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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

The sheer competitiveness of Division 2B is evident in how close the clubs are clutched together in the table, both the promotion chasers and the relegation-threatened strugglers. Some of the results on Saturday could be season-defining.

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

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Bective Rangers (9th) v Wanderers (3rd), Donnybrook

On paper this should be a straightforward away win. 22 points separate these sides in the league ladder and Wanderers are on course to finish in the top four and challenge for promotion.

But, despite their poor form, second-from-bottom Bective are more than capable of causing an upset on their home patch. They have to stay positive with City of Derry and Skerries both still within reach above them.

The big worry for Rangers is that they have averaged around six points per game in the last four rounds, and Wanderers – boasting the third best attack in the division – have the backs to punish any defensive lapses.

City of Derry (8th) v Greystones (2nd), Judge’s Road

It looks a three-way battle to avoid the relegation play-offs with City Derry (23 points) currently sandwiched between Bective (21) and Skerries (24). A 20-11 loss at Wanderers ended Derry’s fantastic five-match winning run.

Richard McCarter’s men are unbeaten at home in 2017, having beaten MU Barnhall, Old Crescent and Bective, and are now a far better side than the one that was hammered 71-3 by Greystones in October.

‘Stones are the most prolific scorers across all five divisions – they are just 19 points shy of the 500 mark – and it will be difficult for Derry to keep a lid on the likes of Paudie Geoghegan, Jack Keating and Con Callan, who have scored nine tries between them in the last three rounds.

Dungannon (6th) v Thomond (10th), Stevenson Park

Despite a frustrating outing against Greystones where they gave away three intercept tries, there were some positives for Dungannon to take forward into this clash with bottom side Thomond.

They are creating scoring opportunities if not putting them away, while the forwards provided a steady stream of possession. However, the ankle injury picked up by captain James McMahon is a big setback.

Thomond claimed two bonus points against MU Barnhall last Saturday and will not fear Dungannon after running them close (36-30) in round 4. A win here and the Soda Cakes’ ‘great escape’ could still be on.

MU Barnhall (5th) v Armagh (1st), Parsonstown

Two of the winning teams from last weekend, with MU Barnhall staying in the hunt for the top four and Armagh maintaining their one-point lead over Greystones at the summit.

‘Stones won 20-3 at Parsonstown recently so Alex McCloy’s table toppers will be aiming for a similar result if not better. They have a few niggles in the squad but are expected to make minimal changes to the side that saw off Skerries 36-10.

The partnership between Maynooth University and Barnhall is clearly paying dividends with 10 scholarship recruits in the squad that face Thomond last week. Will they improve on last year’s sixth place finish (nine wins and 42 points)?

Old Crescent (4th) v Skerries (7th), Rosbrien

Old Crescent could have an eight-point cushion in fourth place come Saturday evening. For that to happen they need to defeat Skerries and hope that Armagh get the better of fifth-placed Barnhall.

Crescent, who got back to winning ways at Bective in round 14, had three points to spare when they overcame the Goats in October – 30-27. Backs coach Brian Tuohy scored a try in both matches.

Skerries’ excellent haul of eight bonus points – four try-scoring and four losing – has them out of the bottom two at present. They need to stay competitive in every game in order to keep their heads above the water.