Unbeaten leaders Lansdowne host UCD and the rest of your UBL previews

In Division 1B, it’s first against second at Thomond Park.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, December 9, Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated.


BUCCANEERS (10th) v ST MARY’S COLLEGE (9th), Dubarry Park

Buccaneers’ final match of the calendar year offers them the chance to climb off the bottom rung of the Division 1A table tomorrow, as they target their third win on the trot.

A feisty second half comeback netted them the points away to St Mary’s last week, but they are missing the Connacht Eagles-tied quartet of Conor McKeon, Conan O’Donnell, Conor Kenny and Paul Boyle for this rematch.

Conor McKeon Conor McKeon. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

British & Irish Cup commitments could mean Caelan Doris is an absentee for Mary’s. They could have Sean Kearns back from injury, while centre Marcus O’Driscoll, with two tries and a number of line-breaks in his last three outings, is hitting top form.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LLLLLLLWW; St. Mary’s College: WLLWLLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 55; Tries: Rory O’Connor 7; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 36; Tries: Tim Maupin 4

Recent League Meetings - Saturday, February 2016, St. Mary’s College 19 Buccaneers 16, Templeville Road; Saturday, December 2, 2017: St. Mary’s College 10 Buccaneers 11, Templeville Road

CORK CONSTITUTION (5th) v GARRYOWEN (3rd), Temple Hill

With Munster ‘A’ playing Bedford Blues tonight, Garryowen’s Conan Doyle is the most affected of the two coaches with brothers David and Bill Johnston, Liam Coombes, Mike Sherry and Sean O’Connor all on B&I Cup duty.

Losing both David Johnston and Coombes — their top try scorers with five apiece — out of their back-three will dent the Light Blues’ attacking play, and defending champions Cork Constitution should be able to take advantage and reverse last week’s 24-17 defeat.

Conan Doyle Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The two sides will be very well acquainted with each other by Christmas time, given that they are due to meet for the third week in a row next Saturday at the semi-final stage of the Munster Senior Cup.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWL; Garryowen: LWWLWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 77; Tries: JJ O’Neill 3; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 86; Tries: Liam Coombes, David Johnston 5 each

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 25, 2017: Cork Constitution 26 Garryowen 20, Temple Hill; Saturday, December 2, 2017: Garryowen 24 Cork Constitution 17, Dooradoyle

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (8th) v CLONTARF (4th), College Park

Dublin University have made three personnel changes for the second leg of their double header with Clontarf. Bryan Mollen and Seb Fromm return from Sevens and 15s international duty respectively, the former replacing Leinster ‘A’ call-up Jack Kelly on the right wing.

Bryan Mollen Bryan Mollen returns for Dublin University. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Jack Dunne’s inclusion in the second row means a move to the blindside for Trinity’s American recruit Alex McDonald, while Clontarf will be much-changed given that Jack Power, Conor O’Brien, Bryan Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Cormac Daly and Hugh O’Sullivan are all in B&I Cup action tonight.

‘Tarf only had five points to spare at the end of last Saturday’s eventful clash, and with two of the top flight’s leading try scorers — Michael Silvester (6 tries) and Matt D’Arcy (7) – on the pitch, the College Park crowd should be treated to a pre-Christmas cracker.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLLWWLWLL; Clontarf: LWLWWWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Michael Silvester 30; Tries: Michael Silvester 6; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 38; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 28, 2017: Dublin University 0 Clontarf 29, College Park; Saturday, December 2, 2017: Clontarf 29 Dublin University 24, Castle Avenue

LANSDOWNE (1st) v UCD (6th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

Unbeaten Division 1A leaders Lansdowne are also unsurprisingly affected by B&I Cup call-ups, but their strength in depth is likely to stand to them again as they go in search of win number 10 tomorrow afternoon.

UCD are hit even harder with sixth starters from last week’s 30-23 loss to Lansdowne unavailable for the trip to headquarters, including Leinster ‘A’ backs Ciaran Frawley, Gavin Mullin and Tommy O’Brien and prop Jeremy Loughman who has signed a short-term development deal with Munster.

