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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Division 2B’s schedule of round 7 fixtures kicks off with two tasty ties in Cork and Dublin tonight. Leaders Old Crescent are paying Sunday’s Well a visit and Leinster rivals Skerries and Navan are sure to attract a big crowd to the seaside venue of Holmpatrick.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, November 11

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Sunday’s Well (7th) v Old Crescent (1st), Irish Independent Park, tonight, 7.45pm
Old Crescent were ruthlessly efficient in seeing off their nearest rivals Skerries with 45 unanswered points last Saturday. Can the table toppers make it seven wins from seven at Irish Independent Park? The odds are heavily stacked in their favour, with hosts Sunday’s Well only a couple of months into new coach Peter Scott’s tenure.
The ‘Well, who are six points outside of the top four, are captained by flanker Cyprien Jouve who said: “It’s been a poor start of the season due to the team and coaches getting to know each other. As a club we always have high expectations. The aim is to be in a promotional spot by the Christmas break and drive it on until we get back up to 2A.”
Crescent are the top scorers across all five divisions with 222 points so far. In the last two rounds alone, key backs Val McDermott, Brian Tuohy and Larry Hanly have scored three tries each with out-half Ronan McKenna also touching down and kicking 12 conversions.
Skerries (3rd) v Navan (5th), Holmpatrick, tonight, 8pm
How Skerries respond to their 45-point thrashing by Old Crescent will tell a lot about the squad’s character and ambition. It was a big setback, but the Goats remain right in the hunt for promotion and tonight’s Leinster derby offers them a quick chance to right the wrongs of last week’s performance.
Navan have climbed back up within range of the top four thanks to two wins and a draw. They were 29-point winners over City of Derry last Saturday, a game in which their Kiwi recruit Vaa Mailei caught the eye with a brace of tries.
Having lost at home to Wanderers in round 2, Skerries will not want to give more points to promotion rivals at Holmpatrick. Captain Mikey Sherlock and Joe Glennon stood out for their valiant efforts against free-scoring Crescent, and they will have to lead by example again to see off a strong challenge from Navan.
Belfast Harlequins (10th) v Dungannon (8th), Deramore Park
Having played their rescheduled round 6 game against Sunday’s Well last month, Belfast Harlequins are extra rested after having last weekend off. Their most recent outing saw them come from 15 points down and a man down to draw 22-all with MU Barnhall. Their new Kiwi out-half Matty McKenzie kicked the levelling penalty.
Mark Glover is expected to start at centre in place of Mark Gribben, who is suspended due to his red card against Barnhall, while the fit-again Lewis Loane is in line to return to the back-three. Dungannon had young back rower Jonah Mau’u sent off in their 41-24 defeat to Barnhall last week.
‘Gannon head coach Andy Hughes is quietly confident that his charges can give a jump-start to their season by winning this Ulster derby. Despite the disappointing outcome, they scored four tries against Barnhall and with no fresh injuries, continuity in selection should help them get back on track in Belfast.
Wanderers (4th) v MU Barnhall (6th), Merrion Road
Having stormed out of the blocks with three wins in September, Wanderers have found the going tough of late. Last week’s 32-18 reversal at Rainey Old Boys was their third straight defeat, but a dose of home comforts should help them recapture their form from the early rounds.
Their first run-out of the league campaign at Merrion Road sees them hosting MU Barnhall, who are only two places and one point behind them in the table. The Blue Bulls have won three of their last four games, that loss being a heavy one at Rainey (42-10).
It was one home win apiece last season between the Chaps and the Kildare men. Simon Gillespie kicked two closing penalties in Barnhall’s 20-15 victory at Parsonstown, before Wanderers gained revenge in February with a 41-24 bonus point success at headquarters.
City of Derry (9th) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road, 2.30pm
For their eagerly-awaited derby clash with Rainey, City of Derry will have their new sponsor, Craig Thompson, the popular Derry-born Youtuber known as ‘Mini Ladd’, present to officially rename their Judge’s Road ground as ‘Craig Thompson Stadium’.
The Derry players need to rise to the occasion after leaking a combined 95 points to Old Crescent and Navan. On the positive side, New Zealander Tyler Rogers-Holden (four tries) continues to impress in his half-back partnership with Neil Burns, while back rower Stephen Corr makes a welcome return tomorrow.
Aided by their own new half-backs Jason Bloomfield and Andrew Magrath, Rainey are building on their performances week by week. 13 tries in their last three outings shows how potent they can be, with Ulster Under-19 full-back Michael O’Neill touching down three times. Homegrown forwards Tommy O’Hagan (24) and John McCusker (19) continue to get valuable game-time with both Rainey and Ulster ‘A’.