Top four rivals Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon meet in a juicy Ulster derby, while Enniscorthy have another shot at their first Division 2B win when heading west to eighth-placed Sligo.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2B – ROUND 7:
Saturday, November 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BELFAST HARLEQUINS (3rd) v DUNGANNON (4th), Deramore Park
Provincial bragging rights and important league points on the line, as third-placed Belfast Harlequins look to recapture their consistent early season form after a win, a draw and a defeat in the last three rounds.
Young Harlequins hooker Joel Dundas, a regular scoring threat off mauls, commented: “We are excited to get back playing at home. We know Dungannon will bring physicality and a strong set piece. It’s important that we keep building after a tough win on the road at Enniscorthy.”
Dungannon resume their campaign after losing to Malahide and Galway Corinthians, but there was huge pride in both James McMahon and Matthew Montgomery playing their 100th AIL games. Montgomery helped ‘Gannon win 19-12 when they hosted ‘Quins in the Ulster Rugby Premiership back in August.
GALWEGIANS (9th) v GREYSTONES (1st), Crowley Park
Galwegians could do with the rub of the green after some agonising finishes, the latest one seeing a late penalty from Malahide’s Dave O’Halloran deny them their first win of the league season. Sligo are the Blues’ target, eight points above them.
‘Wegians have benefited from the presence of Connacht Academy winger Shane Mallon, who has scored a try in his first two appearances. They will have to be at their best to trip up a Greystones side that are six points clear at the summit.
‘Stones boast the best defence across all five divisions, with only an average of 11.66 points conceded per game. Player coach Danny Kenny warned: “Galwegians have been getting better and better each week. Same as every other team we come up against, we’re going to treat them with respect.”
MALAHIDE (6th) v GALWAY CORINTHIANS (2nd), Estuary Road
Malahide are looking to complete a quick-fire Galway double, but Corinthians will have other ideas. Ray Monaghan’s men are bedding in a settled starting XV, with the likes of ex-Wales international Dominic Day and Marc Kelly providing impact off the bench.
Second-placed Corinthians are also trying to complete a trio of November wins, having put a combined 74 points on Enniscorthy and Dungannon. Connacht Academy scrum half Matthew Devine was superb against ‘Gannon, scoring four tries.
While noting their ability to play ‘some wonderful attacking rugby at times’, Corinthians boss Michael Harding said: “There are things we still have to fix like giving teams lifelines and giving them chances to get into our 22, but overall, we are starting to trend the way we want.”
RAINEY OLD BOYS (5th) v WANDERERS (7th), Hatrick Park
Rainey Old Boys and Wanderers are split by just two points in the standings, as the Magherafelt club look to make it three home wins on the trot. They are missing captain Tommy O’Hagan, their lone try scorer last time out against Greystones.
Hooker Daniel O’Neill leads Rainey from the front row, the hosts’ pack also featuring promising flanker Mark Lee, who is part of the IRFU National Talent Squad programme, and two McCusker brothers, Ronan and Michael.
Following a very frustrating 22-19 defeat at home to Sligo, scrum half Conor McQuaid and flanker Connor O’Brien are promoted from the Wanderers bench to start in Derry. Eoin O’Shaughnessy reverts to the left wing, with former Ireland Sevens international Mick McGrath now stationed on the right.
SLIGO (8th) v ENNISCORTHY (10th), Hamilton Park
Sligo and Enniscorthy are both at the wrong end of the table, but the form book points to the hosts given they lowered the colours of Wanderers in the capital in round six. In fact, another win here could move them back into mid-table.
This is a match that Enniscorthy will have been targeting, knowing that a complete performance should see them go close. They turned in an impressive first half against Harlequins but could not sustain it, with a second yellow card proving costly.
The onus is on Tomás Stamp, Nick Doyle and Ben Kidd to drive standards as ‘Scorthy strive for more consistent results. That is the goal too for Paddy Pearson’s Sligo charges, who have some Connacht talent in the form of Hubert Gilvarry and Donnacha Byrne.