The top of the table clash between Navan and Rainey Old Boys commands most of the attention as we enter the final third of the Ulster Bank League Division 2C campaign.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, February 18
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bangor (6th) v Kanturk (8th), Upritchard Park
There is not much room to manoeuvre in the bottom half of the table, with only six points separating sixth-placed Bangor from both Kanturk and Seapoint in the bottom three.
Jason Morgan’s Bangor side went down 15-3 at Seapoint last week – their fifth league defeat in a row – but at least the likes of David Bradford, Ryan Latimer, Phil Broderick and Desi Fusco are back available for this visit of Kanturk.
Their 37-0 hammering at Bruff will have done little for the ‘Turks’ confidence but if they hold their discipline – they suffered three yellow cards when they lost to Bangor (17-12) in November – then they should be able to take something out of Saturday’s game.
Navan (1st) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Balreask Old
Undoubtedly the match of the day in this division. The former table toppers visit the current leaders with just a single point splitting the pair in the race for automatic promotion.
Rainey have a score to settle with Navan after losing 17-13 at home in November, leaking a decisive drop goal in the end. Unfortunately their South African hooker George Fritz and Ulster Academy prop Tommy O’Hagan are both still injured.
Navan are unbeaten since late November, hitting the summit on the back of four straight wins. This should be a fascinating match-up as Alan Kingsley’s charges boast 2C’s leading attack and Rainey have the most miserly defence.
Seapoint (9th) v Midleton (7th), Kilbogget Park
Last week saw a precious first win in six rounds for Seapoint, half-backs Brian Keegan and David Baker providing a guiding hand as Eric Miller’s youngsters prevailed 15-3 against Bangor.
They face a second successive home match and will be gunning for the double over Midleton after November’s six-try clash finished in a tight 19-17 triumph for the Dubliners.
The Red Devils are looking for a chink of light after four defeats on the bounce, along with averaging just over eight points per game. This could be the fixture that turns it around for them.
Sligo (3rd) v Boyne (10th), Hamilton Park
Only one result looks likely here given how well Sligo are motoring of late. With the top two playing each other, Ross Mannion’s third-placed side are poised to gain ground.
Kiwi winger Calum Goddard caught the eye in defence and attack during Sligo’s 33-13 victory at Midleton, with front rowers Conor Mitchell and Shane O’Hehir also getting in on the try-scoring act.
Scrum half Nick Smith was Boyne’s man-of-the-match in November’s 15-13 loss to Sligo. Their performance that day showed that they can match Sligo in most departments, but the teams have seemingly gone in opposite directions in the intervening months.
Tullamore (4th) v Bruff (5th), Spollanstown
Having struggled in the early part of the season, Bruff have done brilliantly to force their way back into top four contention with five wins out of six – including last week’s 37-point demolition of Kanturk.
This is an acid test of ambitions as Tullamore lie six points better off in the standings and came away from Bruff with a 15-12 victory back in November. Talented brothers Karl and Conor Dunne stood out that day.
The Co. Offaly outfit lost out 25-22 at Rainey in a frantic finish last week and cannot afford to give away points at home to promotion rivals. A third Spollanstown defeat of the campaign would really sting.