Dublin derby for champions Lansdowne and this weekend’s AIL previews
All-Ireland League, Division 1A
[Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated]
Dublin University (4th) v Lansdowne (2nd), College Park
THE BIG TESTS continue to come thick and fast for Dublin University who, just a week on from claiming the scalp of Clontarf, host defending champions Lansdowne tomorrow.
These are two of the division’s form teams with 10 wins between them in the last six rounds.
Lansdowne crushed Trinity twice last season, winning by 40 and 50 points respectively, but the margin should be a lot closer this time given the students’ current run. Tony Smeeth is able to bring Michael Silvester back in at full-back, with Jack Kelly switching to midfield, and Donnacha Mescal is the other change at loosehead prop.
Their maul defence is sure to be thoroughly tested by Lansdowne’s well-oiled lineout. Leinster Academy hooker Ronan Kelleher helped himself to a hat-trick of tries against UCC last week. Willie Fay, an U20 player last season, will start at number eight for the visitors, who also bring in Tom Roche and Peter Sullivan in the backs.
Terenure College (10th) v Cork Constitution (1st), Lakelands Park
A full 28 points separate these sides in the table currently, with Terenure desperately scrapping for an elusive win ahead of the Christmas break. This is their first meeting with Cork Constitution since losing last April’s semi-final 22-15 at Lakelands Park.
James Blaney’s charges won last year’s corresponding fixture 39-35, but a repeat result looks very unlikely given Cork Con’s table-topping form and excellent recent defensive performances — they kept both UCD and Young Munster to just three points, the same tally ‘Nure managed at Belfield last Saturday.
Prop Patrick Casey’s try-scoring and scrummaging impact off the Con bench against Munsters was yet more evidence of their strength in depth. Flanker Joe McSwiney, who touched down twice in the last fortnight, and full-back Shane Daly, with two tries in three games, have been popping up with regular scores.
UCC (9th) v Garryowen (5th), the Mardyke
A huge encounter for these Munster rivals with second-from-bottom UCC chasing their second win, while Garryowen, fresh from their late derby heroics against Shannon, looking to finish off the first half of the season with a fourth successive victory.
UCC boss Brian Walsh had an obvious eye on this game with his selection against Lansdowne last week. Tomorrow’s team line-up includes eight changes as Murray Linn, Cian Bohane, John Poland, Travis Coomey, Rob O’Donovan, Darragh Moloney, John Hodnett and Ryan Murphy all return.
The students’ talismanic number eight Murphy will be a marked man with three tries in the last three rounds, a feat matched by Garryowen winger Cian O’Shea. The outcome could hinge on the battle of young out-halves James Taylor and Ben Healy, two of the most promising number 10s in the league.
Young Munster (8th) v Clontarf (3rd), Tom Clifford Park
Both Young Munster and Clontarf went without a win in the last two rounds, so they won’t lack for motivation as they look to sign off before Christmas in winning fashion. A first victory since 19 October would give the Cookies a much-needed lift.
Last season’s two meetings ended in away wins, ‘Tarf triumphing 23-23 at Greenfields thanks to replacement Conor Kelly’s last-minute penalty and January’s return fixture finishing 25-16 in Munsters’ favour with provincial players Gavin Coombes and Dan Goggin getting among the tries.
Former Munster academy colleague Alan Tynan and Jack Power are set to oppose each other at full-back tomorrow afternoon, but with heavy rain and wind expected, the packs will have the biggest say with a big onus on the set piece platform.
Shannon (7th) v UCD (6th), Thomond Park main pitch (4pm)
UCD’s Leinster players made their mark last weekend, helping the students carve out a 31-3 bonus point win over Terenure. But the likes of Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien miss tomorrow’s trip to Shannon with head coach Andy Skehan making seven changes in personnel.
Ian O’Kelly and Nick Peters slot in at half-back, with Conall Doherty and Gavin Mullin, a try scorer against ‘Nure, also starting in the back-line, while former captain Emmet MacMahon, Leinster Academy prop Michael Milne and Bobby Sheehan swap in up front.
This will be Shannon’s second outing of the campaign on Thomond Park’s main pitch, following on from their 23-10 second round success against Young Munster.
