Despite the distraction of the Six Nations rugby on Saturday we had a full programme in the Ulster Bank All Ireland League with seven from eight ties in the 2nd Rd of the River Rock Towns Cup completed. Water logged pitches at Eaton Park prevented the Ballymena seconds v Ballyclare match from taking place.
ULSTER BANK ALL IRELAND LEAGUE
In the All Ireland League Ballynahinch, Malone, Rainey OB and Omagh won with Banbridge and Bangor drawing their matches. There were narrow defeats for Queens Uni, Dungannon and Belfast Harlequins. City of Armagh lost 34 – 18 at home to Malone. City of Derry lost 37 – 12 at home to Navan RFC with Ballymena suffering a heavy 58 – 12 defeat away to UCC in Cork.
Bangor Captain David Bradford suffered a double fracture of his tibia and fibula during an innocuous collision with a Bruff player after a Bangor tackle in the first half of their game away at the weekend. Bangor Chairman Jonny Watson was full of praise for the medical support provided by Bruff RFC in treating David prior to the arrival of an Ambulance. He has been detained in Limerick hospital and underwent surgery on Tuesday. The club are hoping he will be released today to return home. We all send David our best wishes and wish him a speedy recovery.
This is the second Captain Bangor have lost to injury. Prop Philip Whyte suffered a serious ACL injury against Sligo on the 9.12.17.
In Div 1B Ballynahinch moved top of the table after winger Richard Reaney kicked a late drop goal to defeat Naas 27 – 24 with their neighbours Banbridge requiring a late penalty try to draw 15 – 15 with Shannon at Rifle Park. Ballynahinch have a one point lead over 2nd place Shannon with Banbridge a further four points behind followed by UCC in 4th place with five games remaining. Ballymena showing eight changes from the team that defeated Shannon the previous week at Eaton Park conceded seven tries in their heavy defeat that moves Andy Graham’s team down into the play off place two points behind 8th place UL Bohemians.
Ballynahinch team v Naas 1. Jerry Cronin, 2. Clayton Milligan, 3. Stuart Orr, 4. Peter Browne, 5. John Donnan, 6. Keith Dickson, 7. Josh Donaldson, 8. Conal Boomer, 9. Aaron Cairns (Captain), 10. Ryan Wilson, 11. Richard Reaney, 12. Tom Rock, 13. Stuart Morrow, 14. David Busby, 15. Conor Kelly, 16. Conor Piper, 17. Campbell Classon, 18. James Simpson, 19. Chris Gibson, 20. Paddy Wright.
Points scorers: Peter Browne, Conal Boomer, Jerry Cronin and Richard Reaney 1 x try each. Richard Reaney 2 x con and 1 x DG.
Banbridge team v Shannon: 1. Eric O’Sullivan, 2. Peter Cromie, 3. Michael Cromie, 4. Chris Allen, 5. Matthew Laird, 6. Caleb Montgomery, 7. Dale Carson, 8. Stephen Irvine, 9. Ian Porter, 10. Johnny Little, 11. Adam Ervine (Captain), 12. Ben Carson, 13. Andrew Morrison, 14. John Porter, 15. Adam Doherty. 16. Jonny Weir, 17. Stuart Cromie, 18. Mike Bentley, 19. Jason Gribben, 20. Ross Cartmill.
Points scorers: Adam Ervine 1 x try, 1 x pen try, Ian Porter 1 x pen.
Ballymena team v UCC: 1. Nacho Clandero Crespo, 2. James Taggart, 3. Ross Kane, 4. David Whann, 5. Mark Foster, 6. Marcus Rea, 7. Ben O’Ryan, 8. Stephen Mulholland, 9. Michael Stronge, 10. David Shanahan, 11. Jonny Rossborough, 12. John Laughlin, 13. Callum Patterson, 14. Dean Reynolds, 15. Steven Shaw, 16. Houston Bonnar, 17. Chris Cundell, 18. Joe Thompson, 19. Chris Smith, 20. Daryl Montgomery.
Points scorers: James Taggart and Callum Patterson 1 x try each. Callum Patterson 1 x con.
In Div 2A leaders Malone proved too strong for 4th place City of Armagh at the Palace Grounds winning 34 – 18. With Highfield defeating Nenagh Ormond 15 – 13 the Gibson Park side have now extended their lead to seven points. City of Armagh have dropped down into 5th place four points behind Cashel. Queens one point loss at Blackrock College has the students in 6th place eight points ahead of 9th place Galway Corinthians. With 10th place Galwegians defeating Greystones 27 – 17 there will be a few anxious weeks coming up for the teams above them including Queens who have lost their last five UBL matches.
