Banbridge and Nenagh Ormond are now neck and neck at the top of Division 2A, with both sides facing home fixtures this weekend. Meanwhile, fourth-placed Queen’s will entertain Blackrock (third) in one of Saturday’s most anticipated encounters.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, November 12
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Banbridge (1st) v Cashel (9th), Rifle Park
Banbridge head coach Daniel Soper said that their ‘catch-pass’ and ‘some indifferent kicking’ let them down as they lost their unbeaten record away to close rivals Nenagh Ormond.
That 25-5 defeat also saw the Bann scrum come under severe pressure and they can ill-afford a struggling set piece against Nenagh’s Tipperary compatriots Cashel who boast another big pack.
Cashel seem to be hitting their stride, boosted by back-to-back wins over Blackrock College and Belfast Harlequins, the latter result (22-14) seeing their powerful scrum force an early penalty try.
Highfield (5th) v Belfast Harlequins (10th), Woodleigh Park
Bottom side Belfast Harlequins’ struggles continued with that eight-point home reversal against Cashel which extended their losing streak to four matches.
Since the start of October, they have averaged just eight points per game and really need to step it up in attack. Centre Christian Bennison has caught the eye with two tries against Bann and Cashel.
Highfield are also smarting from an eight-point loss, away to Blackrock, so a return to their Woodleigh Park fortress – they are unbeaten at home in the league since early February – should get them immediately back on track.
Malone (7th) v Sunday’s Well (8th), Gibson Park
From the massive high of beating Nenagh Ormond to the despair of last Saturday’s 43-point hammering by Corinthians. Malone have certainly run the gamut of emotions over the past fortnight.
So their form coming into this seventh-versus-eighth clash has been particularly indifferent, while visitors Sunday’s Well were idle last week, their recent outings seeing tough-tackling centre Cyprien Jouve and returning captain Kieran Stokes show good form.
You would have to expect that the Cregagh Red Sox will be much improved from their nightmare display in Galway, especially with strike runners of the calibre of Andy Bryans, Michael Barker and Mark McCrea in their back-line.
Nenagh Ormond (2nd) v Corinthians (6th), New Ormond Park
Two of the best performers from round 6 meet in what should be an absorbing contest. Nenagh Ormond are on a real high after beating leaders Banbridge, with just scoring difference separating the two sides at the summit.
Nenagh have two gems in centre Derek Corcoran, their man-of-the-match against Bann, and top-scoring out-half Clayton Stewart who both have a canny knack of turning the pack’s steady stream of possession into points.
If they reach the levels they hit in their 46-3 demolition of Malone, sixth-placed Corinthians could really put it up to Nenagh. Their centre and captain David Panter and forwards Lise Soloa and Pat O’Toole are quality operators.
Queen’s University (4th) v Blackrock College (3rd), Dub Lane
Queen’s have an opportunity to climb above visitors Blackrock as they chase their fourth win in five league games. Their form at home has been particularly impressive with heavy victories over Malone and Corinthians, as well as a draw with Banbridge.
The students boast the second best defence in the division at present, aided by combative performances from the likes of Ulster Academy back rowers Nick Timoney and Marcus Rea.
This will be a tough test for Blackrock who were well beaten in their last two away games, going down to Banbridge (38-15) and Cashel (18-0). Indeed, ten of their last 11 league trips have ended in defeat.