Domestic Rugby Preview for Sat 1st Dec 2018 by George Millar

Domestic Rugby Preview for Sat 1st Dec 2018 by George Millar

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Domestic Rugby Preview for Sat 1st Dec 2018 by George Millar

Can I thank Dromore President Stephen McQuade and Secretary Harry Maguire for inviting me to their pre match lunch prior to the Junior Cup semi final with Malone seconds. Friendships old and new were renewed with rugby very much the topic of conversation. What has impressed me this season in my travels around the clubs is the increasing numbers of spectators coming out to support their local Community Rugby Clubs. In all the years I have had occasion to be present at Barban Hill it was a pleasure to be amongst so many enthusiastic and supportive supporters of both teams that added to the atmosphere. Social media is certainly playing its part in promoting Domestic Club Rugby in Ulster with ever increasing numbers engaging in playing and supporting their local rugby clubs. Volunteers are the backbone of clubs and without their commitment we would not be witnessing the progress that is being made at all levels to increase the player base. Congratulations to Dromore 1st xv on reaching the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup Final that will be staged at the Kingspan stadium on Wednesday 2nd January 2019 when they will play current holders Ballynahinch seconds.

You will see I have included a letter from John Wilson Chairman of IRFU (Ulster) Charitable Trust promoting the Charitable Trusts Fundraising week. Your continued support is vital to providing the funds that support our seriously injured players each season. Our clubs are renowned for their generosity and support of this worthy cause.

Ulster under 19s play Australia Schools at Queens University Playing Fields , Dub Lane next Tuesday 4th December 2018 with a 5.30PM KO.

Charity No. Northern Ireland XR 87763

To: All Club Honorary Secretaries/Treasurers

IRFU Charitable Trust Week 2018/19 (December 1 – 8, 2018)

You should already have received posters advertising this season’s “IRFU (Ulster) Charitable Trust Week” which I hope you will display in a prominent position in your club.

The Ulster CT committee have set itself a target to get all Ulster clubs to become ‘Friends of the Charitable Trust’ by signing a Direct Debit. We know that every penny counts when running a club but we believe that we have a duty to support our seriously injured players. However we are asking clubs this year to consider the following:

Ensure your club is a ‘Friend’ (preferably by DD).
Ensure your club identifies an ambassador with responsibility for the Charitable Trust
Ensure your club has at least one fund raising activity for the Trust each year

Finally we would ask all clubs to include a link to the IRFU Charitable Trust on their website. www.irishrugby.ie/irfu/charitable/index.php

Many thanks for your support

Regards

John Wilson

(Chair, IRFU (Ulster) Charitable Trust)

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE : REVIEW ROUND 6

DIV 1B

The top of the table clash at Gibson Park involving Malone and Naas did not disappoint spectators with the home side outscoring Naas 5 tries to 3. Despite leading 26 – 8 at halftime Malone had to work hard to hold on to their advantage to take their place at the top of the league. Having that depth in strength has been crucial to the progress of the East Belfast side this season. Ballynahinch 1st xv ended their losing sequence against neighbours Banbridge to win a closely contested game 13 – 12. Despite Banbridge outscoring Ballynahinch 2 tries to 1 it was the kicking of Peter Nelson and Johnny McPhillips that proved decisive in settling the outcome of this match. Ballymena were leading Old Wesley 6 – 5 at halftime only to end up losing 27 – 16. The Eaton Park side need league points to move themselves away from 10thplace.

The one real success story in recent seasons has been the progress of City of Armagh 1st xv who have had to develop and condition their own players to compete in this league without Ulster releases. On Saturday they scored two second half tries to defeat Old Belvedere 15 – 9 after drawing 3 – 3 at halftime. Brian McLaughlin in his time at the club transformed the playing structures with coaches Willy Faloon and Chris Parker carrying on his programme.

The league table has Malone leading the way on 22pts followed by Naas one point behind with three Ulster teams Banbridge, City of Armagh and Ballynahinch all on 16 points in 3rd to 5th place. Ballymena are sadly in 10th place four points behind 9th place Buccaneers and a further eight points adrift of 8th place Old Belvedere.

