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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Round 3 of Ulster Bank League Division 2A begins with a floodlit Belfast derby between Queen’s and Malone, while leaders Nenagh Ormond and Blackrock College – both with 100% records so far – are on their travels on Saturday.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 1

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Queen’s University (7th) v Malone (4th), Dub Lane, Friday, September 30, 7.30pm

This is Queen’s second successive Ulster derby at home – they drew 19-all with Banbridge last week – and Malone make the short trip to the Dub on the back of their own try-less stalemate with Highfield.

Both sides will hope for better weather conditions, with Queen’s hungry to chalk up their first win. Frustratingly, the students lost their grip on winning positions against both Highfield and Bann.

Malone’s scrummaging, led by hooker Dave Cave, was impressive in their 3-3 draw with Highfield, however they need to improve their discipline with three yellow cards in their first two outings.

Banbridge (3rd) v Blackrock College (2nd), Rifle Park

With three wins and a draw between them, unbeaten Banbridge and Blackrock College are among the early front runners for promotion. Ulster Academy out-half Andrew Magrath led Bann’s second half fight-back for a draw at Queen’s, with head coach Daniel Soper saying: “(The recovery) was good because that’s the first time we’ve been under real pressure this season and I thought we reacted well.”

Player-coach Billy Ngawini’s two tries from full-back helped Blackrock win out 33-23 at Sunday’s Well, the Dubliners profiting from Owen Cullen’s supply of quick lineout ball and a freshened up back-line that is gelling well.

Maintaining their winning form in Co. Down would be a big statement from ‘Rock, especially as Banbridge won all nine of their regular season matches at Rifle Park last season.

Belfast Harlequins (6th) v Sunday’s Well (10th), Deramore Park

Belfast Harlequins came good in the second half away to Corinthians to open their win account in 2A. New head coach Andrew Gillespie wants his side to be ‘a lot more streetwise’, and they will have to be against an improving Sunday’s Well.

The ‘Well may have lost by 10 points to Blackrock, but last week’s two-try performance suggests that Robbie Doyle’s men can bounce back from two tough opening fixtures since their promotion.

Their captain Cyprien Jouve remains a key player whether in the back row or centre, while the Cork city club’s scrum and maul are both potent weapons.

Cashel (9th) v Corinthians (8th), Spafield

Two teams in the lower reaches of the table currently. Cashel are looking to respond to their 30-14 derby defeat by Nenagh Ormond, while Corinthians come calling after losing two tight games to Blackrock and Harlequins.

This is set up to be another close encounter where the respective boots of Cashel out-half Conor Holland and Corinthians’ Simon Keller could have a big say in deciding the outcome.

Cashel have concerns over the calf injury which hugely influential flanker Ed Leamy picked up against Nenagh. If they can tighten up their defence and avoid any late concessions, the Tipperary side should prevail.

Highfield (5th) v Nenagh Ormond (1st), Woodleigh Park

New leaders Nenagh Ormond make the trip to Highfield buoyed by last week’s bonus point victory over Tipp rivals Cashel. New signing Clayton Stewart is certainly delivering the goods at out-half, tallying up 33 points in his first two league appearances.

This is a sizeable test for Nenagh, though, as reigning Division 2B champions Highfield have already beaten Queen’s at home. Timmy Ryan’s charges offer a formidable challenge up front and captain Paddy O’Toole is a potential match winner with the boot.

It is all set up for an intriguing Munster duel and one of the clashes of the weekend across all five divisions.