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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Banbridge’s greater propensity for picking up bonus points has them in the box seat – but only just – as Daniel Soper’s table toppers and second-placed Highfield both look to win the Division 2A title with away wins in the final round.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, April 15

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Corinthians (8th) v Blackrock College (6th), Corinthian Park

Corinthians’ ability to dig themselves out of a hole with three wins on the bounce has been mightily impressive. Last Saturday’s 50-10 thrashing of relegated Belfast Harlequins confirmed the Galway club’s Division 2A status.

Visitors Blackrock did eighth-placed Corinthians a favour in round 17 by defeating Sunday’s Well 26-21, thus condemning the Corkmen to the relegation play-off spot. Half-backs Peter Quirke and David Rowan scored two of ‘Rock’s four tries, with player-coach Billy Ngawini in elusive form from full-back.

Corinthians are generally a lot stronger at home and they will be keen to cap off a week which has seen their own Sean Masterson captain the Ireland Under-19s and fellow back rower Cian Huxford line out for the Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools side.

Malone (4th) v Cashel (7th), Gibson Park

It will be a third or fourth place finish for Malone after their winning run came to an end at Highfield. Two late tries from Phil Lucas and Andy Bryans did at least earn them two bonus points for their efforts.

Cashel ensured their safety with a cracking 13-10 derby victory over Nenagh Ormond, with try scorer Ollie McGlinchey accumulating 10 points and his half-back partner Pat O’Connor clipping over a crucial second half drop goal.

Malone, who are without the injured Jack Owens, are going for a season’s double over the Tipperary men, having won 21-13 at Spafield in round 1. It is a big Easter weekend for the Belfast club as their seconds are preparing for Monday’s McCrea Cup final.

Nenagh Ormond (3rd) v Belfast Harlequins (10th), New Ormond Park

Having tripped up at Cashel, Nenagh will be away to either Dolphin or Galwegians in next week’s promotion play-offs. They will have been working hard on lineouts in training as Cashel caused a lot of disruption there.

Their scrum remains arguably the best in the division, with front rowers Fergal Brislane, Conor Muldoon and John Coffey combining to very good effect. It should be the ideal launchpad against relegated Harlequins.

Corinthians put 50 points on ‘Quins at Deramore Park last week which does not bode well for this long trip south to a top four side. Nenagh were 28-17 winners in Belfast on the season’s opening day, with Eathon Moloney, Cronan Gleeson and Willie Coffey crossing for tries.

Queen’s University (5th) v Highfield (2nd), Dub Lane

As back-to-back Division 2B champions, Highfield know exactly how to handle a tight and tense title run-in. Twelve months ago, they edged out City of Derry on scoring difference to finish top of 2B and win automatic promotion.

Now, Tim Ryan’s charges are battling Banbridge for the 2A honours, trailing the leaders by just two points. Last week’s 34-28 five-try defeat of Malone shows they are in good fettle, with captain Paddy O’Toole scoring 14 points.

Queen’s went down 43-20 at Bann in round 17 – coughing up four second half tries in the process – and are set to finish mid-table. However, their 10 bonus points show that they have been more competitive this year.

Sunday’s Well (9th) v Banbridge (1st), Irish Independent Park

Banbridge are 80 minutes away from winning their first league title since their Ulster Qualifying League 1 success of 1998. Second-from-bottom Sunday’s Well are their hosts and will want to give a good account of themselves ahead of the play-offs.

Bann head coach Daniel Soper feels his side are in the form to do it, saying: “To put 50 points past Malone and 40 past Queen’s in our last two home games has required two really impressive performances. Compared to this time last year when we were just grinding out results, I feel we are getting stronger and stronger.”

The number 10 duel should be an intriguing one in Cork. The ‘Well’s Shane O’Riordan comes up against 20-year-old Ulster Academy out-half Andrew Magrath, who is signing off with Bann ahead of his move south to play a season in New Zealand.