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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Old Crescent are next up to try and knock Division 2B leaders Armagh off their stride, with Alex McCoy’s charges protecting one of only two unbeaten records left in this season’s Ulster Bank League.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Greystones (3rd) v MU Barnhall (5th), Dr. Hickey Park, Friday, November 4, 7.30pm

Greystones were undone by Dungannon last week in their first defeat of the campaign. How they respond to this setback will be telling, but they remain the division’s top scorers and boast the second best defence.

Second rows Dan Mannion and John Campbell have come to the fore for ‘Stones, scoring five tries between them in the last two rounds. So, Barnhall will have to keep close tabs on the pair.

The Blue Bulls rebounded well after a heavy beating by Armagh, putting 41 points on Thomond, and they will want to start November on a good footing with two more Leinster derbies (against Wanderers and Bective) looming.

Armagh (1st) v Old Crescent (6th), Palace Grounds

A new month and Armagh are determined to stay on an upward curve. September and October could hardly have gone better for Alex McCloy’s men, with five league wins and qualification for the Ulster Senior Cup semi-finals.

Old Crescent will have to curb the influence of back rowers Ali Birch and Neil Faloon if they want to trouble the table toppers. A draw at Barnhall and a three-try victory at Skerries show that Crescent travel well.

However, the Limerick men struggled when failing to score in the second half against Bective. Having dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, a losing bonus point would be a good outcome for them given that Armagh are unbeaten at home since last January.

Bective Rangers (7th) v City of Derry (9th), Donnybrook

Bringing home the momentum of their comeback win at Old Crescent, Bective will target improved results at Donnybrook this month after recent losses to high-flying Armagh and Greystones.

They face a winless Derry side desperately scrambling for form, their last two matches seeing them leak 101 points – and it would have been more had Wanderers finished some gilt-edged first half chances last week.

Tries either side of half-time from backs Finbar Ryan and Adam Philpot guided Rangers to a 20-19 success in the corresponding fixture last March, and David Murphy’s charges should pocket another four points for the club this weekend.

Thomond (10th) v Skerries (8th), Liam Fitzgerald Park

Last week’s seven-try dismissal by Barnhall was tough to take, Thomond’s woes being compounded by flanker and forwards coach Dave Quinlan’s second yellow card. They have to quickly put that result behind them.

Visitors Skerries lost their three league fixtures in October, but they did pick up four bonus points and gave leaders Armagh a decent contest last time out. Hooker Chris Tonge has scored four tries in as many games, showing what a weapon their lineout maul is.

If the Dubliners’ pack gets on a roll, it is hard to see Thomond holding out. Still, it was only last January that a whirlwind start set up the Soda Cakes for a 27-7 home win over the same opposition.

Wanderers (4th) v Dungannon (2nd), Aviva Stadium back pitch

Having leapfrogged over Greystones into second spot, Dungannon are now plotting the downfall of another Leinster club, Wanderers, as they head south to Dublin for the second time this season.

‘Gannon’s form on the road has been solid, the fruits of their labour being a brace of victories over Skerries and Thomond. In-form full-back Paul Armstrong has accumulated five tries so far, with their new out-half Tianua Poto kicking 40 points.

Wanderers took enough of their chances against City of Derry to secure a maximum return and climb back into the top four. Whatever the outcome on Saturday, the headquarters crowd can expect an exciting encounter as both sides like to run the ball and play with width.