Malone team v City of Armagh: 1. Ben Halliday, 2. Dan Kerr, 3. Peter Cooper, 4. James McAllister, 5. Michael Shiels, 6. Dave Cave, 7. Ross Todd (Captain), 8. Joe Dunleavy, 9. Connor Spence, 10. Callum Smith, 11. Michael Cartmill, 12. Nathan Brown, 13. Josh Pentland, 14. Rory Campbell, 15. Jack Owens, 16. Lee Barlow, 17. Ryan Clarke, 18. Neil Alcorn, 19. Graham Curtis, 20. Andy Bryans.
Malone points s corers: Jack Owens 2 x tries, Nathan Brown 1 x try, I x penalty try. Rory Campbell 4 x cons and 2 x pens.
City of Armagh team: 1. Simon Carlisle, 2. Jonathan Morton, 3. Daryl Morton, 4. Josh McKinley, 5. James Hanna, 6. Robert Whitten, 7. Stuart Hooks, 8. Neil Faloon, 9. Harry doyle, 10. Cormac Fox, 11. Robbie Faloon, 12. Johnny Pollock, 13. John Faloon (Captain), 14. Ryan Purvis, 15. Timmy McNeice, 16. Andrew Smyth, 17. Paul Mullan, 18. Peter Starrett, 19. Andrew Willis, 20 Evin Crummie.
Points scorers: Stuart Hooks and Robert Whitten 1 x try each. Cormac Foc 1 x con and 2 x pens.
Queens points scorers in their 15 – 14 defeat away to Blackrock College: Jack Milligan and Ali Burke 1 x try each. Richie McMaster 2 x cons.
In Div 2B Rainey OB put the disappointing defeat at Skerries behind them to win 31 – 22 away to Wanderers at the Aviva stadium. This result was achieved despite the absence of several 1st xv players. Dungannon’s winning run ended with a narrow 10 – 5 defeat at Stevenson Park to MU Barnhall. Dungannon will look to make the playoff places by defeating Belfast Harlequins this weekend with their game in hand and closing the gap on 4th place Navan RFC. Belfast Harlequins have been unlucky in losing their last two home matches against Wanderers 22 – 18 and Sunday’s Well on Sat 26 – 22 to leave them 13 points adrift of 8th place Sunday’s Well. Lose this weekend at Dungannon and you would have to say Quins will be looking to the playoffs to keep their place in Div 2B next season. After two heavy defeats City of Derry put in a much improved performance at the Craig Thompson stadium before going down 37 – 12 to visitors Navn RFC.
Rainey OB team v Wanderers: 1. Kieran Donaghy, 2. Michael Nevin, 3. Aidan McSwiggan, 4. Ronan McCusker, 5. John McCusker, 6. Michael McCusker, 7. Andrew Harbinson, 8. Jodie McMurray,9. Michael Wilson, 10. Andrew Magrath, 11. Robert Lamberton, 12. Damien McMurray, 13. Oisin Quinn, 14. Andrew Donaghy, 15. Michael O’Neill, 16. Fintan Quinn, 17. Darren Corrigan, 18. Scott Mclean, 19. Callum Smyth, 20. Josh McIIroy.
Points scorers: Andrew Donaghy 2 x tries, Michael O’Neill and Robert Lamberton 1 x try each. Andrew Magrath 1 x con, 2 x pens and 1 x DG.
City of Derry backs coach Richard McCarter turned out for the 1st xv against Navan RFC on Sat. He scored 1 x try and kicked I x con with Simon Logue 1 x try in the teams 37 – 12 home defeat. The coach felt the team played fairly well in patches with the result flattering Navan. His on field presence was to help the team.
In Div 2C Bangor hold on to 4th place after securing a 10 – 10 draw away to Bruff despite losing Captain David Bradford to a double leg fracture in the first half. Omagh bounced back from a home defeat to Thomond to win 12 – 0 at home to Seapoint. Both Ulster teams are well placed to challenge for the league title. Six points separate the top six teams with five points separating the bottom four teams. In fact 10th place Tullamore are only 11 points behind 4th place Bangor. That is how competitive this league is. Two defeats and you could find yourself caught up in the playoff/relegation places.
