There are some fascinating contests between teams in the top four and those in the lower reaches of the table, as Division 2A serves up some pre-Christmas crackers in all four provinces.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, December 2
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ulster Bank League Results Service: Send UBL to 51444. To unsubscribe send the word STOP to 0876445950. Search #UBL on Twitter for club updates.
Blackrock College (7th) v Nenagh Ormond (3rd), Stradbrook
South Dublin is the destination for Nenagh Ormond following their 52-point demolition job on Galwegians. They meet a Blackrock side that is beginning to find its way under new head coach Mick Carroll.
Victories over Greystones and Corinthians have given ‘Rock a much better footing. They will field an unchanged pack against Nenagh, with the back-line switches seeing David Scott-Lennon move to the left wing with Paddy Cowhey returning at full-back.
However, Nenagh were back to their clinical best against ‘Wegians and if Clayton Stewart and company maintain those high standards, they should add Blackrock to their list of away triumphs (Queen’s University, Corinthians and Armagh).
Cashel (6th) v City of Armagh (5th), Spafield
Cashel and City of Armagh both have play-off ambitions and two hungry young coaches in Denis Leamy (36) and Willie Faloon (31). These two teams are level on 20 points after the first eight rounds.
Armagh’s 30-27 Ulster derby win over Queen’s, which saw them erase an 18-point half-time deficit, must rank as the comeback of the season so far. Paul Mullen has joined the injury list, but Peter Starrett and John Faloon are available for selection again.
These are exactly the type of matches that Cashel need to be winning if they want to challenge for a top-four finish. Those in attendance at Spafield are certainly getting value for money, as all four home fixtures so far this season have been one-score games.
Galwegians (9th) v Highfield (2nd), Crowley Park
Galwegians’ high error count is proving costly with each passing game. Nenagh showed no mercy to them, and another promotion-chasing side visits today in the form of second-placed Highfield.
At least Brian McClearn’s men got over the Nenagh whitewash through forwards Marty Cummins and Jason East, although they showed their collective vulnerabilities when conceding two penalty tries from a scrum and a lineout maul.
One telling aspect of Highfield’s form is that they are delivering the goods both home and away. Their last three road trips have resulted in wins over Greystones and two of their current promotion rivals, Nenagh and Armagh.
Malone (1st) v Corinthians (8th), Gibson Park
Malone will be without Ulster Academy flanker Joe Dunleavy (shoulder) until the New Year, but fellow teenager Matthew Dalton is expected to play today after getting the final eight minutes of Ulster’s draw away to the Dragons.
The Cregagh Red Sox are back on course following last week’s 55-14 hammering of Greystones, with provincial talents Peter Cooper and Jack Owens continuing to impress in open play.
Corinthians will have a tough time keeping the latter two quiet, and although they are smarting from a 33-19 loss to Blackrock, the Galway men usually bring plenty of intensity with them on the road, earning a losing bonus point and a draw on their most recent travels.
Queen’s University (4th) v Greystones (10th), Dub Lane
Two teams in need of a pick-me-up result after disappointing outcomes in the last round. It was an alarming finish from in-form Queen’s University who had the rug pulled from under them by Armagh.
Losing an 18-point lead will have rattled the young students, but Neil Doak will have them primed, both mentally and physically, for a swift return to winning ways against the division’s bottom side.
Alexander Clarke has joined Angus Curtis on the injury but Ulster’s Jonny Stewart should start for fourth-placed Queen’s. It was good to see flanker Eoin Marmion – one of a batch of young up-and-coming players in the ‘Stones ranks – get on the scoresheet against Malone last week.