Relegation-threatened Tullamore brought leaders Sligo back down to earth with a surprise 32-17 win over the Connacht side last Saturday. Can we expect more shock results today as Ulster Bank League Division 2C resumes with a full schedule?
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, January 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bective Rangers (9th) v Bangor (5th), Donnybrook
Bective fought hard to pick up three points against Seapoint last time out, coming from 17-0 down at one stage. Tries from Kevin O’Byrne (2), Eamon Murphy and Adam Philpot, with an intercept, earned them a valuable 27-all draw on the road.
Every point matters as the bottom four sides are only covered by five points at present, with Bective in the relegation play-off spot. Their opponents today, Bangor, opened 2018 with a 19-5 victory over Omagh to keep in touch with the promotion chasers.
Bangor have benefited from using the indoor facilities at Bangor Grammar School to train during the recent bouts of bad weather. Notably, all of this afternoon’s 20-man squad hail from the Bangor, Ards or Donaghadee areas, with nine players coming up through Bangor Grammar.
Bruff (4th) v Malahide (3rd), Kilballyowen Park
A superb individual try from winger Mark Cosgrove was the highlight of Bruff’s most recent outing as they edged out local rivals Thomond 11-10 at a rain-lashed Liam Fitzgerald Park. The tough winter conditions have been to their liking with three wins on the trot.
They will need no reminding that Malahide, who currently head them on scoring difference, stung them with a 21-0 defeat back in November. As well as benefiting from Mike Ross’ involvement this season, the Dubliners had Richardt Strauss down for a training session last week.
They also recently announced the signing of former Connacht winger Danie Poolman following his relocation to Dublin. The 28-year-old South African joins a back-line that has already made its mark, with Malahide the current top points scorers (270) and five try-scoring bonus points already in the bag.
Omagh (6th) v Thomond (2nd), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Omagh head coach Phil Marshall will have been highlighting the importance of a strong start after they allowed Bangor to build an early 14-0 lead in their Ulster derby. Their maul defence let them down in those opening minutes.
Marshall has a similar squad to choose from for the visit of second-placed Thomond, including centre Luke Hanson who looked sharp in attack against Bangor. Full-back Ali Beckett is expected to return, although winger Neil Brown and lock Jamie Sproule remain on the injury list.
Thomond will be smarting from that derby loss to Bruff, and they certainly owe the Accies one after the Tyrone side won one of the games of the season in November. Tries from Ger Finucane, David O’Halloran, Darragh O’Neill and Evan Cusack were not enough as fast-finishing Omagh turned a 32-20 deficit into a stunning 39-32 win.
Sligo (1st) v Seapoint (8th), Hamilton Park
Sligo’s surprise reversal at the hands of Tullamore has given hope to the chasing pack, and the league leaders cannot afford a repeat showing seven days on. A dose of home comforts should do the trick for Ross Mannion’s men who were outscored by six tries to two by the Offaly outfit.
The hosts will hope that was a blip, but Seapoint are chasing a season’s double over the Connacht Senior Cup champions, having won 22-21 when the sides locked horns in November. Their Kiwi out-half Bain Champion crossed for two tries that day and recently won the league’s Try of the Month award for December.
Eric Miller’s squad are facing into two road trips, with a February 3 date with Omagh to follow. The way they are playing of late, they are certainly capable of picking up points from both matches and staying on the right side of the relegation waterline.
Tullamore (7th) v Midleton (10th), Spollanstown
Tullamore lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with that outstanding 32-17 bonus point victory over Sligo. John Burns’ side played with serious intent in both attack and defence, with big centre Brian Geraghty starring with a four-try haul.
Burns and the recently-returned John Moylan got the best out of the players, building on their pre-Christmas win at Seapoint. In 20 manic second half minutes against Sligo, Geraghty helped himself to a hat-trick, scoring twice from kick chases and also profiting from a fine Aidan Wynne break.
That shock result also was also felt by Midleton who fell to the bottom rung. Since drawing 20-20 with Tullamore in November, the Corkmen have lost their last three games. Their attack has struggled with only Aidan Ware and Michael Cronin touching down in 240 minutes of rugby.