Scott Deasy kicks a penalty Scott Deasy has scored 106 points for Lansdowne this season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Opportunity knocks for some of the clubs’ fringe players here, but Lansdowne’s out-half general Scott Deasy, who is having a fine season with 106 points already, is likely to be centre stage once again.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWW; UCD: WWLLLLWLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 106; Tries: Mark O’Keefe, Harry Brennan 4 each; UCD: Points: Ciaran Frawley 42; Tries: Jamie Glynn 3

Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 10, 2017: UCD 8 Lansdowne 45, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, December 2, 2017: UCD 23 Lansdowne 30, Belfield Bowl

YOUNG MUNSTER (7th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd), Tom Clifford Park

Young Munster begin the second half of the league season with the sour taste of last week’s 32-13 trouncing by Terenure in their mouths. At least they have an immediate chance to gain revenge.

‘Nure also have fond memories of their most recent trip to Greenfields last February when a late try from former Ireland U20 centre Harrison Brewer, who played at number 8 last Saturday, earned them a 28-17 bonus point win.

James Blaney Terenure coach James Blaney. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

With an expected backlash from the Cookies, it will be difficult for James Blaney’s men to repeat that feat, but if they can maintain the quality of their attack — centre Stephen O’Neill ran in a superb solo try from halfway in the first game — then a season’s double could well be on the cards.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Young Munster: LLWLWWLLL; Terenure College: WWWWLWLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 28; Tries: Ben Kilkenny 4; Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 64; Tries: Eoin Joyce, Jake Swaine 4 each

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 11, 2017: Young Munster 17 Terenure College 28, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, December 2, 2017: Terenure College 32 Young Munster 13, Lakelands Park


SHANNON (2nd) v BALLYNAHINCH (1st), Thomond Park back pitch, 1pm

Three key members of the Shannon squad this season — Conor Fitzgerald, Duncan Casey and John Foley — are all on the Munster ‘A’ bench tonight, so it is unclear if they will be involved against Ballynahinch.

Johnny McPhillips Johnny McPhillips won't be involved. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Out-half Fitzgerald was badly missed as Shannon were comprehensively beaten 42-15 in Co. Down, but ‘Hinch will have to cope with the absence of Ulster ‘A’ half-backs Johnny McPhillips and Aaron Cairns tomorrow.

Their unavailability offers others an opportunity to shine in this second successive top of the table clash. Without key personnel, the ‘Hinch backs will struggle to repeat last week’s second half fireworks, so Shannon’s physical pack should be able to drive the hosts back to winning ways.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: WWWWWWLWL; Ballynahinch: LWWWLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Conor Fitzgerald 93; Tries: Conor Fitzgerald 5; Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 83; Tries: Conor Kelly 5

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 25, 2017: Shannon 30 Ballynahinch 14, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, December 2, 2017: Ballynahinch 42 Shannon 15, Ballymacarn Park

OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v BALLYMENA (8th), Anglesea Road

With three wins and a draw, Old Belvedere are unbeaten at home this season and determined to avenge last week’s 25-16 reversal when they host Ballymena in the reverse fixture.

Aaron Sheehan’s move to the left wing seems to be working well with two tries in as many games, with ‘Belvo out-half Pat Hughes also gunning for his third successive try.

Aaron Sheehan and Jason Higgins Old Belvo's Aaron Sheehan (left) has been switched to wing. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ulster ‘A’ commitments have impacted on Ballymena’s selection. They have the likes of Adrian Hamilton, David Whann and James Taggart back in harness up front, but new combinations in the centre (Matthew Norris and Alan Smyth) and at half-back (Glenn Baillie and Michael Stronge) will need to quickly get up to speed.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: LLWDWWLWL; Ballymena: WLLLWLLLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Tim Foley 82; Tries: Shane McDonald, Pat Hughes 3 each; Ballymena: Points: Brett Herron 65; Tries: Rodger McBurney 5

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, December 2, 2017: Ballymena 25 Old Belvedere 16, Eaton Park

OLD WESLEY (7th) v NAAS (6th), Donnybrook

Going down to a late Fionn Higgins try from a grubber kick was tough to take for Old Wesley last week, given they matched Naas’ three-try tally at Forenaughts.