Bangor team played Bruff: 1. Andrew Shaw, 2. Max Montgomery, 3. James Leary, 4. Lewis Stevenson, 5. Martin Withers, 6. Jamie Clegg, 7. David Bradford ( Captain), 8. Jack Cooke, 9. Lewis Brett, 10. Ross McCloskey, 11. Desi Fusco, 12. Mike Weir, 13. Mark Widdowson, 14. Dave Charles, 15. Phil Broderick, 16. Evan Wellard- McMillan, 17. Charlie Clegg.
Points scorers: Phil Broderick 1 x try. Mark Widdowson 1 x con and 1 x pen. Bangor drew with Bruff 10 – 10.
Omagh team played Seapoint: 1. Peter Todd, 2. Adam Pollock, 3. Richard Smyth, 4. Stuart Allen, 5. Johnny Sproule, 6. James Catterson, 7. Adam Longwell, 8. Matthew Clyde, 9. Stewart McCain (Captain), 10. Scott Elliott, 11. Ryan Mitchell. 12. Luke Hanson, 13. Scott Barr, 14. Matty Eccles, 15. Alastair Beckett, 16. Matthew Sproule, 17. Philip Ewing, 18. Richard Harpur, Adam Beattie, 20 Stephen MacLaine.
Points scorers: Ryan Mitchell 1 x try, 1 x penalty try. Omagh won 12 – 0.
RIVER ROCK TOWNS CUP
In the River Rock Towns Cup 2nd Rd holders Ballynahinch seconds were beaten 31 – 7 at home to City of Armagh seconds. Randalstown won 16 – 10 at Coleraine. Clogher Valley only recorded their fourth win of the season defeating in form Dromore 25 – 10 at the Cran. Ards defeated Junior Cup semi finalists Ballymoney 22 – 3. Portadown maintained their good form winning 12 – 0 at home to Enniskillen. Limavady proved too strong for Div 3 league leaders Lurgan winning 42 – 5 at the John Hunter Memorial Grounds. Carrick ended a six match league run without a win to comfortably defeat Strabane 52 – 12. The postponed Ballymena seconds v Ballyclare match will be played this weekend.
City of Armagh team that defeated Ballynahinch seconds: 1. Eoin O’Hagan, 2. Andrew Morton, 3. Philip Matthews, 4. Willy Martin, 5. Stephen Morton, 6. James Morton, 7.Gareth McNeice, 8. Barry Finn, 9. TC Campbell, 10. Harry Boyd, 11. Ruari Karlson, 12. Pau Gimeno, 13. Matthew Hooks, 14. Shane McKeever, 15. Kyle Faloon, 16. Joshua Kennedy, 17. Misi Bogotini.
City of Armagh seconds points scorers v Ballynahinch: Matthew Hooks 2 x tries, James Morton 1 x try, Harry Boyd 1 x try, 4 x con, 1 x pen (16 points).
Clogher Valley team played Dromore: 1. Philip Hopper, 2. David Cobane, 3.Neil Henderson, 4. Michael Treanor, 5. David Sharkey, 6. BJ Wilson, 7. Jonny Porter, 8. Ryan Wilson, 9. Mark Ellis, 10. Neil Trotter, 11. Clive Donaldson, 12. Allister Trenier, 13. Andy Breen, 14. Josh Coulter, 15. Dave Kelly, 16. Simon Clarke, 17.PC Falconer.
Points scorers: Neil Henderson, Ryan Wilson and Kyle Cobane 1 x try each. Neil Trotter 2 x con and 2 x pens. Clogher won 25 – 10.
Limavady points scorers v Lurgan: Daniel Irvine 4 x tries, Peter Wilson 2 x tries, Michael Rice and Tom McClelland 1 x try each.
Carrick points scorers v Strabane: Paul Greenaway, Stuart Currie, Ryan McGonigle, Conor Cambridge, Pete Simpson, Fionn McCormick and Adam White 1 x try each. Adam White 4 x con and 3 x pens. (22 points).
Draw for Quarters Finals was held with matches to be played on the 24th February.
Clogher Valley v City of Armagh seconds
Ballymena seconds/Ballyclare v Limavady
Portadown v Ards
Carrickfergus v Randalstown
Potentially have four Div 1 sides at home if Ballyclare defeat Ballymena seconds this weekend with favourites City of Armagh away to Clogher Valley. All three Div 2 sides Limavady, Ards and Randalstown have been drawn away.
There are no Ulster Bank All Ireland league games on the 10th and 24th February. The same applies to the semi finals on the 17th March with the Final to be held at the Kingspan stadium on Easter Monday 2nd April along with the McCrea Cup Final.
In Div 3 of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Donaghadee won 31 – 0 at Newry to close the gap on league leaders Lurgan to three points.
