The anticipation is building for Saturday’s top of the table meeting of Old Crescent and Skerries, closely followed by the clash of Division 2B’s other top-four residents, Rainey Old Boys and Wanderers. Six points currently cover the leading quartet of clubs.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, November 4
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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MU Barnhall (7th) v Dungannon (8th), Parsonstown
This is MU Barnhall’s third successive match against Ulster opposition. The Blue Bulls return to Parsonstown after losing by 32 points at Rainey Old Boys and coughing up a 22-7 lead in a deflating late draw with bottom side Belfast Harlequins.
Dungannon head coach Andy Hughes has been pleased with the effort and response in training following their losses to Malone in the Ulster Senior Cup and Rainey Old Boys in Division 2B. Backs coach Seamus Mallon, Mark Riddell, David Leyburn and Ben Matchett are back in the selection mix this week.
Barnhall’s back-three of Michael and Luke Mellett and Conor Lacey will cause problems for the visitors, judging by their recent run of tries, and the Kildare men look well placed to secure their fourth home league win on the bounce, one of those previous successes being last April’s 40-22 triumph over ‘Gannon.
Navan (5th) v City of Derry (9th), Balreask Old
Last week saw Navan snap back into winning mode for the first time since September’s opening round. Tries either side of half-time from backs Riaan van der Vyver and Sean McEntaggart did the damage in an impressive 17-13 away defeat of Wanderers.
City of Derry were licking their wounds after a thumping 54-21 home loss at the hands of table-topping Old Crescent. Winger Simon Logue ran in two of Derry’s three tries, with their bubbly back-line – often sparked by New Zealander Tyler Rogers-Holden – scoring eight of the team’s last nine tries altogether.
This will be the clubs’ first league meeting since January 2011. Navan, the reigning Division 2C champions, lost that game 31-10 up at Judge’s Road. Derry would bite your hand off for a similar result tomorrow, but a win of any kind would give Trevor Will’s charges a timely lift ahead of next week’s local derby with Rainey.
Old Crescent (1st) v Skerries (2nd), Rosbrien
A cracking contest in prospect here. Old Crescent have beaten all before them so far, with ex-Shannon duo Brian Tuohy and Ronan McKenna scoring two tries and claiming the man-of-the-match honours respectively in last week’s eight-try hammering of Derry.
Second-placed Skerries will be a different kettle of fish, although their four wins to date have come against teams currently in the lower half of the table. But, when you consider the Goats only won five Division 2B games last season, it has been an excellent start from Mikey Sherlock and his team-mates.
While they have their own danger men in Dara Lowndes and Paul Devitt, Skerries really need to cut down the space and limit the opportunities for the likes of Tuohy, Larry Hanly and Val McDermott. Once Crescent get on a roll, they are very difficult to stop. As evidenced by last season’s double over Skerries – 30-27 at Holmpatrick and 39-15 at home.
Rainey Old Boys (3rd) v Wanderers (4th), Hatrick Park
Something will have to give at Hatrick Park where the team with the best defensive record so far meets the division’s leading scorers. Rainey, who vaulted above Wanderers into third place last week, are on a four-match winning streak and have conceded a miserly 62 points across five rounds.
One area they need to improve in is discipline as John Andrews’ men conceded ten penalties in the first half alone against Dungannon. With a place-kicker of the calibre of Wanderers’ Garret O Suilleabhain, they can ill-afford to be whistled up so frequently again.
The Chaps are smarting from their 17-13 reversal at the hands of Navan. There should be some fireworks in the front row tomorrow as Tommy O’Hagan and Diarmuid Higgins battle for scrum supremacy, while Rainey’s in-form openside Paul Pritchard and Wanderers captain Eoghan Nihill lead two high-quality back rows.