Leinster rivals Tullamore and Navan kick off the latest round of Division 2C action with a crunch Friday Night Lights tie, while two of the bottom three sides – Boyne and Bangor – will clash tomorrow afternoon.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, March 25
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Tullamore (4th) v Navan (1st), Spollanstown, Friday, March 24, 7.30pm
Navan head into the final three rounds with a four-point lead at the top of the table, their effectiveness at the breakdown and scrum providing the scoring platform for the likes of prolific centre Riaan van der Vyver.
Alan Kingsley’s men are on a superb run at the moment, winning their last seven games, but Tullamore were 17-10 victors when they visited Navan in late September, with Tom Gilligan’s intercept score and a penalty try proving crucial.
It is Tullamore’s home form which has hurt them at times – they have lost to Kanturk, Rainey and Bruff – and they will need half-backs Aidan Wynne and Aaron Deverell and talismanic prop Ger Molloy to be at their best in order for the league leaders to be felled.
Boyne (10th) v Bangor (8th), Shamrock Lodge
The picture is not as clear in the relegation zone – the teams in the bottom half of the table still have four matches to play. 12 points separate these two sides with Kanturk (21 points) in between.
Boyne’s best hopes rest on catching the second-from-bottom ‘Turks, and with Bangor being the lowest-ranked club they have left to play, Graeme Eastwood’s charges really need the ‘W’ this weekend.
Bangor have yet to win a league game in 2017 but if they can rediscover their scoring touch – they were 33-19 winners over the Drogheda outfit in October – then this could be a giant leap towards safety.
Bruff (5th) v Seapoint (7th), Kilballyowen Park
March has been a tough month for Bruff with losses to Tullamore and Sligo, and that 32-5 reversal in Strandhill was particularly demoralising. They are six points outside the top four but could still realistically catch Tullamore or Rainey.
They key for Seapoint now is to take their impressive home form with them on the road following three wins on the bounce at Kilbogget Park. Their most recent success (23-11 against Rainey) has them within reach of mid-table.
Bruff will need no reminding of October’s 31-10 humbling at Seapoint’s hands, a game in which full-back James Kelly scored two tries and 21 points in all for Eric Miller’s men.
Kanturk (9th) v Sligo (2nd), Knocknacolan
Second-placed Sligo’s winning streak now stands at eight matches and they will be doing everything in their power to try and wrestle top spot away from Navan in the coming weeks.
Saturday’s hosts Kanturk were ‘nilled’ by Navan last time out and their most recent encounter with Sligo ended in a 39-8 defeat, a game in which Kiwi winger Calum Goddard and centre Mark Rooney both touched down twice.
Sligo’s greater firepower should prove too much again this weekend, although Ben Martin’s ‘Turks do have some potent attackers at their disposal, including Martin himself, Olan Daly and brothers Conor and Sean Cremin.
Rainey Old Boys (3rd) v Midleton (6th), Hatrick Park
The availability of promising Ulster Academy prop Tommy O’Hagan this week is a big boost for Rainey as their injury-hit front row has struggled at scrum time in recent rounds.
John Andrews’ men, who are without Ireland Under-19 call-up John McCusker, are aiming to put three straight defeats behind them as they try to cement their place in the promotion play-offs.
Having gone five games without a win, Midleton bounced back in the last round with a 30-10 bonus point success against Boyne. Ross O’Mahony, who bagged a brace, looks in good form.