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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

The next challengers up to try and take Armagh’s unbeaten record are third-placed Wanderers. Meanwhile, struggling Skerries, Thomond and City of Derry are all scrapping for elusive wins in the final round of Division 2B action before Christmas.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, December 3

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Armagh (1st) v Wanderers (3rd), Palace Grounds

Armagh hit the halfway point of the season searching for their ninth straight win, armed with the most prolific attack (270 points) across all five divisions and the second best defence (99).

Their visitors this week, third-placed Wanderers, are not shy in coming forward either. They have matched Armagh’s four try-scoring bonus points, their latest one coming at home to Skerries.

The back row battle should be a tasty one on Saturday, summer signing Ali Birch starring as Armagh’s talismanic new captain and Paddy Mallon’s work-rate around the pitch setting the tone for Wanderers’ well-drilled pack.

Dungannon (6th) v Old Crescent (5th), Stevenson Park

The postponement of last week’s match at City of Derry leaves Dungannon playing catch-up. They are not helped by a growing injury list which includes Seamus Mallon, Steven Sinnamon, Mark Faloon, Paul Armstrong and Josh Kennedy – all out until the New Year.

Despite those absentees, ‘Gannon will be eager to win this game against fellow mid-table side Old Crescent and take some momentum into their Ulster Senior Cup final against Ballynahinch on December 15.

Four wins and a draw so far is a solid return for Crescent, the reigning Division 2C champions. Winger Val McDermott’s brace against Thomond took his season’s tally to five tries.

MU Barnhall (4th) v City of Derry (10th), Parsonstown, 2pm

Facing into back-to-back matches against bottom-placed City of Derry, MU Barnhall will be quietly confident of maintaining their winning form and bedding themselves into the top four.

Winger Barry Hill’s try double proved crucial in last week’s win at Bective, and the visit of Derry sees the Blue Bulls looking to extend their unbeaten home run this season to five games.

The week’s break due to an unplayable pitch might work in Derry’s favour, with former Dungannon scrum half Jason Bloomfield, coaxed back to rugby by Terry McMaster after a three-year absence, set to make his debut for the Judge’s Road outfit.

Skerries (8th) v Bective Rangers (7th), Holmpatrick

A Dublin derby with plenty riding on the result. Skerries are craving only their second win of the campaign as they look to reduce the seven-point lead that seventh-placed Bective have on them.

Injuries have hampered Skerries in recent rounds, their attack suffering the most with an average of just nine points scored across their three November league fixtures.

A victory here for Bective on the north Co. Dublin coastline could be a springboard into the second half of the season. This is the first of four key games for David Murphy’s men against Leinster opposition.

Thomond (9th) v Greystones (2nd), Liam Fitzgerald Park

Thomond suffered an untimely slump during the final quarter of last week’s Limerick derby, leaking two tries and a penalty in an eventual 29-20 defeat at Rosbrien.

Returning home without even a losing bonus point would have stung the Soda Cakes, and their defensive issues are likely to continue with Greystones on the rebound from losing their top of the table clash.

‘Stones put it up to unbeaten Armagh for much of last week’s 28-18 loss, and you would have to favour Kevin Lewis’ side to bounce straight back with win number seven of the campaign.