AIL Rugby – Division 1A & 1B Previews – Terenure looking for another win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), College Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLWWW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 94; Tries: Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 4 each; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 59; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6

There may be six places and 20 points between these sides but Terenure have really turned a corner in their battle against relegation. Having beaten both UCD and Lansdowne in recent weeks, the challenge for James Blaney’s men is to repeat those results away from Lakelands Park.

Top flight survival was Trinity boss Tony Smeeth’s aim starting new season with another fresh crop. Their All-Ireland Under-20 champions from last year have really stood up to the task. Recent Leinster debutant Jack Dunne is set to start in the second row tomorrow, with Dan Sheehan, Dylan Doyle, Reuben Pim and current Ireland U-20 international Rob Russell the other changes.

Lansdowne have been the only away team to win at College Park this season, and a fourth successive victory would have the students in hot pursuit of a semi-final place. However, Terenure are much improved since their 25-8 November defeat to Trinity and bring in top-scoring full-back Matthew Byrne and prop Tiarnan Creagh as their two changes tomorrow.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: Terenure College 50 Dublin University 12, Lakelands Park; Friday, November 2, 2018: Terenure College 8 Dublin University 25, Lakelands Park

GARRYOWEN (5th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Dooradoyle

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWL; Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 57; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 103; Tries: JJ O’Neill 7

Garryowen are hoping it is third time lucky after losing twice to Cork Constitution already this season, including a 26-23 reversal in January’s tightly-contested Munster Senior Cup final. Incredibly, the Light Blues’ last three league outings at Dooradoyle have all finished in one-point cliffhangers.

Their narrow derby defeat at Young Munster saw them slip out of the top four, so Conan Doyle will be looking for a big reaction from his side. His Cork Con counterpart, Brian Hickey, will also be demanding a swift return to winning ways after UCD handed them their first loss in nine Division 1A fixtures.

Munster team-mates Alex Wootton and Duncan Williams could be in opposition tomorrow, with Garryowen looking a different team when Wootton is on the pitch and counter-attacking from deep. Look out too for Diarmuid Barron, the 20-year-old Munster Academy forward, and JJ O’Neill who are among the division’s top try scorers with seven each.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 9, 2017: Cork Constitution 37 Garryowen 11, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Cork Constitution 27 Garryowen 3, Temple Hill

LANSDOWNE (2nd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (9th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWLWL; Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 68; Tries: Peter Sullivan 8; Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5

Under-20 scrum half James Kenny steps up for his first All-Ireland League start as Lansdowne aim to complete a season’s double over Young Munster. Ronan Kelleher and Oisin Dowling, two Leinster debutants since the turn of the year, are back to bolster Mike Ruddock’s selection.

Flanker Tom Murphy is Lansdowne’s fourth personnel change from last week’s frustrating 35-26 defeat to Terenure, with Willie Earle also reverting to the number 8 position. Munsters’ pack upped the ante against Garryowen, helping them to a vital derby win, and they will need more of the same tomorrow.

The Cookies certainly owe Lansdowne one after leaking a late intercept try in November’s 23-12 home loss. Head coach Gearoid Prendergast is determined to navigate them out of relegation trouble, and while four penalty goals were enough against Garryowen, they will need try-scoring clout in order to upset Ruddock’s charges on their home patch.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 7, 2018: Young Munster 24 Lansdowne 27, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Young Munster 12 Lansdowne 23, Tom Clifford Park

UCC (8th) v SHANNON (7th), the Mardyke

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 111; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery, Eathon Moloney, Pa Ryan 4 each

Waterpark product Harry Jephson’s first league start at hooker is the only change UCC boss Brian Walsh has made the side that picked up two hard-earned bonus points at Clontarf. Leading the division’s scoring charts on 111 points, out-half James Taylor chipped in with a try and four successful kicks.

Taylor and his team-mates are out for revenge with Shannon having done the double on UCC in Division 1B last season and won 31-20 at Thomond Park in November. However, the Limerick men have lost their last three games and know that another defeat could draw them down into a relegation dog-fight.