Having depth in your playing squad has been demonstrated by Ballynahinch seconds in reaching their third consecutive Junior Cup Final last Saturday. Malone seconds came up just short against Dromore in their Junior Cup semi final at the weekend. Unavailability of players at the beginning of the season cost last years losing finalists City of Armagh seconds a place in the latter stages of the Junior Cup this season. They find themselves in contention for the Conference league one title with Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Div 1 leaders Ballyclare with three matches remaining. The coaches at Banbridge and Ballymena would describe it as work in progress as they look to elevate their second xv to the levels of Ballynahinch, City of Armagh and Malone to provide the pathway for players to play All Ireland League rugby.

We all want to see the Ulster clubs sides competing with the Leinster and Munster sides in Div 1A. To be competitive you need quality and depth within your playing squad and the financial resources to compete at this level. All to often we see teams securing promotion and struggle to establish themselves in a higher league. Can newly promoted teams Malone and City of Armagh make an impact this season along with Ballynahinch and Banbridge who lost out in the Playoffs last season.

In Round 7 Malone travel to Rifle Park to play a Banbridge side needing a win after back to back defeats. All to play for in this Ulster Derby with Malone having lost at City of Armagh and won their opening AIL game at Ballymena in their previous Ulster derby meetings. Since 2015 Banbridge have maintained their unbeaten record against Malone in all competitions. Ballynahinch travel to Donny brook to play an Old Wesley team that has already defeated Ulster sides City of Armagh, Banbridge and Ballymena. City of Armagh make the journey to Dubarry Park to play Buccaneers in Athlone. Despite having only one win from six games the Connacht side have been competitive in all their matches losing out 34 – 32 to St Mary’s College and Malone 24 – 23 in their last two AIL matches. Ballymena face a crucial match at Eaton Park against Old Belvedere with the Dublin side having a eight point advantage in 8thplace over 10th place Ballymena.

Section 2

DIV 2A

Queens University demonstrated their potential with an impressive 29 – 24 Dudley Cup win over UCD at the Dub two weeks ago. The team have suffered defeats in their last two away AIL games against UL Bohemians and Nenagh Ormond that have seen the team slip nine points behind leaders Highfield. They remain in 4th place and travel to 3rd place Navan RFC. A win is crucial to maintain their pursuit of the league title. They follow up this game with a home match against 2nd place Cashel on Saturday week at the Dub. Two games that could potentially derail their promotion ambitions.

DIV 2B

It has been a disappointing start to the season for the three Ulster teams – Rainey OB, Dungannon and Belfast Harlequins in this league as they find themselves in 6th, 7th and 8thplace after round 6. The top two teams MU Barnhall and Greystones remain undefeated and have a 16 and 15 point advantage on 6th place Rainey OB. One positive note has been the form of Rainey OB who have won their last three AIL games with seven points separating the teams in 3rd to 8th place with these six teams in a position to challenge for a playoff place. Rainey OB lost out in the playoff final against Navan RFC can the three Ulster sides become contenders with 12 rounds left to play.

Rainey play an Ulster Derby against Belfast Harlequins at Hatrick Park with three points separating the two teams. Belfast Harlequins suffered a heavy 36 – 0 defeat at home to Greystones in their last game after winning the previous week 25 – 24 at Wanderers. Dungannon make the journey to Dublin looking to end a three match losing run when they take on Wanderers at Merrion Park. With games coming up against Greystones and Rainey OB points could be difficult to come by for the County Tyrone side.