Their talented young out-half Jake Flannery picked up his fourth league try against Garryowen, taking his overall tally to 60 points as the division’s second top scorer.
All-Ireland League, Division 1B:
[Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated]
Ballynahinch (6th) v Malone (2nd), Ballymacarn Park
Ballynahinch are back on home soil after a Peter Nelson-inspired win at Old Wesley and a frustrating outing against bottom side Ballymena last Saturday. They finished eight points behind their Ulster rivals, having been second best at the breakdown.
That will undoubtedly be a key area in tomorrow’s derby clash with Malone, who sit four places and only three points better off than ‘Hinch. The Cregagh Red Sox are hoping to avoid a December whitewash after defeats to Banbridge and Wesley.
Wesley kept Malone try-less last weekend and head coach Paddy Armstrong has reacted by making four personnel changes. Centre Neil Alcorn and forwards Ross Kane, Matthew Dalton and Dave Cave all come in, with Michael Shiels switching from the second row to blindside flanker.
Banbridge (5th) v City of Armagh (4th), Rifle Park
The second of the Ulster derbies in Division 1B brings together Banbridge and City of Armagh, who are split by just a single point in the table. Bann won the sides’ Ulster Premiership tie in September, prevailing 22-18 thanks to late tries from Andrew Morrison and Niall Armstrong.
Armstrong comes in at out-half as one of five changes to the Banbridge team that lost 28-7 to St. Mary’s. Ulster’s James Hume, Robert Lyttle and Alex Thompson are all set to start along with promising flanker David McCann who returns from Ireland Under-19 duty.
Fit-again centre and captain Chris Colvin is Armagh’s lone change from their 16-11 success against Naas. Bann head coach Simon McKinstry noted: “Armagh will be as physical a team as we’ve played all season. If we don’t up our game defensively then we’ll come out on the wrong side, there’s no doubt. We’ll have to be at our best to beat them.”
Buccaneers (9th) v Ballymena (10th), Dubarry Park
Buccaneers and Ballymena find themselves in the bottom two approaching the halfway stage of the season. However, the division is so congested at the moment that only seven points separates these two clubs from the top four.
The Braidmen arrive in Athlone with plenty of confidence after successive home wins over Old Belvedere and Ballynahinch, the latter including an excellent Try of the Month contender from scrum half Michael Stronge. But they have struggled on the road so far.
Both sides will need to watch their discipline with two of the division’s top-scoring out-halves, Luke Carty and Tim Small, both very capable match winners. Buccs had to cope with seven changes against Old Belvedere, and a more settled line-up, under captain Shane Layden, could make the difference tomorrow.
Naas (3rd) v Old Belvedere (8th), Forenaughts
Top scorer Peter Osborne is the latest Naas back to be sidelined through injury. Fionn Carr moves to full-back to cover Osborne’s absence tomorrow, with Rory Cleary coming in on the right wing as the only personnel change from their five-point reversal in Armagh.
Leinster-capped prop Adam Coyle is fit to take his place on the bench as the Cobras aim to end their three-match losing run. They were 27-13 winners when they hosted Old Belvedere last January, a game in which their pacy backs scored four tries.
‘Belvo have picked up three points away from home so far, including a draw with local rivals Old Wesley. They were tenacious in defence during last Saturday’s nail-biting 11-10 win over Buccs, while winger Jack Keating’s mazy runs were a regular threat to the visitors’ rearguard.
Old Wesley (7th) v St Mary’s College (1st), Donnybrook
New leaders St Mary’s are set to face Dublin rivals Old Wesley without their captain Marcus O’Driscoll. He is missing from the provisional line-up, Craig Kennedy covering across to fill the inside centre berth and Ruairi Shields coming in on the left wing.
There are three alterations in the pack where hooker Richie Halpin, lock Hugo Diepman and number eight Mark Fallon are selected. Boosted by their terrific win at Malone last Saturday, Wesley are meeting Mary’s in the league for the first time in three seasons.
The Donnybrook outfit are one of the lowest scoring sides currently, but when they do score well they generally win. Full-back Rory Stynes is averaging 12 points per game across the recent rounds, and his goal-kicking duel with Conor Dean tomorrow could decide the outcome.
Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.
Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud
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