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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

A Friday Night Lights showdown between Skerries and Wanderers, the two leading clubs after the opening weekend, will kick off the second round action in Ulster Bank League Division 2B.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, September 23

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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This season sees the introduction of the #UBLTry of the Month award with a prize of 250 euro for each monthly winner and entry into the Try of the Year award.

Skerries (2nd) v Wanderers (1st), Holmpatrick, Friday, 7.30pm

Two Dublin rivals from opposite sides of the Liffey collide in a top of the table clash. Second-placed Skerries are back under the Holmpatrick floodlights, fresh from an exciting bonus point success at Dungannon that was inspired by three tries in 15 first half minutes.

Wanderers were firing on all cylinders in their 71-3 demolition of City of Derry, Tom Walsh claiming the Chaps’ 10th and final try of the game. There is no fear of Greg Lynch’s squad getting ahead of themselves, especially as they only had a point to spare in their last meeting with Skerries.

That January encounter was decided by a last-minute try from Robert Clune as Wanderers swooped for a tense 20-19 victory. The Skerries faithful felt there had been a knock-on in the build-up but the score was allowed to stand. So, revenge would be sweet for the Goats tomorrow night.

Navan (3rd) v Rainey Old Boys (7th), Balreask Old

The two teams that came up from Division 2C last term get an early opportunity to gauge each other’s progress. Navan were much the happier last week, a closing trio of penalties from Ray Moloney seeing them defeat an ill-disciplined Belfast Harlequins.

Rainey were just a kick away from turning their rousing final quarter fight-back into a home win over Old Crescent, who prevailed 22-21. Unfortunately for out-half Andrew Magrath, his conversion of full-back Oisin Quinn’s late try, from out on the right, came back off the post.

South African hooker Brad Roberts, who is just 21, made his debut in the Rainey front row alongside fellow youngster and Ulster senior squad member Tommy O’Hagan (23). The Derry men had the upper hand in the scrum and they will need a similar platform in order to knock Navan off their stride.

Sunday’s Well (8th) v Dungannon (6th), Irish Independent Park

The Sunday’s Well backs – now coached by former Munster and Ireland winger Anthony Horgan – got no change out of the MU Barnhall defence in their league opener. Nonetheless, Shane O’Riordan’s late penalty still sealed a losing bonus point in an 11-6 loss.

Cork-bound Dungannon look to have more firepower given they ran in five tries against Skerries. It was their place-kicking which let them down in a game in which wingers Mervyn Brown (2) and Matthew Montgomery crossed for three scores. Backs coach Seamus Mallon, who has been nursing an ankle injury, is one of the players who could come back into the team this week.

Out-half O’Riordan’s accurate place-kicking was crucial the last time they hosted ‘Gannon at Irish Independent Park in December 2015. He kicked them to a 9-6 win that day, in the midst of a season which ended with them earning promotion via the play-offs.

Old Crescent (5th) v MU Barnhall (4th), Rosbrien

Old Crescent enjoyed a character-building opening win up in Magherafelt, squeezing past fast-finishing Rainey thanks to tries from Cathal O’Reilly, Shane Mullally and Sean Monaghan. Former Shannon out-half Ronan McKenna kicked the other seven points.

Captained this season by Castletroy man Darragh O’Brien, Crescent won April’s corresponding fixture with MU Barnhall, scoring 51 points in an 84-point thriller. The predicted showers for Saturday should make for a more defensive game, possibly similar to the one Barnhall came through last week.

Winger Conor Lacey scored the only try as the Blue Bulls took an 11-6 verdict against Sunday’s Well. Ex-Leinster back Darren Hudson had an enhanced play-making role at number 10, while strong-running centre Barry Hill was one of their standout players in round 1.

City of Derry (10th) v Belfast Harlequins (9th), Judge’s Road

City of Derry are aiming to put last week’s eye-watering defeat to Wanderers behind them when they host Belfast Harlequins in an eagerly-awaited Ulster derby. Kiwi Tyler Rogers-Holden will make his first start on Saturday, while the experienced Sam Duffy and Richard Baird return up front.

The clubs’ respective new coaches, Trevor Will and Nick Wells, are still bedding in. ‘Quins, who faltered in the closing stages against Navan, need to improve their discipline having given away costly penalties and cards. 19-year-old out-half Paul Kerr also missed a few kicks he would usually put over. James McConnell comes in at centre this week along with Steven Weir at hooker.

In a unique and welcome development, it emerged this week that City of Derry have secured a long-term sponsorship deal with Derry-born YouTube star ‘Mini Ladd’ (Craig Thompson). The money will be used to improve the club’s playing and coaching structures, as well as the Judge’s Road facilities, and allow them to plan for a brighter future.