Grosvenor secured the Conference League 2 title overcoming Banbridge seconds 45 – 10 at Gibson Park.
ULSTER BANK ALL IRELAND LEAGUE
Garryowen(6) v Dublin Uni (9). Kick off 1.30PM
Galwegians (10) v Nenagh Ormond (3). Played Friday 9.2.18. KO 8PM
Dungannon (6) v Belfast Harlequins (9)
This game has already been postponed twice on the 6th and 20th January due to water logged pitches at Stevenson Park. Both teams will be hoping it is third time lucky this weekend.
Dungannnon Head coach Andrew Hughes described the defeat against Barnhall as one of those days when everything that could go wrong did. His team squandered four try scoring opportunities in the 1st half and another two in the second half he would have expected his team to put away. Not only that the coach lost four players to injury. Even at the death his team could have sneaked a victory when the players had created an overlap only for their decision making to let them down. As he said there are days you just have to accept that it is not going to be your day and Saturday was example of that. Captain James McMahon picked up a knee injury with the club awaiting the results of a scan. Mervyn Brown is following concussion protocols. Second row Stephen Todd has strained ligaments in his elbow. Both will be out for 3/4 weeks. Out half Chris Swash is still unavailable with Conor McGeough continuing at 10. Andrew McPhillips will replace Mervyn Brown on the wing. Ross McCaughey will make his first start of the season in the second row alongside Pete Doran with David Leyburn returning to the back row in place of James McMahon.
James Gamble continues at tight head after putting in two impressive performances in the set piece against two sizeable packs. Good news on the injured front is that two props Rodney Bennett and Sean O’Hagan are making good progress after being injured in the Ulster Premiership game at Omagh on the 30.12.17. Originally both were expected to be out for the remainder of the season. They are responding well to treatment and rehabilitation with both players hoping to make a return in the closing stages of the season.
Dungannon team v MU Barnhall: 1. Glenn Sinnamon, 2. Daniel Maxwell, 3. James Gamble, 4. Stephen Todd, 5. David Leyburn, 6. James McMahon (Captain), 7. Mark Riddell, 8. Jonah Mau’u, 9. Ben Matchett, 10. Conor McGeough, 11. Mervyn Brown, 12. Paul Armstrong, 13. Seamus Mallon, 14. Matthew Montgomery. 15. Andrew McGregor, 16. Malcolm Allister, 17. Adam Lockhart, 18. Peter Doran, 19. Andrew McPhillips, 20. John Russell.
Points scorers: Matthew Montgomery 1 x try. Dungannon lost 10 – 5.
Dungannon winger Matthew Montgomery maintained his excellent try scoring form scoring his 6th try on Sat.
Belfast Harlequins v Sunday’s Well: 1. Mark McGrath, 2. Saul Herdman, 3. James Harrison, 4. Danny Annett (captain), 5. Callum Leckey, 6. Zac Jordan, 7. Daryl Marshall, 8. Toby Mannus, 9. Conor McAuley, 10. Mattie McKenzie, 11. Richie McKee, 12. Christian Bennison, 13. Mark Gribben, 14. Aodhan Gallagher, 15. Mark Glover, 16. Steven Weir, 17. Rory Harrison, 18.Matthew Borne, 19. David Devine, 20. Ethan Boal.
Points scorers: Mattie McKenzie 2 x tries, 2 x con, 1 x pen (17points), Mark Glover 1 x try. Belfast Harlequins lost 26 – 22.
Quins make one change in the front row from Saturday’s selection with Rory Harrison replacing Mark McGrath and Charlie Sargaison taking his place on the bench. Amongst the bench replacements James McConnell comes in for Ethan Boal for the match at Dungannon.
Dungannon won 41 – 8 at Deramore Park on the 11.11.17
RIVER ROCK TOWNS CUP 2ND RD
Ballymena seconds v Ballyclare
Talking to Ballymena Head coach Andy Graham he wont be finalising their selection for the game against Ballyclare until Thursday night. The coach suffered late cry offs and injuries prior to and during the teams defeat away to UCC on Saturday. Again very frustrating for everybody at the club after defeating Shannon the previous week and suffering a heavy defeat the next because of so many changes.
Ballyclare team to play Ballymena: 1. Dean Jones, 2. Matthew Coulter, 3. Rory Henderson, 4. Robert Boyd, 5. Grant Bartley (Captain), 6. Ryan Tweed, 7. Gary Weatherup, 8. David Clarke, 9. Andy Eastop, 10. Robert Smith, 11. Michael Kirk, 12. Joel McBride, 13. Robbie Reid, 14. Stuart Cusick, 15. Gary Clotworthy, 16. Ricky Lutton, 17. Paul Robinson.