DIV 2C

Omagh are the best placed Ulster side in this league having won four from five of their last games to move up into 4th place six points behind leaders Midleton. With games coming up against Bruff, Seapoint and an Ulster derby at Bangor the County Tyrone side have an opportunity to consolidate their top four placing before the Xmas break. Bangor had made a promising start only to lose their last two games against Bruff and Tullamore to slip into 5thplace behind Omagh. Games away to Seapoint and Ballina will determine if Bangor will be in the promotion mix this season. City of Derry find themselves in the bottom four with four points separating these teams after losing their last three games against Malahide, Omagh and Bangor. Saturday they have fellow strugglers Thomond at the Craig Thompson Stadium this week. A must win game followed by a trip away to leaders Midleton before entertaining 2nd place Ballina at home. Director of Rugby Paul O’Kane realises the task he has in hand to keep the team in the All Ireland League this season. He recognises it will take a 2/5 year commitment by all at the club to return the 1st xv to the highest level in Ulster Rugby.

How are the second xv sides of the Section 2 Ulster teams performing this season. Questions have been asked why these sides don’t compete in the Conference leagues and the Ulster 2ndxv league. Out of the seven Ulster teams only Omagh seconds are competing in the Conference league and Ulster Premiership 2nd xv league. Early season performances see Queens University seconds top Provincial League 1 with Dungannon seconds in 3rd and Rainey OB in 4th place after being promoted from Provincial league 2 last season. Belfast Harlequins seconds and Bangor seconds find themselves in 8th and 9th place with Bangor seconds needing to start picking up points to avoid relegation. City of Derry seconds are 2nd in Provincial league 3 as they compete with CIYMS seconds and Enniskillen seconds for the league title. Another indicator of the strength of these second xv sides will be seeing how they perform in the River Rock Towns Cup and the McCrea Cup in the new year.

MILLAR McCALL WYLIE JUNIOR CUP SEMI FINALS

Both semi finals turned out to be hard fought matches with holders Ballynahinch overcoming a committed Grosvenor side at Gibson Park to win 30 – 26. Returning former Ulster and Jersey winger Ross Adair scoring the crucial try to edge his side in front late in the game. Dromore were made to work hard for their 15 – 7 win over Malone seconds at Barban Hill. This will result in a County Down Final at the Kingspan stadium on Wednesday 2nd January 2019. Along with success you have fixture congestion that will result in both these teams having to play three matches in eight days. Is it right we ask amateur players to play three competitive fixtures in such a short space of time.

Ballynahinch seconds travel to CIYMS in the Conference League on the 29th December with the Junior Cup Final on the 2nd January followed by a 1st Rd match in the River Rock Towns Cup on the 5th January.

Dromore play Ballyclare in a crucial league game on the 29th December with the Junior Cup on the 2nd January followed by a league match at home to Carrickfergus on the 5th January.

With free dates in the calender on the 15th and 22nd December will we see the Junior Cup Finalists being able to bring forward their fixtures on the 29th December to alternate date.

RESULTS/TEAMS WEEKEND 24TH DECEMBER 2018

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE: ROUND 6

DIV 1A

Garryowen 32 Young Munster 26

Lansdowne 41 Terenure College 12

Dublin University 31 Shannon 19

UCC 22 Clontarf 37

UCD 3 Cork Constitution 31

DIV 1B

St Mary’s College 34 Buccaneers 32

Ballynahinch 13 Banbridge 12

Ballynahinch team: 1. Campbell Classon, 2. Zack McCall, 3. Kyle McCall, 4. John Donnan, 5. James Simpson, 6. Keith Dickson, 7. Ollie Loughead, 8. Conall Boomer, 9. Rhys o’Donnell, 10. Hilton Gibbons, 11. Richard Reaney, 12. Rory Butler, 13. Stuart Morrow, 14. Aaron Cairns (Capt), 16. Conor Piper, 17. Jonny Blair, 18. Tom Martin, 19. Callum McLaughlin, 20. Johnny McPhillips.

Points scorers: Rhys O’Donnell 1 x try, Peter Nelson 1 x con and 1 x pen, Johnny McPhillips 1 x pen

Banbridge team: 1. Michael Cromie (Capt), 2. Peter Cromie, 3. Stuart Cromie, 4. Chris Allen, 5. Mike Bentley, 6. Ben Carson, 7. David McCann, 8. Stephen Irvine, 9. Niall Armstrong, 10. Josh Cromie. 11. Hugo Harbinson, 12. Jonny Little, 13. Andrew Morrison, 14. Conor Field, 15. Adam Doherty 16. Jonathan Weir, 17. Corrie Barrett, 18. Robin Hewitt, 19. Jonny Stewart, 20. John Porter.

