It is top against bottom in Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A this weekend, as struggling Dolphin play host to unbeaten leaders MU Barnhall who have pieced together a hugely impressive 26 wins in a row.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, December 14
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
#EnergiaAILTry Of The Month has returned for the 2019/20 season. The competition is in its third year and entries are now open to tries scored in all divisions of the Men’s and Women’s Energia All-Ireland League. Click here for entry information.
Old Crescent (4th) v Buccaneers (6th), Rosbrien, 1.30pm
Old Crescent are back in the top four and could really enhance their promotion prospects in their double-header against Buccaneers, either side of Christmas. However, sixth-placed Buccs make the trip in very good fettle having won five of their last six games.
Peter O’Donnell’s Pirates have developed an enviable habit of winning tight encounters of late, with captain Shane Layden crossing for a decisive 61st-minute try against Cashel last Saturday. Stalwart prop Martin Staunton also continues to deliver up front for Buccs.
Old Crescent are the division’s top scorers – racking up 12 tries and 77 points in the last two rounds – and some more of those fireworks in attack could start the festive celebrations early. Watch out again for their danger man Val McDermott, who bagged a hat-trick last week in Nenagh.
Cashel (3rd) v UL Bohemians (8th), Spafield
Cashel’s losing bonus point at Buccs was well earned given the hosts’ Connacht-bolstered line-up. The Tipperary men are nicely positioned in third, marking themselves out as one of the division’s most competitive sides, underpinned by their Cathal Ryan-led pack.
UL Bohemians have only beaten the two teams below them so far, but last week’s 50-24 victory over Dolphin, which included a second half hat-trick from elusive winger Jamie McNamara, continues an encouraging set of recent results.
Two wins and two losing bonus points in the last four rounds have the young Red Robins moving in the right direction. However, Cashel, who won last season’s corresponding fixture 24-20, will want the current league positions to be reflected on the scoreboard come full-time.
Dolphin (10th) v MU Barnhall (1st), Irish Independent Park
Having edged out second-placed Rainey Old Boys 8-3 last week, MU Barnhall stand on the brink of completing the full set of nine wins across the first half of the league season. You have to go back to the Division 2B play-offs in April 2018 for their most recent defeat.
Lock Dan Murphy’s try, coupled with a superb long-range penalty from Adam Chester, kept up the Blue Bulls’ phenomenal winning run. Bottom side Dolphin are fighting tooth and nail for every point and will aim to unsettle the table toppers.
Despite shipping 50 points, Dolphin battled their way to a try-scoring bonus point at UL Bohs. Winger Cillian Ansbro has run in some fine tries for the Corkmen but, collectively, Barnhall should have too many gears on the all-weather surface.
Queen’s University (5th) v Nenagh Ormond (9th), Dub Lane
Queen’s University have had to learn some harsh lessons in recent rounds, falling the wrong side of a few close results. After winning three on the bounce at the start of the season, they have since had some mixed outings – including last week’s 17-12 defeat to Ballymena.
Tries from Jonny Hunter and Alexander Clarke were not enough against the Braidmen. Queen’s and their visitors tomorrow, Nenagh Ormond, have a habit of producing some very entertaining and high-scoring encounters.
Nenagh won their home game last season, 32-31, before the students responded with a 41-22 victory in Belfast. The Lisatunny outfit failed to pick up a point in the last two rounds, so they need a big performance here and an increased try-scoring threat from the likes of Clayton Stewart and Josh Rowland.
Rainey Old Boys (2nd) v Ballymena (7th), Hatrick Park
Second-placed Rainey Old Boys are back on home turf and determined to keep in touch with Barnhall after back-to-back away defeats. Those losing margins were just three and five points, so a little bit of fine-tuning should have the Magherafelt men back on track this weekend.
Rainey are set to make three personnel changes, including the addition of Fintan Quinn and Joshua McAuley to the starting pack. John Andrews’ charges have impressed at home this season with three wins-from-three and an average winning margin of 21 points.
It has been a draw, two losses and a victory for Ballymena during the past four rounds. Backs Rodger McBurney, Michael Stronge and Tim Small all touched down during last Saturday’s 17-12 success against Queen’s, and more of the same will be required in their second successive Ulster derby.