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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Clubs at opposite ends of the Division 2B table will collide on what is set to be another action-packed Saturday. Unbeaten leaders Old Crescent welcome second-from-bottom Belfast Harlequins to Rosbrien in one of the most intriguing tussles.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, January 27

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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This season sees the introduction of the #UBLTry of the Month award with a prize of 250 euro for each monthly winner and entry into the Try of the Year award.

City of Derry (10th) v MU Barnhall (3rd), Judge’s Road

Simon Logue, Sam Duffy, Stephen Corr, Barry Lafferty and Killian Thornton boost City of Derry’s pick today as they all return from injury. However, the Ulstermen’s rescue mission has got even tougher after their walkover to Dungannon lost them five points, and they started 2018 with a demoralising 71-0 defeat to Rainey Old Boys.

The hope is that they can turn a corner and pick up a few results to give them a shot at avoiding relegation, but third-placed MU Barnhall will show no mercy as they are right in the mix for a promotion play-off spot.

Barnhall impressively dispatched Wanderers 30-8, with tries from Eoghan Quinn, Conor Lacey (2) and Darren Hudson guiding them to their sixth try-scoring bonus point. They should be able to build on that performance against Derry and target another maximum return.

Old Crescent (1st) v Belfast Harlequins (9th), Rosbrien

Old Crescent are poised to rack up their twelfth straight win, two-thirds of the way into the league campaign. They are red hot favourites to defeat second-from-bottom Belfast Harlequins and stay ahead of Rainey in what looks a two-horse title race.

Classy out-half Ronan McKenna started and finished the try-scoring in Crescent’s 40-19 bonus point victory over Sunday’s Well last time out, although the Cork club made it a tough assignment for the table toppers before they pulled away.

Harlequins will be no pushovers as they almost toppled Wanderers last time out. A penalty try and number 8 Toby Manus’ maul effort gave ‘Quins a losing bonus point in a game that could and perhaps should have won. They are entering a make-or-break period with four fixtures in as many weeks, including their rescheduled trip to Dungannon on February 10.

Skerries (7th) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Holmpatrick

Rainey Old Boys are hot on the heels of unbeaten leaders Old Crescent after winning their rescheduled clash with Sunday’s Well two weeks ago. First half tries from Andrew Donaghy and Robert Lamberton helped them to a 15-8 triumph.

Having ruptured his ACL, Rainey’s South African hooker Brad Roberts is out for the rest of the season, but centre Josh McIlroy is back in full training and set to return this afternoon. Ulster’s Tommy O’Hagan and John McCusker are also due to feature for the visitors.

Top of Skerries’ target list will be an improved defensive display as their last three outings have seen them leak 30, 54 and 41 points respectively. Their busy hooker Chris Tonge stood out with two well-taken tries away to Navan in the last round.

Sunday’s Well (8th) v Navan (4th), Irish Independent Park

Sunday’s Well picked up a deserved losing bonus point at Rainey, moving them six clear of relegation trouble. A win may prove beyond them against Navan today, but they need to build for two huge games next month – Belfast Harlequins (away) and Skerries (home).

Their strong-running centre and captain Cyprien Jouve is leading by example with a try in both of their last two matches. It should be quite a battle between out-halves Shane O’Riordan and Willie Staunton who have both been performing well of late.

Staunton, an experienced campaigner across the league, touched down twice in Navan’s 41-15 dismissal of Skerries last time out. It was an important result for the Meath men after their back-to-back defeats to Old Crescent before Christmas.

Wanderers (5th) v Dungannon (6th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

Only four points separate these sides in the table currently, with Dungannon having a game in hand. This is the Tyrone men’s first league outing of 2018 after their January 6 match against Belfast Harlequins was postponed.

Wanderers got the job done away to ‘Quins a fortnight ago, despite struggling to see them off in a late 22-18 win. The Chaps’ haul of eight bonus points – five of the try-scoring variety – has them very much in promotion play-off contention.

The Dungannon players will be itching to get stuck in after recent postponements in both the Ulster Bank League and Ulster Premiership. They hammered City of Derry 51-6 in their last Division 2B outing at the start of December, their nine tries including braces from Jonah Mau’u, Matt Montgomery and backs coach Seamus Mallon.