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AIB League: Division Two State Of Play

AIB League: Division Two 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 Two title race.

STATE OF PLAY IN THE SECOND TIER:

The majority of clubs have played 12 matches in Division Two so far, with three full weekends of action to follow in the regulation phase. Currently, Old Belvedere, Greystones, Clonakilty and Barnhall 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, Midleton and County Carlow look set for 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 One, while the bottom two sides will be relegated to the third division.


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


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


DIVISION TWO SUMMARY:


The battle to finish top of the table has become a two-horse race. Barring a few major upset, in-form Leinster clubs Old Belvedere and Greystones are heading towards promotion into Division One. Perm two from the following four clubs – Clonakilty, Barnhall, Dublin University and UCC – to make the play-offs and secure an away semi-final.


Two Leinster clubs, one Munster and one Ulster are rooted to the base of the table. If Malone are relegated they will be replaced in next season’s Division Two by Ballynahinch, thus maintaining the presence of an Ulster team in the second tier.


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 – OLD BELVEDERE
Points: 50; Wins: 11; Loss: 1


Remaining Games: Clonakilty (away), Bective Rangers (away), Malone (home)


Have won all six of their away games so far this season and have two more left – one, for the first time, in west Cork and the other just around the corner. Old Belvedere will arrive in Clonakilty before Greystones do and should soften up the County Cork men!


They have too much ammunition for Bective at the moment and will put Malone to the sword.


Forecast: Almost certain to be promoted after nine long seasons in Division Two. Whether they finish on top of the table or not, depends on how they and Greystones get on in west Cork.


2 – GREYSTONES
Points: 45; Wins: 9; Losses: 2


Remaining Games: Dublin University (away), Clonakilty (away), Thomond (away), Suttonians (home)


Are five points behind Old Belvedere but have a game in hand – March 17’s clash with Clonakilty. Greystones travelled to west Cork in the AIB Cup in January and lost 8-0. They have three away games left but have enjoyed a 100% success rate on the road in the league this season. They will not encounter any clubs with relegation worries.


Forecast: Spent two seasons in Division One in the early 1990s and should follow ‘Belvo’ up into the premier division at the end of this season.


3 – CLONAKILTY
Points: 34; Wins: 7; Draw: 1; Losses: 3


Remaining Games: Old Belvedere (home), Greystones (home), Midleton (home), Old Crescent (away)


Arriving in Division Two for the first time last October, Clonakilty have made a big impression and are unbeaten at home at this stage of the season. They have three consecutive home games due up but must face the top two in the table at the outset.


Forecast: Six seasons in the AIB League, ‘Clon’ will not be promoted as they are currently eleven points behind Greystones. However, they could do damage to the championship aspirations of ‘Stones and Old Belvedere if their present rich vein of form continues. It is a toss up with Trinity to see who gets an away semi-final in the play-offs.


4 – BARNHALL
Points: 34; Wins: 7; Losses: 5


Remaining Games: County Carlow (home), Highfield (away), De La Salle Palmerston (home)


Surprisingly, DLSP have never been pitched with Carlow before in the AIB League. They have won four of their five Division Two games at Parsonstown this season and now must entertain two clubs with relegation problems.


Forecast: Are, at present, in the top four and it will be difficult to dislodge them. They just might have to visit Anglesea Road again this season, this time in the semi-finals. They reached the play-offs once before – in 2001/02.


5 – DUBLIN UNIVERSITY
Points: 32; Wins: 7; Losses: 5


Remaining Games: Greystones (home), Malone (away), Highfield (home)


Have two home games left and must travel to Belfast to play Malone, who may be safe from relegation at that stage. Trinity have yet to lose at home to Greystones and Highfield and away to Malone.


Forecast: Are two points behind Barnhall above them in fourth place and will be hard pushed to close the gap. Still, the students could very well be there or thereabouts at the finish.


6 – UCC
Points: 30; Wins: 6; Draw: 1; Losses: 5


Remaining Games: De La Salle Palmerston (away), Young Munster (away), Bective Rangers (home)


Have two away games left – UCC have, for some reason, never won in four visits to Kilternan and have enjoyed a 50% success rate in the league at home to Bective. On March 24, they play their first and only visit to Limerick this season.


Forecast: Have reached the Division Two play-offs over the past four seasons but do not look as if they will be involved this season.


7 – YOUNG MUNSTER
Points: 26; Wins: 5; Draws: 2; Losses: 4


Remaining Games: Suttonians (away), De La Salle Palmerston (away), UCC (home), Midleton (away)


8 – OLD CRESCENT
Points: 26; Wins: 5; Draw: 1; Losses: 6


Remaining Games: Malone (away), Suttonians (away), Clonakilty (home)


9 – HIGHFIELD
Points: 25; Wins: 6; Losses: 5


Remaining Games: Midleton (home), Bective Rangers (home), Barnhall (home), Dublin University (away)


10 – SUTTONIANS
Points: 25; Wins: 5; Losses: 7


Remaining Games: Young Munster (home), Old Crescent (home), Greystones (away)


11 – BECTIVE RANGERS
Points: 24; Wins: 5; Losses: 6


Remaining Games: Thomond (away), Highfield (away), Old Belvedere (home), UCC (away)


12 – THOMOND
Points: 24; Wins: 5; Draw: 1; Losses: 6


Remaining Games: Bective (home), Greystones (home), County Carlow (away)


13 – MALONE
Points: 20; Wins: 4; Losses: 8


Remaining Games: Old Crescent (home), Dublin University (home), Old Belvedere (away)


Next up, Malone have two home games against clubs that have won more games at Gibson Park than they have lost in previous season. They can forget about collecting a few points at Anglesea Road, going on current form.


Forecast: Are six points clear of the relegation drop at the moment and would seem destined to play their sixteenth successive season in Division Two in 2007/08.


14 – DE LA SALLE PALMERSTON
Points: 19; Wins: 3; Losses: 8


Remaining Games: UCC (home), Young Munster (home), County Carlow (home), Barnhall (away)


Have three home games left including a catch-up fixture with Young Munster. Carlow, whom they play on March 24, are presently six points below them in the table. They have remained unbeaten in the league this term at Parsonstown where they play their final fixture.


Forecast: Should survive as they are a much better side at home in Kilternan than they are out on the road.


15 – MIDLETON
Points: 14; Wins: 3; Losses: 9


Remaining Games: Highfield (away), Clonakilty (away), Young Munster (home)


Must play three Munster clubs, two of them away, in their run-in. Midleton have not played in the AIB League at Highfield or Clonakilty before and have won only one of their previous league matches with Young Munster.


Forecast: It will be very difficult for them to claw back the five points they are currently adrift in the relegation zone. After seven seasons in Division Two, the east Cork club look set for the drop.


16 – COUNTY CARLOW
Points: 13; Wins: 2; Losses: 10


Remaining Games: Barnhall (away), De La Salle Palmerston (away), Thomond (home)


Start up with two away games in Leinster at venues where they have never played AIB League rugby before. Their amateur firepower, like that of Midleton, was not good enough to allow them compete in Division Two this season.


Forecast: Just down from Division One, Carlow will return to Division Three for next season. They last competed in the third division in 1999/2000 and spent five seasons in Division One in the interim.


– With thanks to Irish rugby statistician Des Daly –