It will be interesting to monitor the progress of 19-year-old Munster Academy lock Thomas Ahern who made his league bow off the bench against Trinity. Shannon head coach Tom Hayes rates him as ‘an exciting prospect who is still learning the position’. Ahern played in the backs until 2017 when he switched to the second row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: Shannon 40 UCC 17, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Shannon 31 UCC 20, Thomond Park back pitch

UCD (6th) v CLONTARF (3rd), Belfield Bowl

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: WDLWLLDWLLLWW; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 37; Tries: Andy Marks 7; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 81; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 6

Fresh from his try-scoring RDS debut, scrum half Paddy Patterson is back on club duty with a UCD team brimming with confidence after upsetting leaders Cork Con last Saturday. The Leinster connection continues with James Ryan’s younger brother David starting for College in the centre.

Ryan and Paul Kiernan will have their hands full trying to shut down ‘Tarf’s midfield duo Matt D’Arcy and Sean O’Brien, who scored a try each against UCC last week with D’Arcy also supplying two classy assists. Current Ireland Under-20 prop Michael Milne is UCD’s third and final change for tomorrow afternoon’s match.

Clontarf were 11-point winners of the clubs’ two most recent meetings at Castle Avenue – 19-8 and 17-6 – and claimed a 31-24 bonus point triumph on their last visit to Belfield in November 2017, when the ever-influential D’Arcy and O’Brien scored two of their five tries.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 3, 2018: Clontarf 19 UCD 8, Castle Avenue; Friday, November 2, 2018: Clontarf 17 UCD 6, Castle Avenue

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, March 2

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

OLD WESLEY (1st) v BANBRIDGE (5th), Energia Park, 1.15pm

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WDLWLWLWWWLWW; Banbridge: LWWWLLWLLWWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 126; Tries: Tom Kiersey, Paul Harte 4 each; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 78; Tries: Peter Cromie 7

An early kick-off in Donnybrook tomorrow as Old Wesley, the latest team to lead an extremely congested promotion race, entertain fifth-placed Banbridge. Bann were top of the table when Wesley won 15-8 at Rifle Park in November, thanks to Lachlan Anderson and Tom Kiersey’s first half tries.

It took a robust defensive performance to see out that result, and Wesley head coach Morgan Lennon knows they will have to bring a physical edge in this return match – especially as Banbridge are a wounded animal after back-to-back defeats to Ulster rivals Malone and Ballynahinch.

Injuries to Hugo Harbinson (hand) and Josh Cromie (ankle) are covered by Adam Ervine and Ulster’s Jonny Stewart in the Bann back-line. Stewart’s selection at scrum half sees Ian Porter switch to number 10, while returning lock Chris Allen is partnered by Stevie Irvine whose regular number 8 berth is filled by Ulster youngster Greg Jones.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 27, 2018: Banbridge 18 Old Wesley 12, Rifle Park; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Banbridge 8 Old Wesley 15, Rifle Park

BALLYNAHINCH (4th) v NAAS (3rd), Ballymacarn Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LDWWLWWLWLWLW; Naas: WWLWWLLLLWDLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Rhys O’Donnell 30; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell 6; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 115; Tries: Andy Ellis 8

Ballynahinch and Naas both got back to winning ways last week, climbing back into the top four. The Cobras claimed the scalp of leaders Malone with Andy Ellis running in his eighth try of the campaign – a first half intercept – and Peter Osborne landing the match-winning penalty in injury-time.

With 22-year-old tighthead Adam Coyle and Connacht flanker James Connolly (25), the Kildare men pack a punch up front and they were 27-14 winners of the sides’ November encounter. ‘Hinch are without second row James Simpson tomorrow, but can bank on the try-scoring threat of Ross Adair and captain Aaron Cairns who, between them, have scored six tries in the last seven rounds.

