Two of the main challengers for promotion will get a chance to benchmark their early season progress when second-placed Old Crescent host leaders Wanderers in the match of the day in Ulster Bank League Division 2B.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, October 7
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Navan (6th) v Dungannon (7th), Balreask Old
Last Saturday was a disappointing day at the office for both of these clubs, particularly Dungannon who suffered their heaviest ever defeat to Old Crescent (36-5). The focus will have been on discipline and defence as they prepare to visit the reigning Division 2C champions.
Navan have blown hot and cold but taken at least a point from each of their three outings to date. Their two-try finish at MU Barnhall earned them a losing bonus point and Alan Kingsley will hope they can build on that this weekend.
Three of Dungannon’s next four games are away from home, so a win here would given them a timely boost. With new combinations sill bedding in, including South African play-maker Duran Krummeck and former Queen’s scrum half John Russell, Andy Hughes’ charges are very much a work in progress.
Old Crescent (2nd) v Wanderers (1st), Rosbrien
The leading scorers across all five divisions – with 250 points between them already – go head-to-head in a mouth-watering top of the table contest. It may be early in the season, but Old Crescent and Wanderers are already shaping up to be leading contenders for the title.
The pair finished in the top four last season and are looking to follow in the footsteps of Greystones and Armagh who both moved up to the third tier in the summer. Three bonus point wins have Wanderers out in front, with 21 tries scored and Paddy Mallon and Garret O Suilleabhain both impressing.
Mallon’s showdown at number 8 with Old Crescent player-coach Brendan Guilfoyle, who bagged himself a hat-trick against Dungannon, is one to relish. Crescent have scored 15 tries so far, including five from key backs Brian Tuohy (2) and Larry Hanly (3). It was one home win apiece last season, Crescent overcoming the Chaps 24-16 at Rosbrien with Tuohy and Hanly both touching down.
Rainey Old Boys (4th) v MU Barnhall (5th), Hatrick Park
After two away victories, Rainey are back at Hatrick Park where they were upset by Old Crescent on the opening day. John Andrews’ side have bounced back in good nick, with new out-half Andrew McGrath kicking 29 points to supplement the team’s seven tries. However, they were frustrated not to register a bonus point against Belfast Harlequins.
Fifth-placed MU Barnhall are just behind Rainey in the table. They have two home wins under their belts, but have lost on their last four visits to Ulster. Stalwart number 8 Tom McKeown remains the Blue Bulls’ heartbeat, playing a key role off the pitch too as Maynooth University’s rugby development manager and Barnhall’s Under-20 coach.
Centre Jody McMurray was the star of the show when these sides last met in Magherafelt two years ago. He scored a hat-trick of tries that day to propel Rainey to a 27-21 success, albeit that they needed a late try-saving tackle to hold off the Kildare men.
Skerries (3rd) v Belfast Harlequins (10th), Holmpatrick
Having only won five games last season, Skerries are already well on the way to bettering that number. They hit City of Derry for six tries in their second victory of the current campaign, with brothers Conn and Cormac Marrey scoring half of that haul.
Belfast Harlequins will be the Goats’ third opponents from Ulster in the space of a month. 19-year-old half-backs Conor McAuley and Paul Kerr are bright sparks for ‘Quins, although the squad’s lack of experience has counted against them at times. Charlie Sargaison comes in at tighthead this week, with captain Mark McGrath switching to loosehead.
A win of any kind would be huge for Nick Wells’ young side who have another away trip to come in two weeks’ time (Sunday’s Well). However, with new captain Mikey Sherlock already leading by example, Skerries should pick up their first home win.
Sunday’s Well (9th) v City of Derry (8th), Irish Independent Park
Their efforts in earning a late bonus point against leaders Wanderers suggest that Sunday’s Well should be much further up the table. It is just about stringing together some results now for Peter Scott’s men.
Flanker Conor O’Brien and winger Eoin Hurley were the pick of their players in round 3, the latter teeing up Josh Featherstone’s bonus point score. Derry travel south on the back of a 38-25 home defeat to Skerries, in which two late tries put them out of contention.
Although New Zealander Tyler Rogers-Holden has got their attack firing, Trevor Will’s charges still have plenty of room for improvement in defence. The backs have scored six of Derry’s eight tries so far, including two from out-half Neil Burns.