Malone, Banbridge, Cashel and Nenagh Ormond are all looking to do the double on their opponents as the reverse Division 2A fixtures from last week take place in what is set to be an intriguing final round before Christmas.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, December 12
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Malone (2nd) v Skerries (8th), Gibson Park, 2pm
Malone will fancy their chances of making it back-to-back wins over Skerries, but only if they can put in an 80-minute performance this time around. With Josh Pentland pulling the strings at out-half, they ran in five first half tries in the sides’ meeting at Holmpatrick, but Skerries won the second half 19-0 with a three-try salvo.
What killed Skerries was their hesitant defence early on and with captain Ross McAuley still absent through injury, the Dubliners will need to be at their best in Belfast to avoid a seventh defeat in ten league games.
Thomond (9th) v UCC (5th), Liam Fitzgerald Park, 2pm
This was the only match-up in the division that was called off last weekend due to Storm Desmond. That game at the Mardyke has been reset for Saturday week, so it will be a busy run-up to Christmas for both teams.
Since beating current leaders Banbridge in late September, Thomond’s results have been poor with four losses in the last five rounds. UCC, on the other hand, are on a three-match unbeaten run. Hard to see them maintaining their recent average of 31 points per game in this weather, so Kevin O’Keeffe’s place-kicking might be the difference for the visitors.
Banbridge (1st) v Queen’s University (6th), Rifle Park
Last weekend’s clash at Dub Lane should have produced a close result, but Banbridge emerged as 20-point winners in the end thanks to two tries in each half, the latter two set up by some strong scrummaging from the pack.
Bann boss Daniel Soper is expecting a ‘different challenge’ from Queen’s in the rematch, though, admitting that the students will have learned the lessons from their fourth league defeat. Breaking down a rock-solid Banbridge defence proved very difficult for them in round 9, and Soper’s side are unlikely to give much away as they chase their fifth home win of the campaign.
Corinthians (10th) v Cashel (3rd), Corinthian Park
It would be some turnaround for bottom side Corinthians if they could manage to overcome third-placed Cashel just a week on from a heavy 43-6 beating by the Tipperary men. Cashel helped themselves to six tries, including a brace from openside Ed Leamy who featured in a strong back row combination with his brother Kevin and number 8 Brendan O’Connor.
As we enter the second half of the season, Corinthians boss Ene Fa’atau will be telling his charges to stay positive – especially with the three teams immediately above them in the table all within a five-point reach. Still, Cashel should prove too strong for the second week running.
Nenagh Ormond (7th) v Naas (4th), New Ormond Park
A very hard-fought first encounter went Nenagh Ormond’s way as Jack Molamphy kicked a penalty and converted centre Derek Corcoran’s 38th-minute try in a 10-7 away victory for the Tipp outfit.
They will be expecting a backlash from Naas who won 29-10 at Thomond on their last trip south to Munster. If they can curb the influence of Nenagh scrum half Mike Fogarty and strong-carrying number 8 Lemeki Vaipulu, Johne Murphy’s men stand a decent chance of gaining immediate revenge at New Ormond Park.