Just five points cover the leading four contenders in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A, with pacesetters Queen’s University reeled in following a recent defeat and draw.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2A – ROUND 7:
Saturday, November 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYMENA (7th) v DOLPHIN (9th), Eaton Park
November has been a frustrating month for both clubs, suffering defeats in Tipperary before narrow home losses last time out. Ballymena head coach Andy Hughes was ‘bitterly disappointed’ after they were pipped to the post by MU Barnhall.
The Braidmen are only five points outside of the top four, and they boosted themselves with a 34-19 Ulster Rugby Premiership win at Banbridge last week. Back from a stint in New Zealand, out-half Ross McKay starred with two tries and 14 points from the tee.
Dolphin were also stung late on in their last league game. Their away form has not been great of late, and Brian Scott’s men would love a repeat of last March’s 47-26 victory at Eaton Park where the O’Mahonys, Dave and Brian, and captain Ryan Foley got amongst the tries.
CASHEL (3rd) v OLD CRESCENT (8th), Spafield
Back-to-back wins over Ballymena and Dolphin have Cashel, coached by Darragh Lyons and Ed Leamy, sitting third in the table. They are conceding an average of 15 points per game – the best record in the division – and have picked up six bonus points along the way.
They had to dig deep to win at Musgrave Park a fortnight ago, Argentinian Alfredo Bergada’s late try getting them over the line along with a crucial Fearghail O’Donoghue poach. Another hard-fought Munster derby awaits this weekend.
Old Crescent ended the last block of fixtures with their first two wins, including an incredible comeback from 25 points down against Nenagh Ormond. Captain Cathal Monaghan’s classy try from halfway sparked it, showing how tough his side are to beat.
MU BARNHALL (6th) v NAVAN (4th), Parsonstown
Two of the division’s three Leinster clubs get to face off, with narrow recent wins at Cashel and Ballymena keeping MU Barnhall within reach of the top four. These back-to-back home fixtures are crucial to the Blue Bulls’ promotion hopes.
Navan are three points above them and battle-hardened from going toe-to-toe with the top two teams. Back rowers Conor Farrell, Hardus van Eeden and Leon Akopian are a key trio, especially as they seek to rebound from their second half collapse at Blackrock.
These sides have not played each in the league since the 2017/18 Division 2B campaign when it was one home win apiece. Barnhall winger Conor Lacey is chasing his fourth try of the season after running in the late match winner at Ballymena.
NENAGH ORMOND (5th) v QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY (1st), New Ormond Park
Resuming the league run in fifth place, Nenagh Ormond will need to cut out the errors that proved so costly against Old Crescent. Any defensive lapses are likely to be punished by a Queen’s University team that are scoring an average of 37.66 points per match.
A strong second half saw Queen’s get back to winning way a fortnight ago against UL Bohemians, with captain David Whitten and their free-flowing back-line coming to the fore. 30 points separated these teams the last time they met in Lisatunny.
These next few weeks offer a huge test of Nenagh’s ambitions for the rest of the season. Derek Corcoran’s charges will clash with Blackrock and Navan in the lead up to Christmas, as well as facing Highfield in a Munster Senior Cup semi-final.
UL BOHEMIANS (10th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (2nd), Annacotty
A first league win has eluded UL Bohemians head coach Ian Keatley across the opening six rounds. Nonetheless, they have shown plenty of fight – summed up by stalwart flanker Ian Condell – to pick up bonus points against Ballymena, Dolphin and Old Crescent.
Blackrock make the trip to Limerick buoyed by their late heroics in overhauling Navan for their fourth straight triumph. Their back-three of Brian Colclough, Matthew Dwan and Roghan McMahon have contributed four tries in the last three rounds.
The Red Robins hope to keep it tight and make home advantage count, although ‘Rock have an enviable knack of winning close encounters. They may be second in the table, but James Blaney’s men only had a +10 scoring difference from five victories so far.