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 1 ROUND 14
Carrickfergus (5) v Cooke (6)
Clogher Valley v Ballyclare Postponed. Ballyclare playing postponed Towns Cup match with Ballymena seconds this weekend.
Coleraine (9) v Portadown (7)
Enniskillen (8) v CIYMS (3)
Instonians (1) v Dromore (4)
Just a note in light of the build up of postponed fixtures. Would it not have been better to allow the Clogher Valley v Ballyclare league game to proceed this weekend considering the travel distance involved for Ballyclare. Instead the game has been postponed to allow neighbouring clubs Ballymena and Ballyclare to play their postponed Towns Cup game on Saturday. Could this Cup tie not have been played mid week. I know we have protocols that dictate that postponed cup ties take preference over league games, but is there not an argument on this occasion for the Competitions committee to over rule the protocol. Now Ballyclare will face the prospect of having to travel mid week to Fivemiletown to play this postponed league match. Now I can understand why Instonians did not enter the McCrea Cup so they can focus purely on their league ambitions this season. Ballyclare now face a number of mid week games in the Conference league and league as they challenge Instonians for the league title. The postponement of the Clogher match means that the Fivemiletown club will loose much needed revenue from a well attended pre match lunch.
Carrickfergus v Cooke
There will have been much relief last weekend that Carrickfergus ended their five match losing run in defeating Strabane away in the Towns Cup to qualify for the last eight. Five consecutive league defeats have seen Carrick slip out of the top four into 5th place. They will also be acutely aware that they are only nine points ahead of 9th place Coleraine. Important fixture for both teams this weekend. Cooke have a match in hand and are only one point behind Carrickfergus. Could 5th place secure a place in the All Ireland Junior Cup if either Instonians or Ballyclare are promoted to the All Ireland League. Cooke lost out 28 – 21 to Portadown two weeks ago in a seven try thriller at Chambers Park whereas Carrick lost to CIYMS 38 -34 in a game where 10 tries were scored.
Carrickfergus team played Strabane: 1. R Williams, 2. Gareth McKeown, 3. Paul Greenaway, 4. Stuart Currie, 5. C Taylor, 6. Alan Whitley, 7. Ryan McGonigle, 8. Andy McKeen 9. Conor Cambridge, 10. D Carse, 11. David Moore, 12. Adam White, 13. Pete Simpson, 14. Simon White, 15. Fionn McCormick, 16. J Graham, 17. D Lewis.
Points scorers: Paul Greenaway, Stuart Currie, Ryan McGonigle, Conor Cambridge, Pete Simpson, Fionn McCormick and Adam white 1 x try each, Adam White 4 x con and 3 x pens Total 22 points. Carrick won 52 – 12.
Carrick coaches Davy Scott and Michael Rainey are expected to include Bradley Luney, Chris Rodgers and Derek McKeen in the squad for Saturday’s game with Cooke.
Carrick lost 19 – 18 away to Cooke on the 14.10.17
Coleraine v Portadown
A much changed Randalstown team added to the woes of Coleraine Head coach Richard Boyd when they inflicted a 16 – 10 defeat on his team in the Towns Cup last weekend. That made it five back to back defeats for Coleraine. After four league defeats the team find themselves down in 9th place. This week they will face a Portadown team who have won 4/5 matches played as they look for league points to move further away from the bottom three teams. A lot at stake for both teams in this fixture.
Coleraine Head coach Richard Boyd: The team have had a tough season back in Div 1 as they have been on the wrong side of a few narrow defeats along with being hit really hard with injuries and unavailibility. An example is this weekend with Dijon McCorkell, David Greatorex, Chris Nash , James Blair, Ady Nevin, Paddy McGowan, Roger Bonnar, Brian Hughes and Steven Callaghan all out.
The seconds have had a promising season with several of their younger players being called up to test themselves in this very competitive league. This weekend will see the return of Cillian Butler, Andy McKee, Michael Ferguson, Steven Dickey, Niall Irwin, Kyle McAuley, Adam Parke and Ally Corbett all returning to the side or stepping up from the seconds to fill gaps left from the last few games.
It is important the playing squad pull together and get bodies back on the pitch again and really focus on the teams final seven league games. Coleraine have Portadown, Carrick, Cooke and Dromore to play at home with Clogher Valley, Enniskillen and CIYMS to play away. All tough games with a couple of wins changing everything and ensuring the teams status in the league is secured to allow the the squad to push on again next season.
