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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Mid-table Midleton are looking to knock new pacesetters Navan off their perch in the last round of Division 2C action. The meeting of fifth-placed Bruff and Bangor (seventh) should also be a cracking contest down at Kilballyowen Park.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, January 28

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

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Bruff (7th) v Bangor (5th), Kilballyowen Park

Bruff face Ulster opposition for the fourth round in a row. Nine points from the first three games shows the sort of form they are in, although they will have been frustrated by last week’s 20-17 reversal at Rainey.

Improvements in discipline and defence are needed for the visit of Bangor who were beaten 13-6 by the Limerick men in November. Thankfully for Bruff, talented half-back Tony Cahill remains in razor sharp form – he scored all of their points in Magherafelt.

Bangor have lost their last three league matches, including a late 22-16 defeat to Sligo last time out, but their all-round performance last Saturday suggests that Jason Morgan’s men are on the right road to better results.

Kanturk (8th) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Knocknacolan

As good as player-coach and out-half Ben Martin was in steering Kanturk to back-to-back wins over Boyne (he kicked 14 points last week and had a hand in a number of their tries over the two matches), he is unlikely to wield as much influence against second-placed Rainey.

The ‘Turks are definitely on an upward curve, though, and this should be a tighter margin than 26-5 from the sides’ November meeting at Hatrick Park. Rainey’s South African hooker George Fritz bagged the bonus point try in that game and touched down twice against Bruff last week.

The impressive Fritz may be scoring regularly, but Kanturk winger Olan Daly is also racking up the tries. He has notched three in his last four league outings and Rainey will need to keep tabs on him.

Navan (1st) v Midleton (6th), Balreask Old

New leaders Navan were mightily impressive in putting 92 points on lowly Seapoint in the last two rounds, but head coach Alan Kingsley will have them primed for a much stiffer challenge from Midleton.

The east Cork outfit claimed just a point from their two clashes with Tullamore either side of Christmas, but November’s victories over high-flying Sligo (22-20) and Navan (9-7) showed their winning mentality.

Three Stuart Lee penalties were good enough that day against the Meath men. However, Midleton will not be able to rely on kicks at Balreask Old where free-scoring Navan have averaged almost 24 points per game so far this season.

Sligo (3rd) v Seapoint (9th), Hamilton Park

These look like two teams going in opposite directions. Coming off the back of two hammerings by Navan, Seapoint really need a lift and even a losing bonus point on the road might just do that.

Sligo have been one of the best sides to watch in recent rounds. Their 19-year-old scrum half Ryan Feehily epitomised their will to win with his two-try haul away to Bangor last Saturday, including the match winner in injury-time.

Ross Mannion’s young guns had 13 points to spare (29-16) when they visited Seapoint in late November, and it would take quite a turnaround for the south Dubliners to close that gap in the return leg out west.

Tullamore (4th) v Boyne (10th), Spollanstown

Bottom-placed Boyne cannot buy a win at present. It is not for the want of trying, with the likes of full-back Eoghan Duffy and out-half Niall Kerbey performing consistently well, but their pack really need to clean up their breakdown work and ball retention.

A 28-22 home defeat to Tullamore came in the midst of Boyne’s current five-match losing streak, although they can take heart from how they hung in for the full 80 minutes that day and notched a late bonus point thanks to a Kerbey penalty.

Nonetheless, Tullamore are up with the main promotion chasers, lying just four points off the summit, and they will be in no mood to slip up here. Their number 8 Kevin Browne scored two tries in their back-to-back successes against Midleton, operating very effectively at the base of a strong scrum.