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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Bruff and Thomond, currently the two closest challengers to unbeaten leaders Sligo, both have tough assignments in Division 2C on Saturday with the men from Kilballyowen Park visiting fifth-placed Bangor, while it is third plays fourth when the Soda Cakes entertain Malahide.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Bangor (5th) v Bruff (2nd), Upritchard Park

It took an immense defensive performance in the second half for Bruff to edge out Seapoint 10-8 last Saturday, and they will need more of the same against a Bangor side that showed their capabilities with a recent 36-14 dismissal of Thomond.

However, Jason Morgan’s Seasiders were sloppy in defence when going down 29-7 to Malahide in round 5, and their concentration must improve as Bruff have risen to second place with a dynamic attack. Watch out for their young full-back Brian Fanning who has scored three tries in two games.

There is a master-versus-apprentice feel to the scrum half battle where Bruff’s back-line general Tony Cahill lines out against Bangor’s promising teenager Lewis Bret. Dave Caughey has joined the hosts’ injury list, but James Henley returns this week and Ryan Latimer could be rewarded for his form with Bangor’s seconds.

Seapoint (7th) v Omagh (6th), Kilbogget Park

Seapoint’s recent outings have followed a trend where they win at home and lose on their travels. They were the better side for much of last week’s tight encounter at Bruff but just could not convert their pressure into a match-winning score, coming away instead with a losing bonus point.

That lack of firepower as the division’s lowest scorers so far (80 points) is an obvious concern for ‘Point head coach Eric Miller. Similarly, Omagh boss Phil Marshall wants a reaction from his charges after a couple of spills near the try-line saw them lose 23-19 to Tullamore.

The strong-running Yonga Taleni bagged a brace of tries on his return for the Accies last Saturday. He will add to the scoring threats posed by captain Stewart McCain and James Catterson, although prop Kyle Alexander and out-half Lee Murphy are both ruled out through injury. Eoin Murnaghan is set to don the number 10 jersey tomorrow.

Sligo (1st) v Midleton (8th), Hamilton Park

Sligo hold a three-point lead at the summit and are hot favourites to make it six straight wins, facing a Midleton side that have fallen to eighth in the table. The Red Devils have not been playing badly, though, with 47 points and five tries scored in the last two rounds.

Stuart Lee’s right boot remains a big influence for the Corkmen, with the lynchpin half-back scoring 54 points so far this season. They will need tries to knock Sligo off their stride, nonetheless, as the Connacht club are averaging 28 points per league game.

Sligo were 33-13 winners when they visited Midleton last February in the clubs’ most recent meeting. A run of second half scores from Michael Wells, Calum Goddard and Shane O’Hehir saw Ross Mannion’s men finish with a five-try tally, aided by a typical livewire performance from scrum half Ryan Feehily just before his 20th birthday.

Thomond (3rd) v Malahide (4th), Liam Fitzgerald Park

This should be an intriguing contest in Limerick with Thomond making a encouraging start in their bid to bounce back from relegation, while Malahide’s three wins-from-five show how well they have acclimatised to All-Ireland level so far.

Only a point separates the sides in the table – Thomond’s losing bonus from the first round against Sligo – and tomorrow’s clash brings together two of the division’s most potent wingers, Soda Cakes star Darragh O’Neill and Malahide’s Marcus McAllister, whose chip-and-chase effort against Bangor last week is a contender for the Ulster Bank League Try of the Month.

The grit and will to win shown by Thomond in overhauling Midleton was hugely impressive, particularly after prop Eoin O’Neill’s first half red card. Equally effective was Malahide’s heads-up play against Bangor, with scores coming from a couple of quick taps along with McAllister’s clever work out wide.

Tullamore (9th) v Bective Rangers (10th), Spollanstown

After three-match losing runs for both Tullamore and Bective in September, they returned to winning ways in recent rounds with victories over Omagh (23-19) and Midleton (34-24) respectively. Two closing penalties from reliable full-back Karl Dunne saw the Tulliers break their duck last week.

Winning up in Co. Tyrone will boost confidence levels among John Burns’ Tullamore squad, who had try-scoring performances from key forwards Ger Molloy and Lemeki Vaipulu. If they can continue on an upward curve, back on home soil, they should make it two wins out of two.

Bective will certainly be fired up for this trip to the midlands as Tullamore were the team that relegated them in the play-offs last April. They blew a 12-point lead that day at Donnybrook, eventually finishing as 22-15 losers – a heartbreaking defeat that they are hungry to avenge.