Corinthians, who have climbed into the top four, and Sunday’s Well are next up to challenge leaders MU Barnhall and Greystones who both sit on six wins. But Division 2B’s match of the day sees the bottom two sides clash at Holmpatrick where Skerries are still searching for their first victory.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, December 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Corinthians (4th) v MU Barnhall (1st), Corinthian Park
November was a month of real progress for Corinthians who vaulted into fourth position thanks to wins over Dungannon (36-12) and Skerries (20-19), and also qualified for the Connacht Senior Cup final by beating Galwegians 15-7. Now comes their biggest test to date as MU Barnhall come calling.
The unbeaten Blue Bulls have picked up 29 points out of a possible 30, setting a searing pace at the top of the standings. They showed their battling qualities last time out at Dungannon, erasing a 15-3 half-time deficit to win 22-15 with captain Tom McKeown and in-form winger Matthew Alborough (2) both crossing the whitewash.
Corinthians often reserve their best performances for Cloonacauneen, and they look to be building nicely under new head coach JP Cooney, but it is hard to back against Barnhall given their winning streak and the attacking arsenal at their disposal. They need just three more points to hit the 200-point mark.
Greystones (2nd) v Sunday’s Well (5th), Dr. Hickey Park
Their December 15 meeting with Barnhall draws ever closer but second-placed Greystones will not be taking their eye off the ball. Sunday’s Well offer a stern test to Kevin Lewis’ charges who put 36 unanswered points on Belfast Harlequins last time out. Full-back Andrew Kealy took his season’s haul to 89 points.
Kealy’s former team-mate Dylan Fawsitt presented ‘Stones with a USA jersey following his appearance for the Eagles against Ireland last Saturday. The international break also gave Sunday’s Well the chance to draw breath following their frustrating losses to Barnhall (27-7) and close rivals Wanderers (22-17).
Losing at home for the first time this season was particularly gutting for the Corkmen, and there are five personnel changes from that Wanderers game. Winger Paddy Hegarty and scrum half Gary Downey are the back-line alterations, while lock Josh Barnes and back rowers Darren Loftus and Shane Desmond will also start.
Rainey Old Boys (6th) v Belfast Harlequins (8th), Hatrick Park
The first of two home Ulster derbies for Rainey Old Boys this month with Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon both visiting Magherafelt. Former Ulster lock Tim Barker is back from injury to start against ‘Quins, with centre Damien McMurray also returning and prop Stephen Rutledge added to the bench.
Rainey head coach John Andrews wants his charges to build on their recent trio of wins and make the top four by the Christmas break. Scrum half Jason Bloomfield has been leading by example with four tries in the last three rounds, with versatile backs Oisin Quinn and Scott McLean chipping in with two each.
Harlequins have had a few weeks to mull over their stinging 36-0 reversal to Greystones and will be itching to right the wrongs of that performance. Much will depend on how influential Troy Webber and captain Danny Abbett can be in the tight exchanges, while scrum half Connor Young will be looking to get the better of his opposite number Bloomfield.
Skerries (9th) v Sligo (10th), Holmpatrick
Skerries were a long-range penalty away from ending their wait for their first win last time out. The losing bonus point in that 20-19 defeat to Corinthians keeps the Goats, who have been right in the hunt in all bar one match so far, within reach of the teams above them.
For this intriguing basement battle with last season’s Division 2C champions, the second-from-bottom Goats have made three changes to their pack. Incoming props Cormac Marrey and Johnny Sherwin bolster the front row and Kieran Leonard is promoted from the bench to start at openside flanker.
10-point losers at home to Wanderers, bottom side Sligo have also refreshed their starting line-up, bringing in Enda Gavin at outside centre and Matt Davey at openside. Co-captain Ryan Feehily moves from midfield to scrum half and Ireland Under-20 international Kuba Wotjkowicz also switches back to loosehead after a run-out at flanker.
Wanderers (3rd) v Dungannon (7th), Merrion Road
Could this be Wanderers’ first home win of the season? They are well positioned in third place but have experienced two defeats and a draw at the Aviva Stadium and Merrion Road so far. They got back to winning ways last time out, triumphing 22-17 at Sunday’s well thanks to tries from Tom Walsh, Conor McQuaid and Eoghan Nihill.
McQuaid’s half-back partner Peter Brougham also kicked a crucial drop goal in the second half, the duo wielding plenty of influence behind a pack that includes second row Ruairi O’Donnell and number 8 Paddy Mallon as their only two changes today. Walsh reverts to the second row.
Dungannon showed their best form to date in that first half against leaders Barnhall – scoring tries through prop Ross Stewart and centre Mervyn Brown – but are struggling to maintain focus and perform for the full 80 minutes. Glenn Sinnamon replaces the injured Stewart this afternoon, with other changes bringing in James Gamble, Alex Gormley and Caolan Mulgrew, the seconds full-back.
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