Division 2C’s matches are split between tonight and tomorrow afternoon, with Bective Rangers and Seapoint looking to dazzle under the Donnybrook floodlights and a bumper crowd expected at Kilballyowen Park for the meeting of Limerick rivals Bruff and Thomond.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, November 11
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bective Rangers (10th) v Seapoint (8th), Donnybrook, tonight, 7.30pm
It may still be early in the season, but this south Dublin derby is already a real eight-pointer for these clubs. They both find themselves in the bottom three, with Bective bottom of the pile and eager to eat into a -96 scoring differential.
The good news for Rangers is that they have been increasingly competitive in the last three rounds, picking up five points including a home win over Midleton. They were denied by a last-minute penalty in Tullamore last week, so maybe their luck is about to change?
Seapoint are not conceding many points – they have the fourth best defensive record in the division – but they are not scoring a lot either, averaging 15 points per game. If they can put more of their chances away, this young ‘Point side could embark on a run.
Bruff (3rd) v Thomond (2nd), Kilballyowen Park, tonight, 7.30pm
Thomond seemed to cure their away day blues with wins at Tullamore and Midleton recently, and while tonight’s short trip to Limerick rivals Bruff holds a number of pitfalls, the Soda Cakes look well equipped to claim the derby spoils.
Thomond may be drawing the most attention – and nine-try winger Darragh O’Neill in particular – but Bruff are not far behind them having posted three wins and picked up four bonus points. Losing their opener at home to Omagh really stung Eoin Cahill’s charges into action.
Bruff have a typically strong tight five, led by hooker and captain John Hogan and lock Neilus Keogh, a 2007 Grand Slam winner with the Ireland Under-20s. It will be fascinating to see if Thomond’s young half-backs Evan Cusack and Colin Madden can outplay the Bruff pairing of David O’Grady and Tony Cahill.
Midleton (9th) v Malahide (6th), Towns Park
The teams placed sixth to ninth, including Midleton and Malahide, are currently separated by only five points, so victory here for either would be an important result. The onus is on the Red Devils after they lost their last two home games to Bangor and Thomond.
Malahide embark on their second successive trip to Munster after suffering a 34-17 defeat at Thomond. They will want their backs firing on all cylinders after their two tries last week came from a lineout maul – finished by hooker Peter O’Connor – and a penalty try off their dominant scrum.
Midleton have played the division’s top two sides, Thomond and Sligo, in recent weeks and ran both close, coming away with two losing bonus points. They have a big set of forwards, a maul that can trouble most sides and a high percentage goal-kicker in Stuart Lee.
Omagh (5th) v Bangor (4th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Omagh and Bangor are split by a single point in the table as they lock horns in this much-anticipated Ulster derby, with the Accies having earned promotion from the junior ranks last April and the Seasiders achieving the feat the previous year.
Two men Bangor will have to keep close tabs on are Omagh scrum half and captain Stewart McCain and winger Neil Brown, who have scored five tries each so far. McCain’s duel with Bangor’s teenage number 9 Lewis Bret, the scorer of four tries in as many games, will be one to watch.
Andrew Ferguson replaces the injured Johnny Sproule up front for the hosts, while Bangor, who were narrow winners at home to Bruff last Saturday, reintroduce Mark Widdowson on the wing, Andrew Shaw comes in for the injured Andrew Jackson at hooker and the fit-again David Caughey will partner Lewis Stevenson in the second row.
Sligo (1st) v Tullamore (7th), Hamilton Park
Sligo’s unbeaten run has seen them either pile on the tries or hang tough for narrow wins, the latter being the case last Saturday when they squeezed past Midleton (16-14). It was a gritty performance but head coach Ross Mannion will demand more of his side tomorrow.
Tullamore’s most recent visit to Strandhill in April was not a happy one, as Sligo served up a 30-9 defeat, but they did beat the Yeats men 12-8 at home last season and have strung together back-to-back victories after edging out Omagh and Bective in the last two rounds.
Sligo’s Connacht Academy scrum half Ryan Feehily chipped in with a stunning Try of the Month contender, evading five Midleton defenders to score from his own half. Tullamore also have their own strike runners, but it is full-back Karl Dunne’s goal-kicking which has impressed the most lately, proving vital for his side in rounds 5 and 6.