Points s corers: Stephen Irvine and Andrew Morrison 1 x try each, Adam Doherty 1 x con.

City of Armagh 15 Old Belvedere 9

City of Armagh team: 1. Daryl Morton, 2. Jonny Morton, 3. Philip Fletcher, 4. Josh McKinley, 5. Peter Starrett, 6. James Hanna, 7. Gareth McNeice, 8. Robert Whitten, 9. Harry Doyle, 10. Cormac Fox, 11. Ryan Purvis, 12. Jonny Pollock, 13. Chris Colvin (Capt), 14. Andrew Willis, 15. Timmy McNeice, 16. Peter lamb, 17. Paul Mullan, 18. James Morton, 19. John Faloon, 20. Shea O’Brien.

Points scorers: Peter Starrett and Timmy McNeice 1 x try each, Cormac Fox 1 x con and 1 x pen.

Malone 36 Naas 20

Malone team: 1. Peter Cooper, 2. Dan Kerr (Capt), 3. Ross Kane, 4. Jonathan Davis, 5. Michael Shiels, 6. Matthew Hadden, 7. Dave Cave, 8. Ryan Clarke, 9. Shane Kelly, 10. Callum Smith, 11. Nathan Brown, 12. Josh Pentland, 13. Stewart Moore, 14. Ben McCaughey, 15. Rory Campbell, 16. Scott Finlay, 17. Ben Halliday, 18. Josh Davidson, 19. Graham Curtis, 20. David McMaster.

Points scorers: Nathan Brown, Ben McCaughey and Peter Cooper 1 x try each, Rory Campbell 2 x tries and 4 x cons, (18 x points), Callum Smith 1 x pen

Old Wesley 27 Ballymena 16

Ballymena team: 1. Nacho Clandero Crespo, 2. Jonny Spence, 3. Chris Cundell, 4. David Whann, 5. Connor Smyth, 6. Marcus Rea, 7. Willie McKay, 8. Clive Ross, 9. Michael Stronge, 10. Timothy Small, 11. Johnny McMullan, 12. Alan Smyth, 13. Darrell Montgomery, 14. Dean Reynolds, 15. Rodger McBurney, 16. James Taggart, 17. Andrew Ferguson, 18. Josh Bill, 19. Matthew Norris, 20. Eoin Ritson.

Points scorers: Connor Smyth 1 x try, Tim Small 1 x con and 3 x pens.

http://www.irishrugby.ie/club/allirelandleagueandcup/tables.php : All Ireland League tables

MILLAR McCALL WYLIE JUNIOR CUP SEMI FINALS

Grosvenor 26 Ballynahinch Seconds 30

Grosvenor team: 1. William Rea, 2. Stuart Smyth, 3. Mark Rainey, 4. Matty Cahoon, 5. Andrew Kelly, 6. Ben Davies, 7. Jeff Mealiff, 8. Sam Purdon, 9. Allen McCluggage, 10. Peter Davison, 11. David Egner, 12. Jos McConkey, 13. Stuart McIIwaine, 14. Dean Swift, 15. Mark Johnston, 16. Mark Cartmill, 17. Matty Allen, 18. Matty Fitzsimmons, 19. Jamie McMullan.

Ballynahinch seconds team: 1. Ben Cullen, 2. Clayton Milligan, 3. Jerry Cronin, 4. Brian Howard, 5. Matthew McKelvey, 6. Graeme McKitterick, 7. Stuart Elwood, 8. Gareth Gill, 9. Lewis Finlay, 10. Matthew Norton (Capt), 11. Ronan Patterson, 12. Robin Harte, 13. Jonny McCoubrey, 14. Aaron Ferris, 15. Paddy Wright, 16. Connor Phillips, 17. David Maguire, 18. Andrew Simpson, 19. James McBriar, 20. Ross Adair.