The Kildare men, who have leapfrogged Wesley into sixth place, make five changes for tomorrow’s rematch with Ben O’Connor, Ross Bailey-Kearney and Peter Osborne starting behind the scrum, and Conor Doyle and Will O’Brien coming into the front row and back row respectively.

Barry McLaughlin Old Wesley's Barry McLaughlin. Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

It is just over a year since Naas’ last outing on Donnybrook’s 4G surface. That Friday Night Lights clash ended in a hard-earned 19-16 victory for Wesley, David Benn touching down twice for Naas but Barry McLaughlin’s boot had the biggest say for the hosts.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: LLLDLWWWL; Naas: WWLLLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Jack Maybury 83; Tries: Jack Maybury 4; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 42; Tries: Fionn Higgins 6

Recent League Meetings – Friday, January 27, 2017: Naas 27 Old Wesley 8, Forenaughts; Saturday, December 2, 2017: Naas 30 Old Wesley 25, Forenaughts

UCC (4th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), the Mardyke

The UCC backs seem to be stepping up – one by one — with some crucial scores this season. The latest to do so was winger Kevin Slater who bagged a vital brace during last week’s 22-15 comeback win at UL Bohemians.

Ian Condell and Mike D'Arcy UL Bohemian's captain Ian Condell (left). Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

It was frustration all round for Bohs who had led 12-3 heading towards half-time. Two quick-fire tries later, UCC were ahead and then a 67th minute turnover allowed the pacy Slater to race the length of the pitch for the killer score.

Captain Ian Condell continues to lead by example for UL, chipping in with one of their tries in the first game, but they will need an improved collective effort, particularly in attack, if they want to lower UCC colours at the Mardyke.

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LDLWWWWLW; UL Bohemians: LLWLLLLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 92; Tries: Kevin Slater 4; UL Bohemians: Points: Robbie Bourke 40; Tries: James Ryan 4

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 28, 2017: UCC 9 UL Bohemians 18, the Mardyke; Saturday, December 2, 2017: UL Bohemians 15 UCC 22, University of Limerick 4G pitch

DOLPHIN (10th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Irish Independent Park, 4pm

Dolphin belied their league position again with a fiery second half fight-back away to Banbridge, so they can take a good deal of confidence and momentum into this return match despite the 26-25 defeat.

Bann boss Daniel Soper said ‘that was as poor as we’ve been’ after watching his side falter having led 19-6 at half-time. They are without Robert Lyttle, who is away with Ulster ‘A’ this weekend, but Dale Carson and Mike Bentley are back from long-term shoulder and knee injuries respectively.

Mike Bentley and Rob O'Donovan Mike Bentley (left) is back for Banbridge. Source: Presseye/Angus Bicker/INPHO

“We need to get a reaction from the players,” Soper said ahead of their long trip south. “Some of the fault lies with individual standards and some of it is organisational stuff. We’re going to need to be much improved when we go to Cork.”

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LWLLLLLLL; Banbridge: WDWWWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 58; Tries: Brian Scott, James Rochford 2 each; Banbridge: Points: Ian Porter 82; Tries: Andrew Morrison 6

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, December 2, 2017: Banbridge 26 Dolphin 25, Rifle Park

Division 2A

City of Armagh v Cashel RFC, Palace Grounds
Galway Corinthians RFC v Malone, Corinthian Park
Greystones v Queens University, Dr Hickey Park
Highfield v Galwegians, Woodleigh Park
Nenagh Ormond v Blackrock College RFC, New Ormond Park

Division 2B

MU Barnhall v Skerries, Parsonstown
Rainey OB P – P Sundays Well, Hatrick Park
Belfast Harlequins v Wanderers Deramore Park
Dungannon W – City Of Derry
Navan RFC v Old Crescent, Balreask Old

Division 2C

Bangor v Sligo, Upritchard Park
Malahide v Omagh, Estuary Road
Midleton v Bruff, Towns Park
Seapoint v Tullamore, Kilbogget Park
Thomond v Bective Rangers, Liam Fitzgerald Park

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