Portadown Head coach Richard Hedley has been pleased with his teams recent performances. Unfortunately the team are experiencing a number of injuries. Mark Adamson who has played well at centre and out half will be ruled out for the next few weeks through injury. Both second row James Wright and full back Luke Ashton are unavailable this weekend. The squad has a few other knocks with selection not being finalised until Thursday night.
Portadown team that played Enniskillen: 1.Matthew Davison, 2. Robbie Reid, 3. Mark Henderson, 4. James Wright, 5. Danny Alexander, 6. Gary Hall, 7. Thomas Johnston, 8. Dairmuid O’Kane, 9. Michael Orr, 10. Mark Adamson, 11. Jack Orr, 12. Jonny Holden, 13. Ollie Montels. 14. J Burns, 15. Luke Ashton, 16. Greenaway, 17 N/K.
Points scorers: Jack Orr and Ollie Montels 1 x try each. Mark Adamson 1 x con.. Portadown won 12 – 0.
Coleraine lost 23 – 21 away to Portadown on the 7.10.17
Enniskillen v CIYMS
It has not happened for Enniskillen this season. Having made the Towns Cup Final last season and qualified for the All Ireland Junior Cup they find themselves struggling for league points at the bottom of the table along with Coleraine and Clogher Valley. Three away defeats to Portadown, Dromore and Instonians will not have lifted morale amongst the playing squad for the visit of 3rd place CIYMS. The East Belfast side were 32 – 16 winners at Clogher Valley when they last travelled West on the 6th January. They have won 5/6 league games with their only defeat coming at Ballyclare 13 – 5. In their last game at Mullaghmeen Enniskillen defeated Carrick 18 – 7 on the 13th January. The CIYMS team have scored 22 tries during this period with coach Gareth Fry well aware they have conceded 10 tries in two high scoring wins over Portadown and Carrickfergus.
Enniskillen Head coach Willy Gibson is hoping to run with the same team that played at Portadown on Sat. There are a few injury concerns with selection to be finalised on Thursday night. He felt it was a better performance at Portadown but again the team were not clinical enough with a lot of small mistakes impacting on their ability to win the game.
Enniskillen team that played Portadown: 1. Alan Ferguson, 2. Ryan Cathcart (Captain), 3. Sam Parke, 4.David Buchanan, 5. Kaine Holden, 6. Jamie Johnston, 7. Gareth McCoy, 8. Alex Gormley, 9. Patrick McCleery, 10. Adam Lendrum, 11. Matthew Balmer, 12. Michael Law, 13. Gavin Parke, 14. James ferguson, 15. Ashley Finlay, 16. Ricky Lee, 17. Grayson Donnelly.
CIYMS Head coach Gareth Fry acknowledges that the home supporters at Belmont were kept on their toes during the high scoring wins over Portadown and Carrickfergus. Both the coaches and the players are quietly confident they can keep their winning run going. But are under no illusions that it will be a hard fought battle at Mullaghmeen. Its a difficult place to go to at the best of times and the weather forecast may increase that difficulty.
For this weekend CI welcome back Gavin Woods in the front row with a number of tough decisions to be made with Captain Callum Irvine returning in the backline. In the first game Enniskillen were hard to break down . They are a well organised side and look after the ball.
Enniskillen lost 13 – 12 away to CIYMS on the 4.10.17
Instonians v Dromore
Opportunity for Instonians to open up a potential 5/6 point lead on 2nd place Ballyclare before these two teams meet at the Cloughan on Saturday week. They will be aware that Dromore are the only team to have defeated them in the league 21 – 19 this season at Barban Hill on the 14th October. Since that defeat Instonians have won 8 league matches and picked up 6 bonus point wins to move one point ahead of 2nd place Ballyclare.
For Dromore Director of Rugby Jeremy Ogle it was another case of what might have been at the Cran on Saturday. Leading 10 – 5 at halftime they allowed Clogher Valley to score 20 unanswered points to win the game 25 – 10. Three times Dromore have played Clogher Valley and three times they have given up a lead to allow Clogher to win each game in the Junior Cup, Towns Cup and the league. It is all the more remarkable when you consider Clogher Valley have only won 4 x games and drawn 1 x match this season. Both teams are due to meet for a 4th occasion at Barban Hill on the 24th March in the league. One player who continues to stand out for Dromore this season is winger Brian McClearn who notched his 10th try at the weekend. Influential scrum half Lee Steenson was missing last sat with flu and along with the unavailability of centre Graeme McCandless, coach Jonny Cullen was forced to start along with making several positional changes. An early injury to back rower Adam McGregor did not help the cause of Dromore. Like CIYMS, Dromore are challenging for a top four place this season and qualification for the All Ireland Junior Cup.
