Unbeaten UCD are top of Division 2 – but only just – and results are getting harder to come by. This weekend they face a Ballymena side chasing promotion. Elsewhere, there are big games from Deramore Park to Donnybrook and all points in between.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2: Saturday, February 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Belfast Harlequins (3rd) v Clonakilty (16th), Deramore Park
On paper this should be a straightforward home win for Belfast Harlequins. Third in the table, they lost out narrowly to Ballynahinch last weekend and with four try-scoring bonus points to their name, they seem nailed on.
They cannot afford to be complacent here, despite their opponents being placed at the bottom of the table.
Clonakilty made table toppers UCD work very hard for a win last weekend and they posted 27 points against Dublin University the week before. They are a team in transition and while relegation looms they can still pose a threat.
Corinthians (7th) v Terenure College (8th), Corinthian Park, 5pm
These two sides have moved around from just outside the top four to just above the danger zone. Both of them can still threaten the promotion spots, but they need to put together a run of big wins.
Corinthians gave away a big lead to Old Wesley last Saturday and ended up with only a draw for their efforts when a win would have seen them climb into fifth place.
Terenure posted a big win over Old Crescent – their first since January 8 – and with another victory this Saturday, they could be in for an interesting last few rounds.
Dublin University (10th) v Thomond (15th), College Park
The Trinity side were beaten by Ballymena last time out but their losing bonus point sees them steady in tentth place.
Thomond picked up valuable points with only their second victory of the campaign, at home to Malone. They also have two games in hand over their relegation rivals, and that could prove to be a lifeline.
The Limerick side have the greater need on Saturday and that might just tell in the end. This game looks like be decided by one score either way.
Malone (13th) v De La Salle Palmerston (11th), Gibson Park
Malone must have still been celebrating their derby win over Ballymena when Thomond put them to the sword last weekend and they need to bounce back this Saturday.
De La Salle Palmerston travel north on the back of a hard-earned single point victory over Queen’s and with two games in hand, they have ambitions on improving their lot this season.
Malone impressed early on in the season and if they can rediscover the hunger that saw them beat the Braidmen then a home win looks the most probable result. If not, DLSP have the talent to take this one.
Midleton (6th) v Ballynahinch (2nd), Towns Park
Plenty at stake for both of these teams at Towns Park on Saturday. Midleton lost ground to fellow promotion chasers, Bective and Ballymena, when they were turned over at Donnybrook last Saturday.
They are only three points adrift though and will be a tough nut to crack on home soil, though their relative lack of bonus points could yet trip them up.
Ballynahinch have lost only once this season, and that to fellow high flyers UCD in a thriller recently. Ten points clear of third place and 14 clear of their hosts this weekend, the County Down side should be strong enough to continue their winning ways.
Old Crescent (14th) v Bective Rangers (4th), Rosbrien
Time was when a trip to Limerick was a daunting prospect for any side from the capital. But Young Munster and UL Bohemians aside, the Treaty City sides are struggling in all divisions this season.
Old Crescent are by no means out of the woods yet and their four losing bonus points are propping them up at present. They really need a turnaround in fortunes.
Bective kept their promotion chase on course with a fine win over Midleton last Saturday. Another victory over Munster opposition this weekend could see them cement their place, particularly as the chasing Ballymena are away to UCD.
Old Wesley (12th) v Queen’s University (9th), Donnybrook
Former Leinster and Ireland players, Reggie Corrigan and Bernard Jackman, are prospering at present with Greystones and Clontarf. How dearly their former team-mate Eric Miller, the Old Wesley supremo, would love some of their form to transfer over.
Wesley showed real grit coming back to take a draw at Corinthian Park last Saturday, but they really have struggled for consistent form this season
Queen’s University have found the transition from Division 3 to Division 2 to be a tough one, but they still possess some attacking firepower and if their hosts are not tuned in, the Belfast students could take the points on Saturday.
UCD (1st) v Ballymena (5th), Belfield
A contender for match of the day in this division, if not the league. UCD are now the only unbeaten team left in this season’s league, albeit that wins are getting harder to achieve – witness their struggle to overcome Clonakilty last Saturday.
Ballymena enjoyed a seven-point win over Dublin University last weekend and will be hoping for a similar result over another College side this Saturday afternoon.
UCD need the win to stay out in front, Ballymena need a result to stay in touch with Belfast Harlequins and Bective Rangers. A lot at stake and it could get nervy, with place-kickers James Thornton and John Semple the possible match winners.