Despite wins for NUIM Barnhall and Highfield last weekend there was no change in the top four. Cashel are still unbeaten but with two games left Banbridge can still catch them for the title – in theory at least. The relegation battle also looks like going to the wire for Wanderers, Ards and the Well.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, March 31
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Wanderers (16th) V Cashel (1st), Aviva Stadium Back Pitch, 2pm
Wanderers finally eased off the bottom of the table with a well earned win over Navan last weekend. They aren’t out of the woods yet because as it stands they face a relegation playoff.
Their visitors have guaranteed themselves promotion but they would dearly love to win the division and finish unbeaten – a tremendous first season in the Ulster Bank League.
It looks like being nail biting stuff for Wanderers then and they will hope that Boyne do them a favour and beat Ards.
A double header with Lansdowne v Young Munster at 4 pm – you can beat that for a great day of club rugby.
Ards (16th) v Boyne (9th), Hamilton Park
Ards lost to Naas last Saturday and dropped in to the automatic relegation position at the foot of the table.
They face Boyne this weekend and Navan on the final day as they strive to avoid the drop.
Boyne also lost last weekend, albeit to Rainey Old Boys who still have a shot at a promotion place or playoff. Home need will be great but will they have the power to overcome their visitors?
Armagh (7th) v Highfield (4th), Palace Grounds
A solid first season in the Ulster Bank League for Armagh although they would prefer a healthier points difference.
Saturday offers a chance to test themselves again when they host a promotion chasing Highfield.
Both sides won last weekend but what will make the difference this weekend? Will Highfield’s ambitions win out or will Armagh’s home advantage be significant?
Nenagh Ormond (6th) v Naas (10th), New Ormond Park
The media like to call these games ‘dead rubbers’ because neither side can win the title nor are they threatened with relegation.
That is a disservice to the players who work hard all season and always want to finish with a flourish.
Cashel have cast a long shadow in Tipp this year but Nenagh Ormond will emerge stronger for it. Naas will want to push themselves up the table also in this inter-provincial tie.
NUIM Barnhall (3rd) v Sligo (12th), Parsonstown
The home side did what they had to last weekend and beat Banbridge. It keeps 2nd place open with two games left and it keeps them in pole position for a shot at promotion.
Sligo won the Connacht derby against Connemara last Saturday to edge themselves up the table. They may struggle with the pace of their hosts backs this weekend though.
A home win and promotion to the wire then.
Rainey OB (5th) v Navan (11th), Hatrick Park
Rainey stand just outside the top four but only two points behind NUIM Barnhall and Highfield should they slip up.
They have beaten Boyne and Naas in recent weeks and another Leinster scalp will keep them in the mix.
Navan lost to Wanderers last weekend and drew with the Well the week before but this Saturday is not likely to offer any respite.
Sunday’s Well (14th) v Banbridge (2nd), Musgrave Park
This game has a lot to offer on Saturday. The Well are in danger of slipping into the relegation zone if Wanderers or Ards can pick up a win this weekend.
Banbridge will also be hungry for a win to book the second automatic promotion spot ahead of the chasing group.
Form favours the visitors with ten wins and seven try bonuses. It could be a nervous end of season in Muzzer albeit they have a game in hand which could be the lifeline.
Suttonians (13th) v Connemara (8th), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
Both sides lost to one of the ‘new’ teams in the division last weekend. Suttonians to Armagh and Connemara to Connacht rivals Sligo.
The visitors have had the better season and given where they were this time last year players an coaches alike are to be praised for rebuilding this season.
An away win should give the westerners something of a boost for the final day of the season.