Points scorers: Clayton Milligan 2 x tries, Gareth Gill and Ross Adair 1 x try each, Matthew Norton 2 x cons and 2 x pens.

Dromore 15 Malone seconds 7

Dromore team: 1. Justin Savage, 2. Stuart Sloan, 3. Jonny Simpson, 4. Matthew McMaster, 5. Ross Bingham, 6. Adam McGregor (Capt), 7.Peter Elliott, 8. Ben Heath, 9. Lee Steenson, 10. David Lyttle, 11. Andrew Gilmore, 12. Graeme McCandless, 13. Andrew Rutledge, 14. Brian McClearn, 15. Adam McDonald, 16. Andrew Black, 17. Fraser Mulholland, 18. Jonny Maguire, 19. Aaron Stewart, 20. Michael Allen.

Points scorers: Andrew Rutledge and Andrew Black 1 x try each, Lee Steenson 1 x con and 1 x pen.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 2

UUC 8 Clogher Valley 31

UUC team: 1. Gary Burke, 2. Michael Smyth, 3. Oisin Craig, 4. Jake Stevenson, 5. Daniel James, 6. Ryan Mckay, 7. Den Davison, 8. Jack Kilgore, 9. John Allen, 10. Adam Johnston, 11. Chris Allen, 12. Jacob Cavanagh, 13. Ryan Ashfield, 14. Neil Stewart, 15. Hayden Maxwell, 16. Sam McComb. 17. Lewis Henry.

Points scorers: Chris Allen 1 x try, Adam Johnston 1 x pen.

Clogher Valley team: 1. Philip Hopper, 2. Kyle Cobane, 3. Neil Henderson, 4. Eugene McKenna, 5. Michael Treanor (capt), 6. Josh Fegan, 7. Ross Finlay, 8. Ryan Wilson, 9. Mark Ellis, 10. Reece Smyton, 11. Neil Cullen, 12. Andrew Johnson, 13. Neil Trotter, 14. Josh Coulter, 15. Ewan Haire, 16. Mark McKenna, 17. Aaron Dunwoody.

Points scorers: Ryan Wilson 3 x tries, Neil Cullen and Josh Coulter 1 x try each. Reece Smyton 1 x con, Ewan Haire 2 x cons.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 3

Letterkenny v Ophir. Conceded by Ophir

Monaghan 36 PSNI 17

Newry 22 Holywood 34

Strabane 0 Donaghadee 57

Virginia 34 Cavan 13

https://www.ulsterrugby.com/rugby-in-ulster/rugby-development/fixtures-and-results/ : Fixtures/Results/League Tables Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

DIV 1

Instonians v Ballyclare at Shaws bridge is the stand out game in the league this weekend. Can Instonians inflict a first league defeat on leaders Ballyclare. Both Dromore and Grosvenor will be hoping they can close the gap with wins over Portadown and Coleraine. The teams in the bottom half need to pick up league points to avoid finishing in 9th and 10th place. We have Carrickfergus hosting Cooke at the Tom Simms Memorial Grounds and CIYMS travelling to play Enniskillen at Mullaghmeen. Seven points separate the bottom six teams with every league point vital.

DIV 2

Seven points separate the top four teams with leaders Clogher Valley travelling to play 4thplace Academy. 2nd and 3rd place Randalstown and Limavady play Larne and Lurgan hoping to pick up maximum points. With Limavady and Academy both having a game in hand every point is crucial at this stage of the season. Ballymoney, Ards, Lurgan and Larne occupy the mid table positions with eight points separating these four teams. Both Lisburn and UUC occupy 9th and 10th place with both sides searching for their first win.

DIV 3

Donaghadee remain the pacesetters with an eight point advantage at the top of the league after winning 57 – 0 at Strabane last Saturday. It would appear to be a contest between Monaghan and Holywood for second place with eight points separating the two teams.

