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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Previews

With the top half of the table split by just five points, and seven points the difference between mid-table and the bottom rung, there is still all to play for in terms of pushing for promotion and avoiding relegation in Ulster Bank League Division 2C.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, February 3

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.

Bective Rangers (10th) v Tullamore (9th), Donnybrook

Bective and Tullamore find themselves in the bottom two after two disappointing results last week, Rangers being held scoreless at home by Bangor and the Offaly men – on a high after beating leaders Sligo – brought down to earth by a 31-3 hammering from Midleton.

Without a win in the last three rounds, Bective need to respond today and get back to the form which saw them overcome current table toppers Thomond 9-3 in early December. Cutting down on the handling errors and indiscipline is top of their agenda.

After running in an incredible four tries against Sligo, Brian Geraghty was stopped in his tracks by a resolute Midleton defence. The Tulliers will have to get the midfield axis of Aidan Wynne, Dylan Kelso and Geraghthy back to its attacking best in this must-win basement battle on the 4G surface.

Bruff (5th) v Bangor (4th), Kilballyowen Park

These sides are only separated by scoring difference after contrasting results in round 12. Bruff are smarting from a 13-6 home loss to Malahide. Having led 6-0 thanks to two early Sean Herlihy penalties, they failed to profit from a yellow card, and a sin-binning of their own in the second half proved costly.

A losing bonus point was also Bruff’s only reward when they were pipped 13-11 by Bangor in November. David O’Grady’s late penalty attempt was foiled by the wind and the left hand post, allowing Lewis Bret’s 53rd-minute converted try to be the match-winning score for the Seasiders.

Bangor are currently unbeaten in three league games and nicely poised in fourth spot. Max Montgomery and Martin Withers are set to come in today as the only changes up front for the Ulster side, with Mark Widdowson, who kicked 11 points last week at Bective, continuing his recently-formed centre partnership with Mike Weir.

Malahide (3rd) v Thomond (1st), Estuary Road

This is shaping up to be a mouth-watering encounter as third-placed Malahide, who have taken to Ulster Bank League rugby like a duck to water, entertain new leaders Thomond. Will we get another twist in what is an increasingly tight Division 2C title race?

Taking advantage of Sligo’s back-to-back defeats, the Soda Cakes have replaced them at the summit but the top half of the table is covered by just five points. Thomond showed their mettle last Saturday to defeat Omagh 10-6 in their first win up north in over three years. Out-half Evan Cusack converted his own try and kicked a penalty.

Interesingly, Omagh have been the only away side to win at Estuary Road this season. Five of Malahide’s seven victories so far have come at home, and their prolific winger Marcus McAllister remains a key man. He chalked up yet another try – his eighth of the campaign – in their hard-earned success away to Bruff.

Midleton (8th) v Sligo (2nd), Towns Park

Are things beginning to unravel for Sligo? There is no need for them to panic after two reversals on the trot, but they were bitterly disappointed to lose a close game at home to Seapoint last Saturday. Had returning centre Mata Fifita not knocked on in the act of scoring, it might have been a different outcome.

Seapoint were able to defend Sligo’s narrow ‘route one’ tactics in the second half, and Ross Mannion’s men will need to show more variety in attack – showing their full box of tricks – as they are still the second top scorers in the division. So, Midleton can expect something of a backlash this afternoon.

When these sides met in November, Sligo prevailed on a 16-14 scoreline in Strandhill. They had a degree of luck as the usually reliable Stuart Lee missed a late penalty for the Red Devils. Louis Farnham scored two of Midleton’s five tries in their surprisingly big win over Tullamore last time out, and they will relish this opportunity to gain revenge against the Yeats men.

Omagh (6th) v Seapoint (7th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields

Omagh head coach Phil Marshall, who was too ill to attend the Thomond game, is looking for ‘a serious reaction’ from his charges after losing at home. Their squad depth will be tested today as Mervyn Edgar, Jamie Sproule and Neil Brown are all injured, while Eoin Murnaghan and Yonga Taleni are both unavailable.

Seapoint have made an unbeaten start to 2018, claiming the scalp of Sligo in the process, with Marshall saying: “Seapoint are on the up. They have a massive scrum, a Kiwi out-half (Bain Champion) that pulls the strings and dictates play for them and though we beat them down there, they will be coming up here full of confidence.”

The Accies were 20-12 winners when they visited Kilbogget Park in early November, but Seapoint have improved since then and have made minimal changes to the team that won out west. Prop Richie Doyle and number 8 Michael Kerr come into the starting pack, which will hope to provide quick ball for in-form half-backs Steve Carroll and Champion.