Dromore will wlcome back both Lee Steenson and Graeme McCandless for the match on Saturday with coach Jonny Cullen and Ryan Cobb standing aside. NZ prop Clark McCleod faces a late fitness test on Thursday night.
Instonians lost 21 – 19 away to Dromore on the 14.10.17
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 2 ROUND 13
Ards (5) v Randalstown (2)
Grosvenor (1) v Ballymoney (3)
Larne (6) v PSNI (9)
Lisburn (8) v Limavady (7)
UUC (10) v Academy (4)
Ards v Randalstown
After enduring relegation from the All Ireland League and subsequently dropping down to Div 2 of the Ulster Rugby Championship Ards under coaches John West and Scott Young are suddenly enjoying their rugby again. Six wins in their last seven games have the team in 5th place in Div 2 and into the last eight of the Towns Cup after defeating Ballymoney on Saturday. The ambition for the coaches and players is to finish in the top four this season. Games against Randalstown, Ballymoney and Academy will determine whether they can achieve their goal.
The Ards coaches have a few difficult selection decisions to make for this weekend. Alex Hendrickse, Mark Banford and Paul Cox are pushing for a starting place in the backline. Second row Gareth McBurney will replace the unavailable Ryan Thompson on the bench. With the turnaround in 1st xv performances this season a number of players have returned to play at the club increasing the competition for starting places.
Randalstown under the stewardship of Head coach Gary Longwell and his assistant Martin Connolly have continued to build on the progress they made last season. They are well positioned to finish 2nd and make the playoff match for a place in Div 1 next season. The club are developing strength in depth and this was reflected in their 16 – 10 win at Coleraine in the Towns Cup. With six regular 1st xv players unavailable Randalstown were still able to make it into the last eight of the Towns Cup.
Randalstown 1st xv Manager Willie Allen was delighted with the attitude of the Randalstown players in their win at Coleraine. Their attitude was right from the start of the game and this made a huge difference. Four of the team who played last Saturday are unavailable this week. Players who were unavailable last week including Chris Donnelly, Chris McGolderick, Marty O’Neill, Craig Barclay, Daniel and Niall McGlade are expected to come into consideration this week.
Ards v Ballymoney: 1. Andrew Foster (Captain), 2. David Chivers, 3. Matty Kane, 4. Ross Torney, 5. John Dowey, 6. Danny Patton, 7. Onisi Burekama, 8. Graeme Taylor, 9. Stuart Paul, 10. Scott Young, 11. Adam Faloon, 12. Trevor Devlin, 13. David Armstrong, 14. Adam Coulter, 15. Matthew Neill, 16. Tom Arthur-Donnan, 17. Ryan Thompson.
Points scorers: David Chivers 2 x tries, Andrew Foster and Onisi Burekama 1 x try each, Trevor Devlin 1 x con. Ards won 22 – 9.
Randalstown team v Coleraine: 1.Gary Hume, 2. Ian Hume, 3. Matty McBrien, 4. David Millar ( Captain), 5. Dean McCrory, 6. Thomas Kelso, 7. David Smith, 8. Jonny Tullerton, 9. Peter McWhirter, 10. Martin Connolly, 11. Dale Morrow, 12. Jamie Orr, 13. Callum McGrenaghan, 14. Coby Mason, 15. Conor Murray. 16. Peter Knowles, 17. Scott McClenaghan.
Points scorers: Conor Murray 1 x try. Martin Connolly 1 x con and 3 x pens. Randalstown won 16 – 10.
Ards lost 31 – 11 away to Randalstown on the 28.10.17.
Grosvenor v Ballymoney
The East Belfast side remain undefeated in the league and have opened up a 13 point lead on their closest rivals Randalstown with six matches remaining. Under coaches Robert Ford and Michael Smyth they wrapped up the Conference league 1 title with a win over Banbridge seconds at the weekend.
Head coach Robert Ford has lost Peter Davison and Ben Coard to injury from the weekend win over Banbridge seconds for the match with Ballymoney. He welcomes back Captain and number 8 Andrew Kelly along with recent signing James Greer. The coach and the players are expecting a very tough game with Ballymoney who pushed Grosvenor close when the two teams met earlier in the season.
