There are two big provincial derbies in Division 2B tomorrow as Belfast Harlequins and Rainey Old Boys battle it out up north, while MU Barnhall and Navan both aim to bounce back from second round reversals at Parsonstown.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, September 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Belfast Harlequins (10th) v Rainey Old Boys (5th), Deramore Park
Bottom-placed Belfast Harlequins face Derry opposition again, determined to put behind them a frustrating second half last week against City of Derry who turned a 12-10 half-time deficit into a 32-17 win.
Harlequins captain Danny Annett is ruled out of tomorrow’s Ulster derby and replaced by Ken McKenzie in the second row, while Neil Montgomery and Mark Gribben, who has served a one-match suspension, return at hooker and centre respectively. Ex-Rainey players Tim Emerson and Matthew McClelland are part of the ‘Quins squad.
Mid-table Rainey had some key contributions from summer signings Paul Pritchard (try) and Andrew Magrath (10 points) in their 20-13 victory at Navan. Jack McIntosh and Michael O’Neill return this week from Ulster Under-19 duty and Jody McMurray and Nicholas Stirling also feature in a squad that is missing the injured Tommy O’Hagan and Michael McCusker.
City of Derry (8th) v Skerries (3rd), Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road
Tyler Rogers-Holden had a dream home debut for City of Derry, scoring the first try and inspiring their 32-17 derby success against Belfast Harlequins. The Kiwi’s new half-back partnership with Neil Burns, who touched down twice and kicked seven points, is certainly one to watch.
The task now for Trevor Will is can his Derry side back up that stellar team performance with a second win. Skerries travel north for the second time this month, having already edged out Dungannon 29-27 on the opening day.
The Goats may be third in the table, but you cannot read too much into the placings just yet with five points covering the division’s top eight clubs. Even still, picking up two bonus points against table-topping Wanderers was a brilliant effort, with fast-finishing winger Paul Devitt scoring two of their eight tries so far.
Dungannon (4th) v Old Crescent (2nd), Stevenson Park
Dungannnon got back to winning ways at Sunday’s Well, with backs coach Seamus Mallon’s late intercept try sealing a 19-10 victory. Old Crescent, who have made a near-perfect start under Brendan Guilfoyle, are their visitors in round 3.
Second-placed Crescent’s 45-26 dismissal of MU Barnhall was all the more impressive given that 10 of their starters began their rugby at underage level with the club. Centre Larry Hanly helped himself to a hat-trick of tries, while prop Cathal O’Reilly chalked up his second of the campaign.
Crescent did the double over Dungannon last year, winning 15-14 away and 38-20 at Rosbrien. John Joe Kane is set to make his first start of the season for ‘Gannon, coming into the second row to offset the unavailability of Stephen Todd.
MU Barnhall (7th) v Navan (6th), Parsonstown
This Leinster derby comes at an opportune time after disappointing defeats for both sides in round 2. MU Barnhall leaked 45 points to Crescent, while Navan will be itching to right the wrongs of their 20-13 home loss to Rainey.
Defensive lapses cost Navan dearly against the Derry men, although they did recover to claim a losing bonus point thanks to a late Bryan McKeever try. McKeever, a league stalwart, was voted Leinster Player of the Year the 2016 Ulster Bank League Awards.
But for a tenaciously-won try-scoring bonus point at Crescent, the Blue Bulls would be in the bottom two. They have the players to push for a higher finish than last year’s fifth and this is the type of game – hosting a recently-promoted side – that they have to be winning.
Wanderers (1st) v Sunday’s Well (9th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Maximum points for Wanderers after their first two outings and they could hardly have asked for a better start. They got a stiffer test from Skerries last Friday but still came out on top and have already passed the 100-point mark.
There will be no resting on laurels as Sunday’s Well, who visit headquarters tomorrow, will be hugely motivated to put one over on the Chaps. A Conor O’Brien try had the ‘Well leading Dungannon, but the concession of a penalty try and a second yellow card knocked the Corkmen off course.
The clubs’ most recent clash, at the same venue three years ago, was a real end-to-end affair and very much a game of two halves. The ‘Well blew a 23-point lead as Wanderers staged a second half fight-back which ended with a late penalty securing a breathless 30-30 draw.