s record against play-off rivals this season has hampered them, with losses to Terenure, table toppers Lansdowne, Young Munster (twice) and Garryowen.

Despite dropping to third last time out, Brian Hickey’s men remain right in the hunt for another league title shot. Returning scrum half Gerry Hurley and Rob Jermyn have scored five tries between them in the last three rounds.

It should be quite a battle if Daniel McEvoy lines up opposite Jermyn, with the Lansdowne winger claiming crucial tries for both club and country in recent weeks.

There is always some added spice, too, when Corkonian Scott Deasy returns to Leeside to face his former side.

Recent League Meetings: Sunday, April 23, 2017: Semi-Final: Lansdowne 16 Cork Constitution 19, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Sunday, October 8, 2017: Lansdowne 24 Cork Constitution 10, Aviva Stadium back pitch

DIVISION 1B:

BANBRIDGE (3rd) v BALLYMENA (9th)

Rifle Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Rodger McBurney scores a try despite Robert Keogh Rodger McBurney scores a try against Clontarf. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

It is Ulster derby time for Banbridge again, as they look to follow up on their superb 29-14 win at Division 1B leaders Ballynahinch from three weeks ago. That result means they are just a point off the summit.

Ballymena were also boosted by an impressive bonus point success in the last round, emerging as 26-8 winners over Naas. However, Old Wesley’s mid-week win has nudged the Braidmen back into the bottom two.

This game brings together two of Ulster club rugby’s most threatening backs, with Bann centre Andrew Morrison (8 tries) and Ballymena full-back Rodger McBurney (six) regularly causing headaches for defences.

Jason Gribbon, who deputised for Ian Porter at scrum half against ‘Hinch, and Azur Allison, Ballymena’s try-scoring number 8, also caught the eye last time out.

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, November 23, 2013: Ballymena 15 Banbridge 17, Eaton Park; Friday, October 6, 2017: Ballymena 17 Banbridge 23, Eaton Park

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