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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Old Crescent’s dominance of Division 2B this season is highlighted by the fact that their closest challengers Rainey Old Boys, their final round opponents today, trail the Limerick men by a full 16 points. Rainey, MU Barnhall and Navan will advance to the promotion play-offs, with Belfast Harlequins’ fate dependent on the outcome of the Division 2C play-offs.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Ulster Bank League: Permutations Preview

City of Derry (10th) v Wanderers (5th), Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road
Apart from off-field developments, including the 10-year sponsorship deal with Youtuber ‘Mini Ladd’, this has been a season to forget for relegated City of Derry. They managed to fight off relegation last year but a callow and inexperienced squad suffered some heavy beatings during the current campaign, leaking an eye-watering 49 points on average.
Backs coach Richard McCarter takes charge of Derry for this final round fixture, following New Zealander Trevor Will’s resignation as head coach. Derry native Paul O’Kane, who led Limavady to Gordon West Cup success in 2015 and has been coaching Strabane most recently, is City of Derry’s newly-appointed director of rugby for next season.
Wanderers travel north with nothing material on the line. Five defeats in eight games since early January have seen the Chaps slide out of contention for the play-offs. They should finish with a bonus point triumph against a Derry side that also has two more Ulster Rugby Championship matches to play. Such an outcome would see Wanderers finish on 47 points – six off last season’s tally which was enough for third overall and a play-off spot.
Navan (4th) v Belfast Harlequins (9th), Balreask Old
Navan hit double-figures in their win column with a hard-earned 15-6 victory away to Rainey Old Boys last Saturday. Having come up as Division 2C champions a year ago, the Meath men have impressed in reaching the play-offs with a round to spare.
As things stand, Navan would be away to Galwegians in the promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals, so they will want to produce another momentum-building performance at home to second-from-bottom Belfast Harlequins.
‘Quins put 56 points each on Skerries and Derry in the last two rounds, but the upcoming play-offs will decide whether they will feature in Division 2B again next season. Suffering relegation for the third time in as many years would be a hammer-blow to the club.
Old Crescent (1st) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Rosbrien
Old Crescent have hardly put a foot wrong all season, posting 16 wins and a draw on the way to being crowned Division 2B champions at their beloved Rosbrien ground today.
Across the five divisions, there has not been an unbeaten 18-match campaign since Terenure College’s 100% record in Division 1B in 2013/14. Backs coach Brian Tuohy’s three tries against Barnhall helped Crescent pick up their 12th try-scoring bonus point, matching the dozens recorded by Queen’s (2010) and Highfield (2015).
Ulster forwards Tommy O’Hagan and John McCusker are available for Rainey in this top of the table encounter, and the Magherafelt men should have enough in the tank to hold onto second place and gain home advantage for the play-offs.
Skerries (8th) v Dungannon (7th), Holmpatrick
These two sides will both finish in the lower half of the table, but their divisional status is safe as second-from-bottom Belfast Harlequins cannot catch each of them.
Skerries are back on home soil after losses on the road to Belfast Harlequins (56-33) and Wanderers (20-8), games in which some younger players have been blooded as the Goats management look to the future.
Dungannon will want to salvage some pride after going down 31-21 at home to Sunday’s Well, in what was reportedly ‘their worst performance of the season’. Two excellent closing tries from Jonah Mau’u and Matthew Montgomery offered some crumbs of comfort, but it was still ‘Gannon’s sixth league defeat on the trot.
Sunday’s Well (6th) v MU Barnhall (3rd), Irish Independent Park
Sunday’s Well have strung together six straight victories since late January, finding a rich vein of form when other clubs around them have been faltering. They ran in five tries at Dungannon last time out.
Former Shannon and Munster winger Luke O’Dea has added some zip and clever angles of running to the ‘Well back-line, while the back row of Josh Barnes (brother of former Munster centre Danny Barnes), Conor O’Brien and Shane Desmond was the standout unit against ‘Gannon.
Barnhall will have drawn confidence from becoming the first team to deny runaway champions Crescent a win. They held them to a 36-all draw and will be tough opponents in the play-offs. The ‘Well will have to keep close tabs on the Barnhall back-three who scored five tries between them against Crescent, including a hat-trick from razor-sharp right winger Michael Mellett.