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE: ROUND 7

DIV 1A

Clontarf v Cork Constitution

Shannon v Lansdowne

Terenure College v Garryowen

Young Munster v UCD

UCC v Dublin Uni

DIV1B

Ballymena v Old Belvedere

Banbridge v Malone

Buccaneers v City of Armagh

Naas v St Mary’s College

Old Wesley v Ballynahinch

Ballymena v Old Belvedere

One win from six including three defeats in their last three AIL games have the alarm bells ringing at Eaton Park. The weekend meeting with Old Belvedere is a must win game looking at the league table. This season Ballymena are having to rely on their club players to compete in this league with few Ulster releases to bolster their squad. Head coach Andy Graham is hoping that the release of Clive Ross, Marcus Rea, Matthew Rea and John Andrews will be confirmed on Thursday. John Andrews was a stand out player in their only win at home to St Mary’s College. The coach is hoping his availability will provide the much needed leadership to secure the win. Bruce Houston was to be released but picked up a Head injury training with the Irish under 19 squad. He will follow return to play protocols. Azur Allinson continues his rehab from injury and is not expected to be available until the new year. The coach is hoping to have Jordan Foster and Stephen Mulholland available after they missed the Old Wesley game due to work commitments. JJ McKee should be available after being pulled by Ulster last week. Glenn Baillie remains unavailable due to an ongoing hamstring injury. Winger Dean Reynolds will miss the game this weekend after being concussed in the match at Old Wesley. He will follow return to play protocols. Jonny Rossborough is unavailable this week.

Ballymena team: 1. Josh Bill, 2. John Andrews, 3. Chris Cundell, 4. Connor Smyth/JJ McKee, 5, David Whann, 6. Clive Ross, 7. Marcus Rea/Willie McKay, 8. Matthew Rea/Stephen Mulholland. 9. Michael Stronge, 10. Timothy Small, 11. Johnny McMullan/Matthew Norris, 12. Alan Smyth, 13. Darrell Montgomery, 14. Jordan Foster, 15. Rodger McBurney, 16. Jonny Spence, 17. Nacho Clandero Crespo, 18/19 TBC confirmed Thursday night, 20. Eoin Ritson.

James Taggart, Andrew Ferguson and Houston Bonnar will turn out for the second xv at Ards in the Conference league.

Andy Graham felt his team run out of steam in the latter stages at Old Wesley. Despite leading at halftime and defending very well mistakes at key times in the game proved costly. These costly errors allowed Old Wesley to turn defence into attack. Aspects that pleased the coach included the low penalty count against his side that had been an issue in recent games. He feels sorry for the players who are putting so much into their games and not getting the results. He wants to see the team reversing their high tackle count into placing more consistent pressure on their opponents during games. It is for the players to believe in themselves and see these games through to the end . The three week break has allowed the squad to work on areas they needed to improve on. He is hoping that by putting a strong side out this week with the right players the team can win this crucial match. He again feels the squad are not far away from putting a winning run together.

Banbridge v Malone

Intriguing game at Rifle Park this weekend. Banbridge have lost their last two AIL games with Malone undefeated in their last three games. Looking at the results between the two teams I was quite surprised to see that Banbridge have not lost any of their last seven meetings with Malone stretching back to September 2015 in the AIL, Ulster Premiership and the First Trust Senior Cup. In fact the last meeting between the two teams in the AIL took place at Rifle Park on the 11.3.17 when Banbridge defeated Malone 51 – 15. Malone had been on a six match unbeaten run before they travelled that day to Rifle Park.

In their early season SONI Ulster Premiership match on the 25.8.18 Banbridge held Malone to an 18 – 18 draw at Gibson Park. Can Paddy Armstrong and his players reverse their poor run of results against Banbridge this week. All the ingredients are there for a highly entertaining game between two teams who like to play open running rugby.

Banbridge have won three and lost three with Malone winning five and losing one as they meet this week in Round 7.