Ballymoney still can finish in 2nd place in Div 2. They will not find Gibson Park an easy venue this week. Three defeats in their last four games have slowed their progress with their interest in the Towns Cup being ended last weekend by Ards. The coaches Jonny Hanna, Martin Irwin and James Cleland will be anxious to close the gap on Randalstown before these two teams meet at Kilraughts Road on the 10th March. A game that potentially can decide the runners up spot in Div 2. Injuries and unavailability have had an impact on team selection.
The view of Johnny Hanna is that it is going to be difficult to get a result on Saturday against a Grosvenor team who remain unbeaten in the league this season, but if his team perform you always have a chance. For the match at Ards, Ballymoney were missing a number of Senior players and at 5 – 3 at halftime the Ballymoney team lost its attacking shape in the second half. Ards deserved the win and played the conditions better but Ballymoney were down to 14 players for the last 10 minutes when Ards scored two tries. As Jonny Hanna has pointed out to me it is all about building strength in depth for the future. Nine of the team that played against Ards were 21 and under with the rest all under 30. For the game at Grosvenor the coaches will be missing Captain John McFetridge and player coach James Cleland through injury but hope to welcome back the experience of Peter Irvine and fellow player coach Martin Irwin.
Grosvenor won 23 – 0 away to Ballymoney on the 18.11.17
Larne v PSNI
Five defeats in their last six games. Not the form or progress Larne Head coach Graham Cloke would have expected from this talented playing squad this season. They were unlucky to lose out in their last league outing to Limavady 15 – 13 in the North West with Peter Wilson kicking a winning penalty for the home side. With two home games coming up against the PSNI and Lisburn the coach will be looking a response from his players.
The PSNI have struggled to adapting to playing in Div 2 this season after securing promotion. Recent heavy defeats have made it difficult for the team to build any momentum as they and UUC battle it out for 9th and 10th place.
PSNI lost 33 – 0 at home to Larne on the 28.10.17
Lisburn v Limavady
The Blaris side had lost their last eight games before surprising 4th place Academy with a well deserved 17 – 15 win over the Mallusk side. Can they build on this win as they look to stretch the gap between themselves and the PSNI and UUC in 9th and 10th place. They face a resurgent Limavady team who have won 6/8 games with their only defeats coming against Ards losing 17 – 16 and 17 – 12. 20 tries in their last five games is a testament to the turnaround in their form under Head coach Mark Nicholl.
Limavady Head coach Mark Nicholl is expecting to have five players unavailable for a variety of reasons this week with selection being finalised on Thursday night.
Limavady team played Lurgan: 1. Rory Squires, 2. Luke Monttgomery, 3. Clive Scott, 4. Colin Henry, 5. Michael Rice, 6. Sam Mackey, 7. Perry Semple, 8. Daniel Irvine, 9. Jamie Millar, 10. Peter Wilson, 11. Stuart Roddy, 12.Jamie ‘Mo’ Millar, 13. William McCleery, 14. Jack Elliott, 15. Tom McClelland, 16. John McCollum, 17. Thomas McCauley.
Points scorers: 1. Daniel Irvine 4 x tries, Peter Wilson 2 x tries, Michael Rice and Tom McClelland 1 x try each. Limavady won 42 – 5.
Lisburn lost 36 – 24 away to Limavady on the 28.10.17
UUC v Academy
Looks like it is a straight contest between PSNI and UUC to see who finishes in 9th and 10th place. UUC put in much improved performances in losing at Randalstown and Larne. Academy were potential outsiders to finish in 2nd place after a good league run. They unfortunately came unstuck at Lisburn losing 17 – 15 two weeks ago. They remain in 4th place seven points behind 3rd place Ballymoney with a game in hand. They also have Ards chasing that 4th place with both teams due to meet at Roughfort on the 17th February.
Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn has yet to finalise his team. He will have to make two changes from the team defeated at Lisburn with both Chris Cooper and Richard Henderson ruled out for this weekend through injury.
UUC lost 40 – 10 away to Academy on the 28.10.17
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 3 ROUND 17
Cavan (6) v Letterkenny (10)
Civil Service (11) v Donaghadee (2)
Holywood (8) v Monaghan (3)
Newry (7) v Donegal Town (12)
Strabane (4) v Lurgan (1)
Virginia (5) v BHSFP (9)
Ulster Premiership 2nd xv League
Banbridge seconds (3) v City of Armagh seconds (2)
Omagh seconds (5) v Malone seconds (4)