Can anyone catch Cashel? Can anyone beat them? A rejuvenated Connemara step up next, while Banbridge, NUIM Barnhall, Rainey Old Boys and Highfield all in the mix behind them.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, February 18
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Armagh (11th) v Ards (15th), Palace Grounds
Armagh come into this game on the back of a draw with Rainey Old Boys and a big loss to Cashel. They are not safe yet in this division – they are only three points ahead of Ards, so this is a crucial game.
Ards were victorious against Nenagh Ormond last time out and if they win again they could climb out of the relegation zone for the first time in weeks.
Form probably favours the visitors, but this could be a really tight game and depend on which team wants it the most on Saturday afternoon.
Banbridge (2nd) v Sligo (10th), Rifle Park
Banbridge have had a strong season to date and lead the pack chasing Cashel by four points. Five try-scoring bonus points in eight wins and two losing bonuses show signs of what a good side they are.
Sligo struggled after promotion but seem to have steadied the ship a bit. Their five losing bonus points have helped them to stay ahead of the group in the danger zone.
Bann should take the points this weekend but can they can catch Cashel? They will have to just concentrate on themselves for the moment and hope that the Tipperary men slip up.
Boyne (8th) v Sunday’s Well (14th), Drogheda
Mid-table with four wins, two draws and four losses, Boyne can be reasonably satisfied with their first season in the Ulster Bank League. They would definitely prefer a healthier points difference though.
Sunday’s Well are currently 14th in the standings but with a game in hand. Still, they are only two points ahead of Ards and will not want to be in the relegation dog fight.
Much to play for then in Drogheda on Saturday afternoon. Can the new boys beat the perennial survivors from Cork? On current form, it would have to be yes.
Cashel (1st) v Connemara (6th), Spafield
Cashel’s enviable record speaks for itself. Ten games, ten wins and with only 47 points conceded they boast the best defensive record across all four divisions.
The challenge for Connemara then is a big one. But this is a side on the rise after a season in the doldrums.
They were surprisingly beaten at home by Navan last weekend so they will be up for the challenge. Even still, the form book favours Cashel to maintain their very impressive winning run.
Highfield (5th) v Rainey Old Boys (4th), Woodleigh Park
A big game at Woodleigh Park for both teams as they chase front runners Cashel and Banbridge for a shot at promotion.
Highfield have won their two games so far in 2012, while Rainey Old Boys have lost one and drawn one and slipped to fourth place as a result.
Rainey have shown they can score tries – four bonus points is not a bad haul – but they have not started 2012 well. Can they recover on the road? They might do, but expect a tight tussle.
Naas (13th) v Wanderers (16th), Forenaughts
Time is running out for visitors Wanderers here as they look destined for the relegation play-offs.
Their hosts this weekend, Naas, will not make it easy for them either as they want to make sure they stay ahead of Sunday’s Well and Ards in the lower reaches of the table.
Wanderers lost to Highfield but did manage a draw against NUIM Barnhall, while Naas have beaten Sunday’s Well and drawn with Boyne in recent weeks.
Navan (9th) v NUIM Barnhall (3rd), Balreask Old
Navan picked up a big victory on the road last time out in beating a rejuvenated Connemara. Maintaining that sort of form will be key now at the business end of the season.
NUIM Barnhall beat Navan’s close neighbours Boyne by a similar margin and are still poised to pounce should Cashel or Banbridge slip up.
On form the Leixlip/Maynooth axis should have the odds as Navan have struggled for points and have a -13 points difference.
Nenagh Ormond (7th) v Suttonians (14th), New Ormond Park
Tipperary outfit Nenagh Ormond are mid table on 25 points but can still push for a higher finish and improve their win/loss ratio.
Their visitors here, Suttonians, are badly in need of a win to keep ahead of Ards. Albeit, they do have a game in hand but they only work if you win them.
Nenagh Ormond have lost to Banbridge and Ards in recent weeks so the change of provincial opposition might suit them.