Queen’s University have seized top spot in Division 3 and are unlikely to let it go at Merrion Road on Saturday. Midleton seem assured of promotion but can Nenagh Ormond, Sunday’s Well or Instonians make the play-offs? Find out at an AIB League club near you this weekend.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, March 6
– Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated
Ards (12th) v Nenagh Ormond (4th), Hamilton Park
The gulf between the top and bottom of the Division 3 table is evident in this clash at Hamilton Park on Saturday. Ards flirted with the relegation zone at times but seem to have steered clear of danger.
Their recent run of games against higher-ranked sides continues with this clash against play-off chasing Nenagh Ormond.
The Tipperary side are 22 points ahead of Ards and more importantly three points clear of the chasing Sunday’s Well and should be more than capable of keeping that distance with an away win here.
Barnhall (10th) v County Carlow (16th), Parsonstown
The Leixlip side are comfortably in mid-table with little to play for but pride at this stage – yet that will not stop them making life uncomfortable for their provincial neighbours on Saturday.
Barnhall also badly need a win – you have to go back to January 16 for their last league victory, against Ulster opposition Portadown.
County Carlow have really struggled this season and while they given their all in every game, Jason Jones’ men have managed only one win and a draw. A home win seems a certainty on Saturday with Carlow destined for relegation.
Connemara (13th) v Navan (8th), Monastery Field
The Connemara All Blacks could do with a win on Saturday to keep the pressure on Naas and Portadown below them in the table. With both those sides facing top five teams, this is a good chance for the Galway men to put space between them.
Visitors Navan will make the journey west with little comfort for their hosts. They have pushed themselves into eighth thanks to tight wins over Barnhall and Ards in recent weeks.
Another tight game is on the cards this weekend and home advantage and desire might just prove the difference but do not be surprised if the Meath side take the points.
Portadown (15th) v Midleton (2nd), Chambers Park
Facing the team that has been first in the league for 90% of the season is not really a game you want to face into when you are in the relegation zone.
There are only two more rounds of games after this so Ports, while they will be game, will have to look beyond this match for any chance of survival.
Midleton have not really put a foot wrong. They are undefeated all season, though a recent draw with Rainey Old Boys and only four try-scoring bonus points mean they are now likely to see Queen’s finish ahead of them in the table.
This is chance to tip the balance in their favour and also to chase a bonus point just to keep the heat on.
Rainey Old Boys (11th) v Instonians (6th), Hatrick Park
Derby matches always test the mettle and this Ulster one should be no different. Rainey Old Boys made the jump from the junior ranks a few seasons back but they have struggled to climb higher in Division 3 since.
Saturday sees them hosting a young and evolving Instonians who, though they may not make the play-offs this season, are building a squad to challenge in seasons to come.
An away win is likely but you just do not know in a derby!
Sunday’s Well (5th) v Naas (14th), Musgrave Park
Another top-versus-bottom game with plenty at stake for both sides. The Cork HQ side can still make the play-offs, provided results elsewhere go their way.
Naas will travel with spirit and a desire to avoid the drop zone. They did a job on Instonians two weeks ago and while they subsequently went down to Wanderers they still have it in them to make life tough for the ‘Well.
A home win is still the more likely as the ‘Well should be up for the challenge and a shot at reaching the semi-finals.
Suttonians (9th) v Banbridge (3rd), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
Twelve games, six wins, six losses. What you might call a middle of the road season for Suttonians. Saturday will be a test for the balance sheet as Banbridge have emerged from the pack, chasing the top two in recent weeks.
Suttonians have gone down to Queen’s University and Nenagh Ormond in recent weeks and may not have the firepower up front to handle their visitors on Saturday.
Bann helped Ireland hooker Rory Best get back to full match sharpness this season but they have done pretty well without him, garnering nine wins so far. A slip up from the top two seems unlikely but a play-off spot will be some reward.
Wanderers (7th) v Queen’s University (1st), Merrion Road
Merrion Road is definitely worth a visit even for neutrals on Saturday. No disrespect to the home side, they have had a reasonable season without really firing on all cylinders, but Queen’s are a team really worth seeing in action.
They have scored over 400 points this season and have notched up the bonus winning four tries in nine of their eleven wins. Running rugby at its best and even old stagers Jonny Bell and Neil Doak have featured in the students’ side this season!
Wanderers will not let them have it all their own way but Queen’s are not likely to slip up in Dublin on Saturday. The question is will they sustain their promising squad and the form in Division 2 next season?
Related Links –
AIB League: Division 3 Round-Up