There are two top-four showdowns to whet appetites in Division 2A this weekend, as front-running Malone host City of Armagh in a tasty Ulster derby and Munster rivals Nenagh Ormond and Highfield go head-to-head down Tipperary way.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, November 4
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Corinthians (8th) v Cashel (5th), Corinthian Park
The concession of a late drop goal denied Corinthians a much-needed win at Highfield, but their improved performance offers encouragement for the forthcoming rounds. Connacht Academy back Colm de Buitlear made a try-scoring return following a B&I Cup appearance with Connacht Eagles.
October was a productive month for Denis Leamy’s Cashel, who claimed victories over Queen’s and Greystones to move within reach of the top four. Darragh Lyons (34 points) is developing a very good half-back partnership with Josh Pickering, while the head coach’s brother Ed continues to wield plenty of influence in the loose and at lineout time.
Corinthians will want to lay down a marker at Cloonacauneen after their last league outing there saw them concede 63 points to a rampant Nenagh side. Shoring up their defence and limiting Lyons’ chances off the tee are the first boxes for Ene Fa’atau’s men to tick.
Greystones (10th) v Galwegians (7th), Dr. Hickey Park
Both Greystones and Galwegians will be eyeing up this game as a big opportunity to get back on track. ‘Wegians may be five points and three places better off than the bottom-placed Wicklow men, but they were demolished by Malone and Queen’s in the last two rounds, hemorrhaging 112 points in the process.
They have a nucleus of experienced operators in Brian Murphy, Dave Clarke, Jason East, Marty Cummins and captain Anthony Ryan, who should be able to pull them away from relegation trouble. Greystones, too, need to find a firm foothold after five losing performances.
‘Stones picked up their third losing bonus point thanks to Jack Keating’s last-minute try at Cashel. They almost fought back for a draw having 20 points adrift, so that second half fight-back, coupled with tomorrow’s celebrations of the club’s 80th anniversary, could be the inspiration Kevin Lewis’ charges need to end their losing streak.
Malone (1st) v City of Armagh (4th), Gibson Park
These Ulster rivals will be looking for a complete 80-minute performance after two topsy-turvy displays in the last round. Malone found their rhythm with 24 second half points to defeat Blackrock, while Armagh’s 29-point first half salvo was not enough against Nenagh.
Table toppers Malone are nursing a number of injuries ahead of the provincial derby, most notably Ulster Academy prop Peter Cooper and second row Josh Davidson, so head coach Paddy Armstrong may have some late selection calls to make.
His opposite number, Willie Faloon, has guided Armagh to a top-four slot fresh from promotion. They learned some tough lessons against Nenagh last Saturday and will be determined to keep up their proud record of being unbeaten against Ulster opposition for the last two seasons, including games in the Ulster Bank League, Ulster Premiership and Ulster Senior Cup.
Nenagh Ormond (2nd) v Highfield (3rd), New Ormond Park
Nenagh did it the hard way against Armagh, coming from 26 points down to triumph 38-32 at the Palace Grounds. Having scored a lone try in the opening round, the Tipperary men have since piled on the scores with an average of over 40 points across the last four rounds.
They have plenty of ammunition with 11 different players already crossing the whitewash this season, including top-scoring winger David Gleeson (6 tries) and Kiwi play-maker Clayton Stewart who has amassed 66 points already.
This Munster derby should be a fascinating encounter as Highfield currently boast the second best defensive record in the division. Captain Miah Cronin has led the way attack-wise with three tries. If the visitors can make it a tight contest for the first hour, they have shown how adept they are at producing a late winning score.
Queen’s University (6th) v Blackrock College (9th), Dub Lane
This is an opportune time for Queen’s to pick up their first home win of the league campaign, having efficiently gone about their business in winning at Corinthians, Highfield and Galwegians. Out-half Ritchie McMaster converted all seven tries in their runaway 42-18 victory over ‘Wegians.
It was pleasing to see Ireland Under-20 pair Angus Curtis and Mark Keane get among the tries as replacements, although hooker Alexander Clarke’s first half injury means he will miss the visit of Blackrock, who let go of a 10-3 half-time lead against Malone.
The Dubliners have lost their last ten away games in Division 2A, with their most recent victory on the road coming at Sunday’s Well in September of last year. Mick Carroll’s current side have been in the hunt in a number of matches before falling out of contention. If they can find the fixes, they should start stringing some results together.