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AIB League: Division Three State Of Play

AIB League: Division Three State Of Play

As the days count down towards the business end of this season’s AIB League, IrishRugby.ie looks at the twists and turns that could lay ahead in the Division Three title race.

STATE OF PLAY IN THE THIRD TIER:

The majority of clubs have played 12 matches in Division Three so far, with three full weekends of action to follow in the regulation phase. Currently, Ballynahinch, Wanderers, Instonians and Old Wesley have a grasp on the top four play-off positions.


Meanwhile, with two teams automatically being relegated at the end of the season to Division Three, Sunday’s Well, City of Derry and Portadown are scrapping it out to avoid the drop.


If clubs are equal on league points after 15 games, the more positive points’ differential will be used to separate them. If clubs are still tied, the greater number of tries scored will determine the better-placed club.


At the end of the league series, the top two clubs will be promoted into Division Two, while the bottom club will be relegated into the Junior ranks.


The team finishing second from bottom will play off with the club that finishes runner-up in the Round Robin series for a place in next season’s third division.


The Division Three semi-finals will be played on Saturday, April 21, a week before the Division One play-offs.


The Division Three final will be staged on Saturday, April 28 at an as yet unconfirmed venue. This is the sixth occasion that the Division Three season will end with top four play-offs to determine the divisional champions.


DIVISION THREE SUMMARY:


As in Division Two, two clubs have broken free of the pack and can look forward to promotion come Easter Saturday (April 7). Two of the four or five other clubs at the head of proceedings can make the play-offs where they will have away semi-finals.


At the base of the table, Portadown look certain to be the seventh Ulster club to be demoted to the Junior ranks over the years – two of them, Ards and Queen’s University, have managed to return to compete in the AIB League.


One of four clubs will play off with the runner-up in the Round Robin series for a place in next season’s Division Three.


FIXTURES TO COME:


Round 13 – Saturday, March 3
Round 14 – Saturday, March 24
Round 15 – Saturday, April 7


Semi-Finals – Saturday, April 21 – Team that finishes first at home to fourth-placed club; Team that finishes second at home to third-placed club


Final – Saturday, April 28 – venue to be confirmed


CLUB POSITIONINGS/RUN-INS/FORECASTS:


1 – BALLYNAHINCH
Points: 47; Wins: 10; Losses: 2


Remaining Games: City of Derry (home), Queen’s University (home), Waterpark (away)


Next up, two Ulster clubs come visiting ‘Hinch. City of Derry will be seeking a bonus point at least, while Queen’s can afford to enjoy themselves. Promotion will be achieved by ‘Hinch before they arrive at Waterpark on April 7.


Forecast: It looks as if Wanderers, who have a game in hand, might just pip ‘Hinch for the top place. But it is immaterial as both clubs will be promoted and get home semi-final draws in the play-offs.


2 – WANDERERS
Points: 46; Wins: 10; Loss: 1


Remaining Games: Queen’s University (away), Connemara (away), Waterpark (home), Nenagh Ormond (away)


Three of their last four games are away from home. Curiously, Wanderers have never won in Connemara and have never played in Nenagh. However, this current Wanderers side has attitude and it will be surprising if there are any slip-ups.


Forecast: Wanderers have been on a roll for some time and are, by far, the best team in Division Three at the moment. Promotion beckons after five long seasons in the third tier.


3 – INSTONIANS
Points: 38; Wins: 8; Losses: 4


Remaining Games: Rainey Old Boys (away), Old Wesley (home), Sunday’s Well (away)


Must visit Rainey and also Sunday’s Well, where they have lost on their two previous visits. The game against Old Wesley could decide the last top four slot.


Forecast: This will be the fifth time that Instonians have narrowly missed out on promotion. Some consolation is a semi-final berth for the third time in five seasons. They will spend their tenth consecutive season in Division Three in 2007/08.


