The Energia AIL 1B is starting to take shape as the teams go into their sixth round of fixtures this weekend.
It’s been a mixed start for the Ulster clubs. City of Armagh have recorded three wins out of the five matches to date and sit in 5th place. Malone and and Banbridge had slow starts but have picked up a couple of wins each in recent rounds.
Highfield, who came up from AIL 2A last season, have been making the early running with five wins from five, with two try bonus points along the way.
Old Wesley in second place have only completed four fixtures, after last weeks game against Navan was postponed due to the weather. The Dublin side have won all four games but have yet to record a try bonus.
At the bottom of the table Naas and Navan have yet to record a win and there is already a bit of distance between them and the rest of the league. This leaves the Ulster clubs in a group of six alongside Shannon, Old Belvedere and St Mary’s College who have picked up two or three wins but have yet to string together a consistent winning run.
The fixtures for the coming weekend are as follows.
We’ve had a look at the teams match points pick up over their last five games (L5%) and their last three games (L3%) to see if that will give us any indication of the likely winners this weekend. Note – we only have four results for Old Wesley and Navan following their postponement last weekend.
Sorting the table on the match point pick up over the last three weeks we get the following.
Starting with the above %’s we have a look at this weeks fixtures below.
City of Armagh (40%) v Old Wesley (80%)
Fifth placed City of Armagh entertain second placed Old Wesley on Saturday afternoon at the Palace Grounds and the stats point to a win for the visitors on current form (L3%) and on longer term form (L5%).
Reading the stats, City of Armagh have averaged 2 match points over their last three games and 2.8 match points over their last five.
Old Wesley on the other hand have ground out four wins capturing 4 match points per game. Their average points scored is the fourth lowest but their average points conceded is the smallest by some margin with Wesley being the only team to concede less than 10 points per game on average.
On the plus side for Armagh, they are at home and they managed to get a game in last week, which could be important early season.
Everything points towards a low scoring defensive arm wrestle for this one with Old Wesley favourites to come out on top by a few points as the boots of Rory Stynes and Cormac Fox dominate proceedings. However, Armagh could catch them cold at the start and an early try from the home team could see them through to a win.
Naas (7%) v Shannon (60%)
Fourth placed Shannon make the trip to Fournaughts to play ninth placed Naas and the stats point to a convincing win for the visitors.
Naas have picked up only one match point in their last three games and three match points in total over their five games to date.
Shannon have won two of their last three games and average 3 match points per game for the season so far. They are the second highest try scorers in the league but they have been guilty of leaving a few point on the pitch with a 60% conversion rate and they are in the bottom three for successful penalties.
Nass have been scoring regularly but their main issue this season is defence and they have the second highest average for points conceded. They also are guilty of leaving points on the pitch with a 56% conversion rate and they have the second lowest successful penalty count.
It should be a comfortable win for Shannon but if Naas can tighten up their defence and Peter Osborne can hit the scoring exploits of last season they might get something out of this one.
Navan (0%) v Highfield (87%)
Top team Highfield are hosted by the bottom side Navan at Balreask Old on Saturday afternoon and everything points to a big win for Highfield.
The only glimmer of a chance that Navan have is that Highfield have been conceding an average of 15 points per game but they have been scoring at almost twice that rate.
It would need an exceptional reversal in attack and defence if Navan are to get anything out of this one.
Old Belvedere (40%) v Malone (73%)
This one will be a tester of our current form stats as Old Belvedere sit two places above Malone in the league table but our L3% stats make Malone the favourites.
Over the season Belvo have a slight edge, scoring a couple more points a game than Malone and conceding six points less per game.
However over the last three games Malone are a team on the way up and Belvo are a team on the way down though both teams lost their last outing.
It’s an interesting game and it could go either way, but we’ll back our stats and tip Malone to come out on top in this one based on current form.
St Mary’s College (33%) v Banbridge (60%)
The final fixture throws up another two evenly matched teams with Banbridge just ahead of St Mary’s in the league by virtue of points scored.
Over their last three games however, Banbridge have a distinct advantage having won two from three whereas St Mary’s came out of a three match losing streak with their hard fought win against Malone last week at a cold and wet Gibson Park. Interestingly, Banbridge’s last defeat was against Malone and it was a substantial one at that.
The key difference in their stats is that Banbridge have scored a try a game more than St Mary’s and with dry conditions expected on Saturday we expect Banbridge to just edge this one. The Ulster side will need to keep the ball away from St Mary’s powerful pack who have already clocked up a couple of penalty tries this season.