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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Previews

There is a hive of activity in Ulster Bank League Division 2A tonight with local derbies in Dublin, Tipperary, Galway and Belfast. Third-placed Queen’s University, who have scored 14 tries in their last two outings, are the next team up to have a cut at Malone’s 100% record.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Friday, November 10

Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated

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Blackrock College (10th) v Greystones (9th), Stradbrook

Mark Roche comes straight back in from Ireland Sevens duty to don the number 13 jersey for struggling Blackrock. Roche is one of four changes in the backs, while forwards Mark O’Brien and Alan Francis are promoted from the bench and Job Langbroek moves to lock.

‘Rock leaked eight tries in a 49-14 defeat at Queen’s last Saturday, a result which dropped them to the bottom of the table with tonight’s visitors, Greystones, going in the opposite direction. Andrew Kealy’s four penalties pointed ‘Stones to their first win of the campaign, against Galwegians (17-13).

With Kealy on form and Jack Keating the danger man out wide, Blackrock can ill-afford another sloppy defensive display. The Wicklow men have done enough in their recent road trips – picking up bonus points in Armagh and Cashel – to suggest that they can take the spoils here.

Cashel (6th) v Nenagh Ormond (4th), Spafield

Nenagh Ormond have a Tipperary derby to get their teeth into after their four-match winning streak was ended by Highfield. Nenagh’s three tries last Saturday were all front row-inspired, with a penalty try and two efforts from props Johnny Hayes and John Coffey.

Cashel’s form has been up and down, including two recent reversals at Spafield, but they did overcome Nenagh 13-10 at the same venue in April. Their brilliant line-speed and ability to disrupt the visitors’ lineout, with flanker Ed Leamy starring, was crucial that night.

Looking forward to the rematch, Nenagh’s forwards coach Ray Hogan said: “It’s a huge game as usual, even more so after both teams lost last weekend. With that, there’ll be extra spice to this contest. It’s time to man up and show what we’re made of.”

Galwegians (8th) v Corinthians (7th), Crowley Park

There is plenty of interest in tonight’s Galway city derby, especially considering the clubs have not met in league competition since February 2015. Back then, Galwegians won the Glynn Cup with a 21-13 home win over Corinthians, aided by 11 points from the boot of recent Cork Constitution signing Aidan Moynihan.

Moynihan’s former team-mates have struggled on their return to Division 1B, and like Corinthians, ‘Wegians have suffered four defeats to date. Their defence – the worst, statistically, in the division – was much more cohesive and effective at Greystones where they left with a losing bonus point.

Jack Winters, who has stepped up from junior rugby with Ballinrobe, and New Zealander Isaac O’Connor are two of the early season success stories for ‘Wegians and Corinthians respectively. The back row pair will look to have a big impact in the loose, as will Brian Murphy and Kieran Joyce, two of the brightest sparks in the opposing back-lines.

Malone (1st) v Queen’s University (3rd), Gibson Park, 8pm

The meeting of the division’s front runners and Queen’s, Neil Doak’s ever-improving side, should draw a big crowd. These Belfast rivals have both been playing rugby that belongs in a higher tier and it is all about keeping the momentum up as they plot a prolonged challenge for promotion.

The third-placed students have been scoring tries for fun with captain Nigel Simpson, Jack Milligan, Angus Curtis and Mark Keane all popping up as regular scorers, but Malone will be their toughest test yet. Lock Phil Lucas faces a late fitness test for the hosts, who have Jack Owens, Matthew Dalton, Joe Dunleavy and Peter Cooper released from Ulster duty.

Queen’s have a nice blend of experience and youth at their disposal, with streetwise half-backs Ritchie McMaster and John Creighton getting the best out of a talented bunch of backs. Ulster have released recent debutant Jonny Stewart, who starts on the students’ bench, along with Curtis and fit-again hooker Alexander Clarke.

City of Armagh (5th) v Highfield (2nd), Palace Grounds, Saturday, 2.30pm

Highfield’s second trip of the season to Ulster – they lost by seven points to Malone in September – sees them take on a City of Armagh side who were only a couple of minutes away from handing the Cregagh Red Sox their first defeat of the season.

USA international Paddy Ryan, who will be moving to Austin for the new Major League season next year, bagged a brace of tries in Highfield’s tremendous 37-22 triumph over Nenagh, a result which has Tim Ryan’s men at the head of the chasing pack in second.

Beating teams like Highfield at home is a must if Armagh want to compete for a top four spot. Tim MacNeice, a try scorer during his 40-minute run-out at Malone, is set to return to the starting back-line, and Josh McKinley and John Faloon are also back to boost Armagh’s selection options.