Ulster clubs have a definite stranglehold on All-Ireland League Division 2, with four northern teams currently in the top six. Ballynahinch and Ballymena have perfect scores with three wins and three try-scoring bonus points. They meet at Eaton Park on Saturday in what could be a decisive game.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2: Saturday, October 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYMENA (2nd) v BALLYNAHINCH (1st), Eaton Park
Sparks could fly at Eaton Park on Saturday when the two teams left in the division with maximum points meet. Three games, three wins, three try-scoring bonus points in the bag for Ballymena and Ballynahinch, so something will have to give.
‘Hinch scored a 26-7 victory over Ballymena in the Ulster Senior League last month and will be aiming for a repeat performance this weekend. But they will be without centre/winger Nevin Spence and flanker Willie Faloon as the pair start for Ulster on Friday, while prop Jerry Cronin could miss out depending on his involvement at Ravenhill.
The influential Luke Marshall is also in line to make his Ulster debut off the bench. Marshall grabbed two tries in Ballymena’s 37-23 win at Bective Rangers last Saturday, with Roger McBurney adding the bonus point score in the last-minute.
This will be a cracking game of rugby and one worth catching if you are in the area. Ballymena captain Darrell O’Kane is hopefuly for a big home support. Do not miss these two top clubs in action.
CLONAKILTY (16th) v OLD WESLEY (14th), Shannonvale Cross
A bit of a contrast with the top of the table clash in Eaton Park. Neither Clonakilty or Old Wesley has managed a win so far in this season’s league.
Clonakilty lost heavily to Ballynahinch last weekend, while Old Wesley’s indiscipline cost them the points under floodlights against UCD last Friday night.
Speaking to Irish Rugby TV after that game, Old Wesley captain Brian Hastings said: “We feel we’re a better team (than the table suggests). We were very disappointed, letting the lead slip at the end.
“We’ll keep believing in ourselves, take some positives out of this game and try to bounce back against Clonakilty.”
Old Wesley have a strong pack and if coach Eric Miller can keep them on the right side of the referee, they should be strong enough to pick up their first win over a Clon side that boasts the talented Dave Paurini and Mark Purcell at half-back.
DE LA SALLE PALMERSTON (12th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (11th), Kirwan Park
The start of the season held a lot of promise for these two clubs but it has not really kicked in yet. Both sides have managed one win and they sit in 12th and 11th place respectively.
DLSP shipped a big loss at Corinthians last weekend, struggling to cope with the Galway side’s spritely attacks and angles of running.
By contrast, Terenure picked up their first win (25-10) and a try-scoring bonus point to boot against Thomond, leaving them marginal favourites for this game. A competitive Dublin derby is in prospect.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v MIDLETON (7th), College Park
Ninth-placed Dublin University host Midleton, who sit in seventh, in what could be an crucial game for both teams. The students won their opening match with a big win over Queen’s and have squeezed losing bonus points out of Malone and Belfast Harlequins.
Trinity centre Conor Colclough scored the only try of the game, but four penalties were enough to steer Harlequins to a 12-10 victory.
Midleton’s two wins have come against Thomond and Malone but they have yet to muster a bonus point. Two tries from Munster ‘A’ centre Troy Smith helped Midleton end Malone’s unbeaten run last Saturday, with an 18-7 defeat.
But Trinity, whose scrum is very useful, look well equipped to handle the tough challenge from the Cork side. Home advantage should see them prove they are better than their current placing.
MALONE (5th) v OLD CRESCENT (13th), Gibson Park
A bright start to the season for Malone saw them win their opening two games with two bonus point-winning performances.
They slipped up away from home last weekend against Midleton and will aim to get back on track at Gibson Park on Saturday. Ulster’s American winger Paul Emerick is set to start for them, partnering John Anderson in the centre.
Old Crescent started the season with a win but then met an in-form Ballymena followed by a Queen’s side desperate for a win. The Limerick men went down 28-20 to Queen’s last weekend, despite tries from Andy Brace and bustling number 8 Lemiki ‘Mac’ Viapula.
Home advantage should help a Darren Barbour-skippered Malone side take the points in this one.
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY (10th) v CORINTHIANS (4th), Dub Lane
Queen’s University registered their first win of the season in a high-scoring encounter with Old Crescent last time out, helped by a 13-point kicking contribution from scrum half Ian Porter. Whether they will continue on the winning trail remains to be seen.
Corinthians will make the trip from Galway on the back of a runaway 55-15 win over DLSP. Eoin Griffin, James Buckley and Ireland Under-20 hopeful Mark Dolan caught the eye in this nine-try triumph.
The results saw Corinthians climb to fourth in the table. They are ahead of Malone and Belfast Harlequins on points scoring difference.
The confidence gained from last Saturday’s display should help them take a nice away scalp at Dub Lane here.
THOMOND (15th) v BECTIVE RANGERS (8th), Liam Fitzgerald Park
A poor start to the season for Thomond sees them in 15th place without a win, after the opening three rounds. They have also shipped over 70 points, but in winger Brandon Grant and centre Warren Kelly, they have two players who can provide a spark in the back-line.
However, they may not get much joy out of their visitors, Bective Rangers, this weekend. Bective have won two out of three so far and should be strong enough to take the points and keep them in the hunt for a top four slot.
The Dubliners’ powerful pack includes hooker Alex O’Sullivan and back rower Conor Harbison, two man-of-the-match award winners in recent weeks.
UCD (3rd) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th), Belfield
UCD refused to let Old Wesley overpower them last Friday under the Donnybrook floodlights and deservedly notched up two late tries to give them three wins out of three and third place in the table.
College finished off some cracking scores against Wesley, not least hooker David Doyle’s opener from 70 metres out.
Belfast Harlequins are only three points behind UCD in the standings, courtesy of two wins, a try-scoring bonus point and a losing bonus point. Four penalties from Ulster out-half Niall O’Connor steered them to a 12-10 success against Dublin University,
This will be a challenging game for both sides who are quite evenly matched. If ‘Quins can get the upper hand early on they could take the points. But only if they get their attack going – they have failed to score a try in their last two league games.