Beaten by Queen’s University last week, MU Barnhall face another top-four duel when they travel to a Ballymena team that has made big strides during the opening rounds of Division 2A.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 2A:
ROUND 5: Saturday, November 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYMENA (4th) v MU BARNHALL (2nd), Eaton Park
Ballymena will be wary of a wounded MU Barnhall side that suffered a rare home defeat, going down to high-flying Queen’s University. The Braidmen themselves are on a three-match winning run.
With winning margins between four and seven points, John Nicholl’s side are going the right way about building a promotion challenge. Young flanker Adam Lamont, the player-of-the-match against Dolphin, has touched down twice.
A return to winning ways in Antrim would keep Barnhall within reach of Queen’s. They have some players in contention for the Irish Universities squad, as forwards Connor O’Brien and Shane Stokes continue to press their claims.
OLD CRESCENT (10th) v DOLPHIN (5th), Takumi Park
Tightening up their defence remains the key focus for Old Crescent, who would dearly love to christen their newly-renamed Takumi Park with a maiden win. Especially in a Munster derby.
Crescent have added Tevita Tali Toia and Sean Monaghan to their pack for tomorrow, with Eoin Murphy and ever-threatening winger Val McDermott the two changes behind the scrum.
Losses to Queen’s and Ballymena have slowed down Dolphin’s early momentum and they have five points to make up on the top four. Recent signing Murray Linn has quickly got amongst the tries.
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY (1st) v CASHEL (6th), Dub Lane
A very tough assignment for Cashel, travelling to the unbeaten leaders after their last two league fixtures were Covid-19 cancellations. They did at least sandwich in a run-out in the Munster Senior Cup.
That sterling semi-final performance against Garryowen showed the quality that Cashel possess. However, it will be difficult for them to keep pace with Queen’s whose skilful attacking has been peerless so far.
20-year-old Ulster Academy scrum half Conor McKee is at the heart of many of the students’ best moves, while captain David Whitten, who has a real eye for the try-line, is following in the footsteps of his brothers, Ian and Robert.
RAINEY OLD BOYS (8th) v NENAGH ORMOND (7th), Hatrick Park
Owing to last week’s Covid-19 cancellation, Rainey Old Boys never got to bounce back from recent defeats to Dolphin and Barnhall. A positive result tomorrow would catapult them back towards mid-table.
Led by second row Adam Bratton, Rainey possess a well-drilled pack and some elusive runners out wide. Their last encounter with Nenagh Ormond was a 22-17 away loss in October 2019.
Nenagh’s defence was the bedrock for their maiden triumph of the current campaign, 22-11 the final scoreline against UL Bohemians. However, their scrum has looked vulnerable and Rainey will be eager to curb the influence of in-form out-half Fionn McGibney.
BUCCANEERS (3rd) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Dubarry Park, 3pm
Rory O’Connor and South African back rower Tabo Maree are Buccaneers’ two main injury concerns ahead of the visit of second-from-bottom UL Bohemians. The game has a later kick-off time of 3pm.
Kolo Kiripati’s Pirates will have been working hard on their discipline this week, following four yellow cards against Old Crescent. Bohs had the upper hand at scrum time at Nenagh, so it is an area they can build on.
Scoring tries and points has been an issue for Tommy O’Donnell’s UL youngsters, with 18 their highest points haul to date. That was Buccs’ lowest tally of the opening four rounds – they are averaging 25 per game.