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AIB League: Division 3 Previews

AIB League: Division 3 Previews

The top four clash of Queen’s University and Nenagh Ormond will be of interest this weekend but more than a few eyes will be on Rifle Park where Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best is expected to turn out for Banbridge. Over in Portadown, the subject of one of the late Bill McLaren’s famous quotes will be coaching his team against Connemara.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, January 23

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Banbridge (5th) v Barnhall (9th), Rifle Park

Grand Slam winner Rory Best is expected to don the navy, maroon and yellow of the club where his rugby career first began.

Bann host Leixlip side Barnhall and while they would have been favourites anyway, the presence of the fit-again Best should boost not just the team but the supporters as well.

Banbridge are two points outside the play-off zone and you have to go back to November to find the last time they lost.

Barnhall have won only one game less and given there are only seven points between 3rd and 9th in the table, they can still entertain hopes of a play-off spot should results go their way. But this Saturday should see the ‘Best’ team win.

County Carlow (16th) v Rainey Old Boys (11th), Oak Park

A bad season for County Carlow. It started with a defeat to newcomers Navan and it really has not improved for them. Relegation beckons and perhaps a chance to revitalise in the Leinster League.

Rainey sit five places above them and are comfortably clear of the danger zone but they cannot afford to be complacent.

A win on Saturday should see the former AIB Junior Cup winners safe in mid-table though they do come into this game having lost their last two outings. Nonetheless an away win is the safe bet.

Instonians (4th) v Suttonians (8th), Shaw’s Bridge

An intriguing tie with much at stake for both sides. A win would see either club capitalise on results elsewhere to enhance their play-off hopes.

Indeed, a win for Instonians would seriously boost their promotion ambitions and could move them into third spot ahead of the losing side from the big clash at Dub Lane.

Suttonians have shown real ambition but this is a bellwether game for them. Can they take a big scalp in Division 3 or will the home side carry the day? Back Instonians to get the job done at home.

Midleton (1st) v Sunday’s Well (7th), Towns Park

Unbeaten in eight games in the league, table toppers on 35 points and yet Midleton still cannot afford to rest on their laurels with Queen’s University only five points behind (thanks mainly to six bonus points).

A Cork derby is also not the time to let your guard down. There is nothing the ‘Well would like more than to be the team to stop the leaders in their tracks.

Midleton have conceded only 68 points (second only to Young Munster across all the divisions) and have proved they can dog it out when needs must. It could be tight at Towns Park on Saturday but the unbeaten run should stay intact.

Navan (10th) v Wanderers (6th), Balreask Old

The Meath men come into this game on the back of a solid win over Rainey and a narrow defeat by Nenagh Ormond. With 17 points in the bag they could call it mission accomplished as they look to be safe in Division 3.

Wanderers have hovered in or around the top four for most of the season without really making the impact they hoped for. They have only lost two games but the lack of bonus points and some close calls against lower-placed sides has dented their run a bit.

What then to make of this game? Well Navan want more than mid-table safety and Wanderers want more than just outside the top four so this is a clash that could provide the direction for the latter half of the season in both clubs with the Dublin side’s experience proving the telling factor.

Portadown  (13th) v Connemara (15th), Chambers Park

The great Bill McLaren may have passed this week but the subject of one of his well known comments is still going strong. ‘Hika the hooker from Ngongotaha’ (Ports coach Hika Reid) will be on the sidelines as his Portadown side host second-from-bottom Connemara.

It will not be an easy game though. Ports need a win to keep themselves clear of the relegation zone and Connemara need a win to start climbing out of it.

Neither side has threatened the scoreboard much this season so it may not be a high scoring game, but it will not lack for effort and good hard graft. The odds should favour the well known hooker’s side.

Queen’s University (2nd) v Nenagh Ormond (3rd), Dub Lane

Match of the day in Division 3 is this top four clash at Dub Lane. Play-off positions and more importantly promotion are at stake for both sides.

Queen’s University have a game in hand against County Carlow and their five try-scoring bonus points to date mean that they still have a chance to top the league ahead of unbeaten Midleton.

Nenagh Ormond capitalised on the defeats of Wanderers and Instonians last weekend to climb into third spot with a 32-13 win over Naas.

With eight try-scoring bonus points and three losing bonuses between them, these two sides have served up some terrific rugby so far this season and if they do not cancel each other out on Saturday then the supporters could be in for a treat. It could go either way but Queen’s should turn on the style.