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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

Wanderers and Greystones are two of the promotion contenders in a tightly-contested Division 2B ©Voicu Duma/Perfectlight

Five points currently cover the top six sides in Energia All-Ireland League Division 2B. Two of the leading contenders for promotion meet on Saturday as leaders Greystones entertain third-placed Blackrock.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: 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.

Sligo (7th) v Ballina (10th), Hamilton Park, 2pm

Tomorrow’s earlier kick-off brings together Sligo and Ballina in a crucial Connacht derby. With eight straight defeats, a first league point has remained frustratingly out of reach for the Moy men who are coming off an encouraging performance against Wanderers.

Both teams have nine points to make up on the clubs directly above them, and a much-improved defensive display is Sligo’s most pressing target. A combination of their own errors and Malahide’s good play meant they gave the Dubliners a 29-point head-start last Saturday.

Sligo did at least hit back with three impressive tries – two of them from lively wingers Calum Goddard and Philip Carter – and it could be out wide where they find joy against their local rivals. Ballina’s wily captain and full-back Chris O’Neill will have other ideas.

Belfast Harlequins (8th) v Dungannon (9th), Deramore Park

Things have not clicked so far for the division’s two Ulster outfits. In a timely boost though, Belfast Harlequins have built some momentum in picking up six points in the last two rounds, which included their 38-10 bonus point triumph over Ballina.

A late Coby Miln penalty gave ‘Quins a deserved losing bonus point at Galwegians last Saturday, although two yellow cards proved particularly costly. Dungannon are second-from-bottom in the standings following back-to-back home defeats.

Soft penalties and defensive lapses hurt ‘Gannon at Greystones in round eight, with tries from Harrison Dudley-Rode and Alex Gormley their only scores. They will need no reminding that ‘Quins pipped them 36-35 in the Ulster Rugby Premiership earlier this season.

Galway Corinthians (2nd) v Malahide (4th), Corinthian Park

The big games are coming thick and fast for Galway Corinthians who have marked themselves out as live contenders for promotion. After defeating Greystones and Blackrock in the past fortnight, JP Cooney’s men are now neck-and-neck with ‘Stones at the summit.

Malahide’s last trip to the city of the Tribes saw them lose 31-19 to Galwegians, but since then, they have strung together three victories. The most convincing of them came last week when in-form scrum half Bobby Holland scored three tries in a 43-21 dismissal of Sligo.

Connacht Eagles’ clash with Ulster ‘A’ will impact on Corinthians’ team selection, with back-three specialist Oran McNulty, a try scorer against Blackrock, one of the players who are unavailable. That could leave the door open for Malahide to strike.

Greystones (1st) v Blackrock College (3rd), Dr Hickey Park

There is quite a Leinster flavour to the promotion race in Division 2B, with four of the current top six hailing from the eastern province. Despite a lengthy injury list, Greystones lead the way courtesy of last week’s bonus point blitz at Dungannon.

On his first league start at out-half, Matt O’Brien formed a very effective half-back partnership with captain Killian Marmion. The pair scored three of ‘Stones’ six tries, but Blackrock will offer a much sterner test as the clubs compete over two legs for the Brian McLoughlin Cup.

‘Rock slipped up 24-13 at home to Corinthians, in what was their first league loss under James Blaney, and it will be interesting to see how their defence – the best in the division with average concession of 15 points per game – fares against the most potent attack. ‘Stones are putting an average of 30 points on their opponents.

Wanderers (6th) v Galwegians (5th), Merrion Road

Having won 19 out of a possible 20 points in the last few rounds, Galwegians head for the capital with huge confidence. Andrew Browne’s fifth-placed Blues have found their rhythm with free-scoring flanker Mikey O’Donnell one of the players to really shine.

Diarmuid Kilgallen, ‘Wegians’ two-try centre against Harlequins, is on Connacht Eagles duty this week, so Wanderers will be looking to make the most of his absence. They got back to winning ways in Ballina, aided by tries from Niall O’Donoghue, Cian Doddy and captain Brian Quill.

A winning finish to the calendar year would be a big boost to the Chaps, especially after narrowly losing their last two home games to Greystones and Malahide. Opposing skippers Quill and Marty Cummins should have a ding-dong battle in the second row.