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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Banbridge’s three chief chasers are all at home this afternoon in the final round of Division 2A fixtures before Christmas. The match of the day is undoubtedly table-topping Bann’s trip to fourth-placed Highfield.

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

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Corinthians (8th) v Sunday’s Well (7th), Corinthian Park

Corinthians are back home after a couple of similar away defeats. They were beaten by Nenagh Ormond (28-6) and Banbridge (33-10) and now have a five-point gap to make up on visitors Sunday’s Well.

The ‘Well put in the performance of round 8, flooring leaders Nenagh to take a 23-17 verdict. It was a real squad effort, their bench – including try-scoring replacement scrum half Peter Arigho – having a big impact.

You would have to think that if the Corkmen can match that level of accuracy and intensity again, then they should make it four road trips without a loss. Corinthians will have other ideas.

Highfield (4th) v Banbridge (1st), Woodleigh Park

Highfield will view these back-to-back clashes with Banbridge as a big opportunity to reel in the current league leaders. Seven points currently split these sides, with Tim Ryan’s men coming in with some decent momentum.

Bann are viewing this as a vital fixture and are poised to field the same side that earned a 33-10 bonus point success at home to Corinthians. Andrew Morrison scored three tries from centre last week.

Banbridge head coach Daniel Soper said: “Our performances on the road haven’t been very consistent but hopefully we can finish 2016 with a really positive performance and then enjoy the break.”

Malone (6th) v Belfast Harlequins (10th), Gibson Park

Malone come into this local derby on the crest of a terrific 24-18 win away to highly-rated Blackrock. They put their injury troubles behind them in what head coach Paddy Armstrong deemed their ‘best 80 minutes of the season’.

Thankfully the Cregagh Red Sox’s injury list did not lengthen after the game, and they will be expecting a much tougher encounter with Belfast Harlequins than their 29-5 SONI Ulster Premiership victory back in August.

There were positives to take from Harlequins’ 17-point reversal to Queen’s last week and Andrew Gillespie is set to keep faith with the same starting line-up. Ulster and Ireland flanker Chris Henry has been helping out at training, and the feeling is that ‘Quins could be about to turn a corner.

Nenagh Ormond (3rd) v Blackrock College (5th), New Ormond Park

Nenagh Ormond were knocked off the summit by their six-point loss at Sunday’s Well, a hugely frustrating finish seeing the ‘Well win a scrum penalty just as the Tipperary outfit were poised to force the winning try.

Nenagh’s home form has been exemplary so far this season, leaking only two tries in their last 240 minutes of rugby at New Ormond Park. So Blackrock will have to work extremely hard to break down one of the division’s meanest defences.

The Dubliners were below par against Malone, the only consolation being the two closing tries that earned them a losing bonus point. Their 25-year-old tighthead Dino Waldren returned to action in Belfast after recently making his Test debut for his native USA.

Queen’s University (2nd) v Cashel (9th), Dub Lane

If Banbridge lose out to Highfield, second-placed Queen’s could capitalise with another winning performance here. But head coach Bob Young is mindful that the league positions only matter come the end of the season.

Nick Timoney is away with the Ireland Sevens squad in Dubai, while the likes of Alex Thompson, Marcus Rea and Jonny Stewart are still absent through injury. The students’ pack will be unchanged, but back-line injuries mean Zac Jordan and Rory Butler will form a new centre partnership.

Second-from-bottom Cashel took heart from how they stuck with high-flying Highfield for much of last Saturday’s tussle at Spafield. Given Queen’s impressive form, a third straight losing bonus point might be the Tipp side’s best hope.