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AIB League: Division 3 Previews

AIB League: Division 3 Previews

AIB League rugby resumes this weekend and in Division 3 the top four of Midleton, Instonians, Queen’s University and Wanderers will face off with unbeaten runs, promotion and play-offs all at stake.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, January 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Ards (13th) v County Carlow (16th), Hamilton Park

Ards’ two wins so far see them just clear of the relegation zone but Carlow’s two games in hand mean this is still a big game for both clubs.

The home team’s last two outings have seen them concede a total of 78 points to Midleton and Banbridge, so they need a morale-boosting performance this weekend to set the tone for the rest of 2010.

Visitors Carlow will be hoping that the seasonal break may give them the fillip they need to get their campaign going. Their last outing was also a trip to Ulster where they lost to Instonians.

A home win is on the cards at Hamilton Park.

Barnhall (9th) v Portadown (12th), Parsonstown

Barnhall are having a middle of the road season with three wins, three losses and one draw to their name. With 16 points in the bag they look set for a mid-table finish but a win this weekend could put them closer to a play-off spot.

Visitors Portadown, like Ards, are on 10 points though with a game in hand on their fellow Ulstermen they should be able to stay clear of the relegation dog fight.

A win this weekend would make them more secure but the home side are likely to pick up the points in a closely-fought game.

Instonians (2nd) v Queen’s University (3rd), Shaw’s Bridge

Match of the Day 1 in Division 3 this weekend. Shaw’s Bridge will be buzzing for what promises to be a rip-roaring Belfast derby. The vocal home crowd will be hoping that their pack can deliver a knock-out blow to the students’ promotion aims.

Queen’s lie just a point behind ‘Inst but with a game in hand, so this really is a crucial tie. They have secured a try-scoring bonus point in four games this season and secured a losing bonus in their only loss to date.
‘Inst have chalked up six wins out of seven so far and boast two try-scoring bonuses to their name, so this game could see some fantastic running rugby.

That said, both sides have conceded very few points so they could cancel each other out in the end. Fortune will favour the brave in this encounter and we hesitate to predict a winner.

Nenagh Ormond (6th) v Naas (14th), New Ormond Park

This game has home win pencilled in but…as we all know, it all comes down to hunger on the day.

Nenagh Ormond have four wins to their name and are just two points outside the play-offs. They have lost to Midleton – in common with everyone else this season – and Portadown. Naas have one win in seven games and face a real survival struggle.

Therein lies the key.

Can the Kildare side raise their game and battle their way to a much-needed win, or will Nenagh’s ambition see them secure the win they should get on paper?

Rainey Old Boys (10th) v Navan (11th), Hatrick Park

Two clubs that have made the jump up from Junior ranks in recent seasons, two clubs that got off to a flying start when they first got promoted. Two clubs who have since learned that Division 3 is no cake walk.

Rainey have struggled to get above mid-table in recent seasons and while Navan are currently just behind them, one suspects that the Meath side may consolidate and kick on from this season.

Navan have not won in the league since October so this game must be a real target for Brad Harris’ men. Rainey lost to Banbridge last time out but beat Portadown prior to that.

A home win is on the cards here as Rainey’s greater experience should tell.

Sunday’s Well (5th) v Banbridge (7th), Musgrave Park

There is a lot at stake for these two teams on Saturday as they both lie just outside the play-off places. A win either way will put a dent in the hopes of the other side.

The ‘Well have beaten Barnhall and Connemara in their last two outings in the league, while Banbridge took care of Ards and Rainey.

The Cork side have one of the lowest points against totals in the league which suggests that their opponents will struggle to get points up and a home win looks the more likely result here.

Suttonians (8th) v Connemara (15th), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds

Suttonians was a hive of activity over the festive period with Jingle Tag and The Fat Turkey Walk attracting a huge number of club members. They should turn out again on Saturday for this clash before heading in to the Leinster game later in the day.

A balanced season for the Dublin side with four wins and three losses. They beat Leinster opposition in Barnhall and Naas in their last two league outings.

Connemara have only managed one win in the league this season and will struggle to avoid the relegation zone. They will probably draw no comfort from this trip with a home win on the cards.

Wanderers (4th) v Midleton (1st), Merrion Road

Match of the Day 2 (if the BBC can do it so can we!). First plays fourth with Midleton’s unbeaten run and first place on the line. A slip-up here could see Instonians or Queen’s University catch them at the summit.

Wanderers are also well-placed to claim a top two spot courtesy of a win this weekend. Their only loss in the league so far came at the hands of Barnhall. Their six wins include some wobbly performances against Ards and Connemara – albeit in tough conditions.

Neither side has conceded too many points but Midleton have secured two try-scoring bonus points, suggesting that given any room they can cut loose. Home advantage is a help but expect Midleton to be still unbeaten come the final whistle.