Division 2B will be very interesting this season. Four clubs have come up from the provincial leagues and all four of them are strong enough to make a mark. The season kicks off in some style though as Wanderers and Nenagh Ormond play the first ever club game on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, October 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Banbridge v Navan, Rifle Park
In any other season Banbridge’s 52 points would have seen them promoted but they finished fifth in the last campaign. They will have serious ambitions to go up this season.
Navan struggled in the 2010/11 league and only registered two wins. They should be better for the experience and will aim higher this time around.
It is a short hop between these two clubs and Bann won last season at Balreask Old. They look set for a repeat result on home soil at Rifle Park.
Connemara v Naas, Monastery Field
There was no relegation last season which meant that Connemara survived despite not winning a game.
It was a tough season but this young side, now coached by Peter Bracken, will be all the better for it and have already beaten the newly-promoted Sligo a few weeks ago.
Naas finished 12th last season but had four narrow losses that they will hope to turn around this time.
NUIM Barnhall v Highfield, Parsonstown
NUIM Barnhall are reaping the rewards of their link up with the local University and look set to improve on last season’s mid-table finish.
Highfield finished two places lower and seven points behind them and will be keen to get off to a positive start here with the likes of Cashel now in the mix.
The Leixlip side won in Cork last season and have what it takes to gain a similar result at home on Saturday.
Rainey Old Boys v Ards, Hatrick Park
Rainey came on a late charge last season and finished a healthy sixth in the old Division 3. A good start this Saturday will show their intent.
Ards struggled to make an impact last season and lost heavily to Rainey back in January. Still, this is an Ulster derby and you can never be sure of a result. The home win is more likely.
Sligo v Boyne, Hamilton Park
A baptism of fire for two of the newly-promoted clubs in Division 2B. Both sides won nearly every game in their qualifying leagues last season so defeats will have to be managed by the coaches.
The windy conditions at Strandhill can be an advantage to the home side but Boyne should adapt quickly.
Expect a good crowd for these two clubs with strong community support, and home advantage should help Sligo take the opening day spoils.
Sunday’s Well v Armagh, Musgrave Park
Sunday’s Well are the perennial survivors. Ninth last season with seven wins and eight losses and a few upsets, they are one of teams you have to beat if you want to prosper in Division 2B.
Armagh will make one of their longer trips of the season, with the nucleus of the squad that won promotion augmented by some seasoned alumni returning from the likes of Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon.
There should be a cracking atmosphere at Muzzer for this. The odds favour an away win but you never know with the ‘Well. Check out our video feature on Armagh – click here.
Suttonians v Cashel, JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
A changing of the guard for Suttonians with the likes of Dave Walsh hanging up his boots. Saturday will be an interesting indicator of where they currently stand.
Cashel are the new kids on the block in Tipperary and they won promotion after a strong run last season. Like Armagh, they have attracted back a number of their homegrown players from Cork and Limerick.
A good test for both sides but as with the game at Musgrave Park, expect the new boys to make an early mark.
Wanderers v Nenagh Ormond, Aviva Stadium
An historic day for club rugby – this will be the first club match to be played on the main pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
Both sides will savour the moment and it is sure to attract a good crowd. The game will also be streamed live on www.IrishRugby.ie
Entrance to the game will be via the East Stand side adjacent to the Wanderers Clubhouse. come down and be part of Irish club rugby history.
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