4 – OLD WESLEY
Points: 38; Wins: 9; Losses: 3


Remaining Games: Connemara (home), Instonians (away), Banbridge (home)


Finish up with two home fixtures and a trip up to Instonians, where they possess a 50% success rate.


Forecast: As noted, the result of the Instonians game will determine which of the two clubs will enter the end-of-season play-offs.


5 – BRUFF
Points: 37; Wins: 8; Losses: 4


Remaining Games: Sunday’s Well (away), City of Derry (home), Connemara (home)


Have a handy run-in with two home games against relegation-threatened sides and a crunch game at Musgrave Park against Sunday’s Well.


Forecast: If recent form is any guide, they should qualify for an away semi-final, as they did at the end of last season.


6 – NENAGH ORMOND
Points: 36; Wins: 8; Draw: 1; Losses: 3


Remaining Games: Portadown (home), Corinthians (away), Wanderers (home)


Entertain Portadown next time out and that could be a five-pointer for them. Nenagh should also pick up points at Corinthians but Wanderers will be on fire when they arrive on Easter Saturday.


Forecast: Could just lose out on a top four slot in this their second season in the AIB League.


7 – RAINEY OLD BOYS
Points: 33; Wins: 7; Draw: 1; Losses: 4


Remaining Games: Instonians (home), Banbridge (away), Portadown (home)


8 – QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY
Points: 29; Wins: 5; Losses: 7


Remaining Games: Wanderers (home), Ballynahinch (away), City of Derry (away)


9 – ARDS
Points: 29; Wins: 5; Draws: 3; Losses: 4


Remaining Games: Banbridge (home), Portadown (away), Corinthians (home)


10 – BANBRIDGE
Points: 29; Wins: 6; Losses: 6


Remaining Games: Ards (away), Rainey Old Boys (home), Old Wesley (away)


11 – CORINTHIANS
Points: 25; Wins: 5; Losses: 7


Remaining Games: Waterpark (away), Nenagh Ormond (home), Ards (away)


12 – WATERPARK
Points: 18; Wins: 4; Losses: 8


Remaining Games: Corinthians (home), Wanderers (away), Ballynahinch (home)


First up, they play Corinthians at home and must then face the top two clubs in the league table. They may pick up points in the game against Corinthians, but that would seem to be their lot.


Forecast: Are currently nine points clear of relegation trouble and that should be just enough for a club who were only relegated from Division Two at the end of last season.


13 – CONNEMARA
Points: 17; Wins: 4; Losses: 7


Remaining Games: Old Wesley (away), Wanderers (home), Sunday’s Well (home), Bruff (away)


Trips to Donnybrook and county Limerick remain and there will be no easy points available at either venue.


Forecast: The home game against Sunday’s Well could be an eight-pointer, depending on how other results unfold. Connemara should survive to fight for another year.


14 – SUNDAY’S WELL
Points: 13; Wins: 2; Draw: 1; Losses: 9


Remaining Games: Bruff (home), Connemara (away), Instonians (home)


Must entertain two clubs seeking a top four finish and visit a club in a spot of bother – not an ideal way to complete their centenary season.


Forecast: The smart money is on Sunday’s Well or City of Derry to finish second from bottom in Division Three and galvanise themselves for a play-off with a junior club to maintain their senior status.


15 – CITY OF DERRY
Points: 9; Win: 1; Losses: 11


Remaining Games: Ballynahinch (away), Bruff (away), Queen’s University (home)


Play two away games against the top clubs and then a home fixture against Queen’s. Derry have really only a chance of points in their last game.


Forecast: Refer to Sunday’s Well prediction.


16 – PORTADOWN
Points: 1; Losses: 12


Remaining Games: Nenagh Ormond (away), Ards (home), Rainey Old Boys (away)


Must travel to Nenagh and Rainey and have a home game against Ards.


Forecast: Have been at the base of the table for some time now and are presently eight points adrift of the team in 15th position. Portadown will be playing in the Ulster Qualifying League next season.


– With thanks to Irish rugby statistician Des Daly –