The Friday Night Lights meeting of local rivals Wanderers and Bective Rangers kicks off the action in Ulster Bank League Division 2B this weekend.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, October 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Wanderers (7th) v Bective Rangers (8th), Aviva Stadium back pitch, Friday, October 7, 7.30pm
Wanderers are back on home turf after successive and very similar away defeats – 25-16 to Greystones and 24-16 to Old Crescent. Their round 4 visitors, Bective, also found Greystones too strong, going down 20-6 last week.
It was quite a comedown for the Donnybrook club who were resounding 49-10 winners over Thomond a fortnight ago. They now have the chance to right the wrongs of what was a poor performance against ‘Stones.
Wanderers, who are determined to build on their promotion, will also have revenge on their minds. They suffered a 24-9 reversal at the hands of Bective in the Leinster Senior League last month.
Thomond (10th) v Dungannon (3rd), Liam Fitzgerald Park, 12.30pm
Thomond have gone from the bottom of Division 2A to the bottom of 2B in the space of a few months. They badly need a jolt of confidence, although their 13-all draw with City of Derry showed definite signs of improvement.
Goal-kicking full-back Dermot Fitzgerald and two-try winger Gary Bateman have been the pick of Thomond’s players. But they will need others to step up, their pack in particular, for the visit of third-placed Dungannon.
‘Gannon lost their top of the table encounter with Armagh, being held try-less and missing out on a deserved bonus point. They are actually one of the lowest-scoring teams after three rounds, so half-backs Jack Ravey and Tianua Poto will be aiming to get the back-line firing in Limerick.
Armagh (1st) v MU Barnhall (4th), Palace Grounds
Armagh had a touch of good fortune in seeing out their 18-9 win over Dunngannon, full-back Ryan Purvis’ try coming from a favourable bounce. But there is no denying that they look the team to beat in the early season.
There are areas for them to tidy up, and their handling let them down at times during the Ulster derby. In contrast, Barnhall had their best attacking performance of the season in round 3 against Skerries (27-24).
The Blue Bulls’ former Leinster winger Darren Hudson will be chasing his third try in as many games, and they ran out 15-0 winners on their most recent trip to the Palace Grounds last January.
Greystones (2nd) v City of Derry (9th), Dr. Hickey Park, 4pm
Two of the teams that reached last season’s promotion play-offs. Greystones look in good shape to contend again, whereas second-from-bottom City Derry are going through a bad early patch.
Last week’s 13-all draw with Thomond ended a five-match losing streak for Derry, who had a strong start and finish thanks to scores from winger Ian Bratton and centre Neil Burns.
The Wicklow men won last January’s corresponding game by seven points and they look to have a quality signing in Kiwi hooker Mike Lea who has already crossed the whitewash three times.
Skerries (5th) v Old Crescent (6th), Holmpatrick, 4pm
Despite losing two of their three opening matches, Skerries look ultra competitive in fifth place. They have bagged three bonus points, with skipper Ross McAuley already having five tries to his name.
However, their second half collapse away to Barnhall was alarming and how they fare this weekend will tell a lot. Old Crescent make the trip to Dublin on the back of an encouraging 24-16 triumph over Wanderers.
Val McDermott and Brian Tuohy, the ex-Connacht winger, offer the biggest threats in the Crescent back-line, but their defence will have to be watertight as Skerries are the joint-second leading scorers in the division.