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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

After securing their first away league win since March 2015, Thomond are back at Liam Fitzgerald Park to host Seapoint in Division 2C this weekend, while leaders Sligo are Limerick-bound for their round 3 tussle with familiar rivals Bruff.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, September 30

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Bruff (4th) v Sligo (1st), Kilballyowen Park

Bruff are back home after a 33-21 bonus point victory at Bective, two 15-minute purple patches in each half producing four of their eventual five tries. Odhran Ring and Cian Clifford acquitted themselves well on their league debuts, the former starting at number 8.

However, Bruff conceded numerous kickable penalties and had two yellow cards on the night. A repeat performance will simply not be good enough against high-flying Sligo who are two points clear at the summit.

Ross Mannion’s table toppers laid the foundations for their two wins so far with strong scrummaging displays, while centre Mark Rooney and number 8 Matthew Cosgrove, who have scored two tries apiece, are two players who have stood out in the opening rounds.

Malahide (6th) v Tullamore (9th), Estuary Road

Having sat out last week’s 36-14 defeat in Sligo, Mike Ross returns to make his first league start for Malahide at home to Tullamore. The former Leinster and Ireland prop will pack down alongside Peter O’Connor and Tom Collis, the former Dublin University front rower.

Tricky scrum half Hugo Nolan, one of Malahide’s try scorers out west, will captain the north Dubliners who face a Tulliers side that only have two losing bonus points on the board so far.

It has not quite clicked for John Burns’ charges just yet, a sloppy start against Thomond letting them down. However, their two-try final quarter last week will boost confidence levels with Karl Dunne in excellent kicking form and assistant coach Lemeki Vaipulu a powerhouse carrier from number 8.

Midleton (2nd) v Bangor (7th), Towns Park

Unbeaten Midleton are second in the table following a dramatic draw at Omagh, the Red Devils twice coming from 12 points down to finish level-pegging. Ever-influential out-half Stuart Lee was their scoring star again, finishing with 14 points to take his season’s haul to 29 so far.

Stuart McCloskey’s brother Ross switches to out-half for Bangor’s trip to Cork, with the pacy Lewis Bret wearing the number 9 jersey this week instead of 10. The north Down outfit lost 12-8 at Seapoint in round 2, the highlight being Bret’s smashing solo try in the first half.

Bangor’s most recent visit to Towns Park saw them come away with a nail-biting 29-28 win in April, the outcome decided by an injury-time penalty from Gareth Millar, their out-half that day. Midleton, who were outscored by four tries to three, will be all out for revenge.

Omagh (3rd) v Bective Rangers (10th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields

Eoin Murnaghan, who has come up through Omagh’s underage section, will make his debut for the Accies, with Lee Warnock now their third full-back sidelined through injury. Despite a ‘bittersweet’ draw with Midleton, it has been an impressive start for Omagh on their return to senior rugby.

Winless Bective would gladly swap places with the Ulstermen. They need to quickly put back-to-back losses – and a scoring difference of -60 – behind them for their first game outside of Dublin. Shoring up a leaky defence is their top priority.

Ahead of the clubs’ first ever competitive meeting, Omagh head coach Phil Marshall said: “Bective may be bottom of the table at this early stage, but they haven’t been an AIL club since it started for nothing. The next two games will tell us a lot about ourselves. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Thomond (5th) v Seapoint (8th), Liam Fitzgerald Park

Thomond have climbed two places up to fifth thanks to a well-judged 27-20 triumph at Tullamore – the Limerick club’s first away league win in 910 days. Backs Ger Finucane and Darragh O’Neill continue to wield plenty of influence, scoring three tries each since the campaign got underway.

It was Seapoint’s forwards who came up trumps in their first home game of the season – a battling 12-8 defeat of Bangor. Hooker Brian Lyons and lock Brian Duggan both touched down, while flanker Zac Jungmann was fast and dynamic on both sides of the ball.

It is almost three years since the clubs last played each other in the league, Seapoint winning a close contest 9-7 at Kilbogget Park in November 2014. A late drop goal did the business that day but they will need tries this Saturday given the form of Finucane and O’Neill.