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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

With seven rounds remaining, it looks a two-horse race for the Division 2B title and automatic promotion. Armagh and Greystones are nine and eight points clear respectively of a chasing pack headed up by Old Crescent and Wanderers.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, February 11

Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated –

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Wanderers (4th) v MU Barnhall (5th), Aviva Stadium back pitch, Friday, February 10, 7.30pm

Robert Clune’s late try at Skerries made it three wins in four matches for fourth-placed Wanderers, that hard-fought result keeping them three points ahead of this week’s visitors MU Barnhall.

Greg Lynch’s side lost 20-15 to the Blue Bulls in November so they will have revenge on their minds. Two closing penalties from captain Simon Gillespie did the trick for Barnhall that day.

Gillespie split the posts three times in the Kildare men’s 14-7 win over Bective Rangers a fortnight ago, but they will certainly need tries to trouble Wanderers on their home patch.

Greystones (2nd) v Skerries (8th), Dr. Hickey Park, Friday, February 10, 8pm

Greystones’ push for promotion continues to gather pace following their 18-12 victory at leaders Armagh. Only a single point now separates the sides at the top of the division.

While Jack Keating and Padraig Geoghegan scored key tries that day, it was 22-year-old centres Michael Kirk and Con Callan who really set the tone for Kevin Lewis’ impressive youngsters.

Determined Skerries put it up to Wanderers in round 11, skipper Ross McAuley and fellow back rower Tom O’Hare playing leading roles. The Goats appear to be finding some good form but ‘Stones should back up that standout performance in Armagh.

City of Derry (9th) v Old Crescent (3rd), Judge’s Road, 12.30pm

Three wins on the bounce have very much restored City of Derry’s confidence, with number 10 Neil Burns’ late drop goal proving decisive in an 18-17 defeat of Dungannon last time out.

Player-coach Richard McCarter, whose second-from-bottom side are now within range of Skerries, said: “Old Crescent beat us comfortably (59-0) in November’s away game, but they’ll be us against a totally different Derry side this time around.”

However, Crescent are on a five-match winning streak, including doubles over Thomond and ‘Gannon, and must keep up that run in order to stay in touch with the division’s top two teams.

Thomond (10th) v Armagh (1st), Liam Fitzgerald Park, 12.30pm

Thomond are in danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the table. There is an eight-point gap to make up on City of Derry as they chase a very elusive second win of the campaign.

2017 has not been kind to table toppers Armagh so far, with back-to-back defeats to Wanderers and Greystones. Their usually potent attack was stifled by ‘Stones in addition to a high error count.

Thomond leaked 71 points when they visited Alex McCloy’s men in November and if they afford Armagh such time and space again, there can only be one result.

Bective Rangers (7th) v Dungannon (6th), Donnybrook

Bective’s luck has to change after losing four tight games in a row. Three points separates them from this week’s visitors Dungannon in sixth, with the Tyrone men smarting from that 18-17 reversal at home to Derry.

Indeed, Andy Hughes’ charges have suffered eight successive defeats across the Ulster Bank League and provincial action, so they are desperate need of an uplifting performance and result at Donnybrook.

Bective captain Gearoid O’Grady’s penalty on the hour mark proved to be the final score of a 10-all draw between the sides at Stevenson Park in November. Expect another close encounter this Saturday.