‘Hinch back rower Conall Boomer told Irish Rugby TV: “The league is so tight – with the results, you never know what’s going to happen. There’s no reason why we can’t go on and win it. Our attitude was very good against Banbridge, something which we’ve lacked in recent games. We cut out the mistakes (in the second half), got into our shape and pattern and we were grand from there.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 3, 2018: Naas 24 Ballynahinch 27, Forenaughts; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Naas 27 Ballynahinch 14, Forenaughts

CITY OF ARMAGH (7th) v BALLYMENA (10th), Palace Grounds

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: LDWLWWLWWLDWL; Ballymena: LLWLLLWWWLLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 65; Tries: Andrew Smyth 4; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 98; Tries: Connor Smyth 5

The front row crisis eases for City of Armagh, who were well-beaten at Old Belvedere last Saturday. Philip Fletcher, Andrew Smyth, Eoin O’Hagan and Oisin Kiernan are all back available this week, although injuries continue to rule out backs Andrew Willis, Ryan Purvis and Harry Boyd.

They will be expecting a backlash from bottom side Ballymena who are desperate for a derby win after shipping a combined 109 points against ‘Belvo and Wesley. The Braidmen have been coping with their own injuries, with opportunity knocking for 18-year-old debutant number 8 Phil Campbell who is set to retain his place.

Bruce Houston’s absence at out-half due to concussion will be covered by Tim Small, Ballymena’s leading scorer with 98 points, while Andy Graham is hoping to have promising youngster JJ McKee back to full fitness. He could come into the engine room alongside Connor Smyth, their lone try scorer in the Wesley game.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 3, 2018: Ballymena 13 City of Armagh 22, Eaton Park

MALONE (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (9th), Gibson Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WWLWWWLLLWWWL; Buccaneers: LLWLLLWLLWWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 75; Tries: Rory Campbell, Peter Cooper 4 each; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 100; Tries: Darragh Corbett, Shane Layden, Simon Meagher 4 each

Malone won by the minimum margin when these sides met in Athlone four months ago, the lead changing hands seven times and Buccaneers left to rue their failure to take on a late drop goal attempt. It was Naas’ last-gasp penalty goal which knocked the Ulstermen off the summit last week.

Winger Chris Jordan and scrum half Graham Curtis, an Ireland Under-20 hopeful this season, come in as two of Malone’s changes from the Naas match. Ulster prop Ross Kane is also set to start and 20-year-old Academy back rower Joe Dunleavy, lining out at number 8, is earning rave reviews from the club’s coaches.

Buccs have the fit-again Darragh Corbett and Peter Claffey back in the mix for their final trip of the regular season to Ulster. Connacht’s Eoghan Masterson, who has scored three tries in his last two appearances, is enjoying a run of games with the Pirates, especially as his younger brother Sean, the 21-year-old Academy forward, is also starting.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 20, 2014: Buccaneers 32 Malone 14, Dubarry Park; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Buccaneers 23 Malone 24, Dubarry Park

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (6th), Templeville Road

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLWLWWWLLLWL; Old Belvedere: WDLLWLLWWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 59; Tries: Hugo Conway 4; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 103; Tries: Jack Keating 9

This is a tough one to call as Old Belvedere have really clicked into gear, enjoying big wins over Ballymena and Armagh, while St. Mary’s have won five out of six at home so far this season. Mary’s will have been working hard on their maul defence after leaking three tries to Buccs from forward drives.

Although both sides need no reminder that they are hovering above the relegation zone, a precious win tomorrow could plant either back into the top four. St. Mary’s full-back Ruairi Shields is chasing his fourth try in as many games, an achievement which Belvedere winger Jack Keating chalked off against Armagh last time out.

Gerard Hill, who played for Belvedere College in last year’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup final, replaces Eoin Sweeney in the visitors’ back row. The ‘Belvo management also promote loosehead Adam Howard from the bench. It should be quite a tussle at out-half where 21-year-old Connacht Academy talent Conor Dean comes up against one of the province’s former players, Steve Crosbie.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 28, 2017: St. Mary’s College 27 Old Belvedere 18, Templeville Road; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Old Belvedere 29 St. Mary’s College 24, Anglesea Road

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