There are Division 2A matches in three of the four provinces on Saturday afternoon, with a top-versus-bottom battle at Stradbrook and Galwegians and Cashel both venturing north to Belfast to play Malone and Queen’s University respectively.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 7
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Blackrock College (10th) v City of Armagh (1st), Stadbrook
Table-topping Armagh are bracing themselves for a tough encounter with winless Blackrock who, despite their current league position, have been performing well with two tries each so far from Steve Lawton and Eoin Fanning.
‘Rock were unlucky to come away from Galwegians last week with just a losing bonus point. In contrast, Armagh put Corinthians to the sword, scoring 32 second half points with winger Andrew Willis notching his third try of the campaign and out-half Cormac Fox taking his season’s haul to 41 points.
With their seconds team also performing well in Ulster, Armagh boss Willie Faloon has competition for places that other coaches could only hope for. Harvey Young and Michael Hoey, who were part of a strong bench last week, are pressing for inclusion along with prop Phil Matthews who is back available.
Corinthians (8th) v Nenagh Ormond (4th), Corinthian Park
Kiwi flanker Isaac O’Connor’s two tries were the best moments of Corinthians’ 42-18 reversal up at Armagh, however the manner in which the league leaders blasted them aside in the second half is a cause for concern.
Nonetheless, this certainly looks like a stronger start than last season when the Galway club lost four of their first five matches. They will be keen to get one over on Nenagh Ormond who won both of last year’s clashes – 28-6 at home and 34-18 away.
Allied to some resilient defending, Nenagh tallied up four tries to see off Greystones last week. Since losing heavily to Malone, the Tipperary men have hit back with two bonus point wins and nine tries, including two from 20-year-old back-three specialist David Gleeson. Kiwi play-maker Clayton Stewart has contributed 27 points so far.
Greystones (9th) v Highfield (6th), Dr. Hickey Park
Adapting to life in a higher division is never easy and Greystones have found the going tough so far, albeit that they have been competitive in all three games and picked up two losing bonus points. Kieran Lewis’ charges need a big performance and result tomorrow.
The priority is a strong start after conceding two early tries to Armagh in the first round and leaking three to Nenagh in the opening 20 minutes last week. Winger Jack Keating has scored three tries so far to continue his prolific form from last season.
Like ‘Stones, Highfield were guilty of allowing Queen’s a head-start in round 3. Despite a penalty try and one from Michael Dillane, they suffered a surprise home defeat to the students. A third loss in a row would be a significant setback for the Corkmen who were runners-up to Banbridge last season.
Malone (2nd) v Galwegians (5th), Gibson Park
Spirits are high at Gibson Park after Malone battled past Cashel to keep pace with Armagh at the summit. The victory was marred slightly by hooker Dave Cave’s hamstring injury and he will miss the next few weeks. Dan Kerr takes his place for tomorrow’s clash with Galwegians.
18-year-old lock Matthew Dalton, who impressed off the bench against Cashel, joins fellow Ulster Academy forwards Peter Cooper and Joe Dunleavy in the starting pack, while Josh Pentland replaces the unavailable Callum Smith at out-half.
Like Malone, Galwegians left it late last week to overcome Blackrock 26-22 at home. Centre Brian Murphy’s injury-time try got the job done, giving them a solid two wins out of three so far. In-form out-half Morgan Codyre already has 32 points to his name, with Murphy (3) and Marty Cummins (2) their chief try scorers.
Queen’s University (3rd) v Cashel (7th), Dub Lane
Self-belief will be coursing through the Queen’s players’ veins after becoming the first team to defeat Highfield in a regular season league match at Woodleigh Park in 19 months. Number 8 Gary Dillon’s try was converted by full-back Ritchie McMaster who also kicked three penalties.
The students won seven matches last season to finish fifth overall, so claiming their third win in four 2017/18 outings would underline their progress. Alexander Clarke and Jonny Stewart start again at hooker and scrum half this week, although fellow Ulster Academy member Angus Curtis remains on the injury list.
There was much annoyance in the Cashel camp after their 18-16 injury-time loss to Malone. They will look to their big pack and Darragh Lyons’ boot to cause damage at the Dub where they were 24-22 winners last December – thanks to a late bout of scrum pressure and a decisive penalty try.