Banbridge Head coach Simon McKinstry watched the video of the match against Ballynahinch. His team missed one penalty and one conversion with Ballynahinch scrum half Rhys O’Donnell taking advantage of a defensive lapse to score seven points. He was pleased with the set piece and the ability of his team to move the ball wide. Ballynahinch took their opportunities and deserved the win. Ben Carson moved from the centre into the back row and performed very well using his physical presence to carry aggressively and produce a high tackle count. Ben is the type of player the coaches at Banbridge are developing to play in different positions. As Simon put it the modern player has to have the skill set whether he plays from 1 – 15 to run and pass with the ball. The coach missed the match due to his new son Joe arriving last week with parental responsibilities taking priority on Sat with Robert Logan and Ian Porter looking after the team.

When I asked him about Ulster releases Simon acknowledged the quality these players bring to your team. He felt the team did not perform to the standard expected when they lost at home to Old Wesley. He is expecting a reaction from the players this week in a league where any team can win on their day. It is looking to the players to build week on week to be competitive and bounce back from these setbacks.

The release of Greg Jones is to be confirmed on Thursday with David McCann unavailable due to Irish Under 19 squad training commitments. Injuries continue to impact on availability with both Caleb Montgomery and Alex Thompson ruled out. Both Ethan Harbinson and Aaron Kennedy remain on the injured list. Matthew Laird will come into contention if he comes through a fitness test on Thursday night. The key is keeping everyone fit for this next block of six fixtures. As Simon put it to me you need a squad of 40 players to compete in the All Ireland League.

Simon McKinstry was impressed by the Malone win over Naas at the weekend. They are on a high and like to play rugby like ourselves. Both teams will be looking the win.

Paddy Armstrong is not looking any further than the game against Banbridge this week. Banbridge home or away are always a very tough proposition. The coach has a few injuries to get sorted before confirming selection on Thursday night. Ben McCaughey who has scored three tries in his last three matches will miss the game on Saturday as he has been included in the Ulster under 19 squad to play Australia Schools at the Dub on Tuesday evening. It is recognition of the great form he has been in for Malone.

The release of Ulster players Ross Kane, Graham Curtis and Stewart Moore will be confirmed on Thursday night. Injuries rule our Matthew Agnew, Matthew Dalton and Joe Dunleavy. Two other Ulster players Jack Owens and Angus Curtis remain on the injured list.

City of Armagh v Buccaneers

This trip will test the resolve of the City of Armagh playing squad when they travel to play 9thplace Buccaneers at Dubarry Park. Two narrow defeats against Malone and St Mary’s College reflect how unlucky the Connacht side find themselves to be in after being relegated from Div 1A last season. Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker is aware of the challenge his players face this weekend. Buccaneers have been boosted by the release of nine players from the Connacht Academy in recent games as they strive for consistency.

City of Armagh have won 3 and drawn 1 with two defeats in their opening six games.

Chris Parker was impressed by the performance from the team to defeat Old Belvedere at the Palace Grounds. Despite drawing 3 – 3 at halftime the team pushed on to score two second half tries and deny their opponents any tries in their 15 – 9 win. Last season he felt his team would have panicked and been punished in such a tight match. The performance and win was another step forward by the team. There are always areas to improve on as the team look to build on their consistency week on week. Competition for starting places is so competitive with the coaches having the advantage of the 1sts and 2nds been able to interchange in any formation such is the level of ability within the club on training nights. Players are aware that if their form drops there are players pushing to take their places. It is a long season and every player will be needed before the season ends. With the 1sts,2nds and 3rds all doing so well the confidence and momentum carries into their performances each week.

Interesting looking at the Armagh back row. You have Nigel Simpson, Ryan O’Neill and Gareth McNeice ruled out this week due to injury. You still have Robert Whitten, James Morton and the returning Neil Faloon available to fill in. Competition is intense with Jonny Pollock taking his opportunity to reclaim the centre jersey alongside Captain Chris Colvin much to the disappointment of Evin Crummie. Timmy McNeice has had to prove himself to regain the 15 jersey from Chris Cousens.

Michael Hoey remains on the injured list and should be available next week. Players are carrying bumps and bruises this week with selection to be confirmed on Thursday night. There is also the tasty meeting of City of Armagh seconds and Ballynahinch seconds in the Conference league at the Palace grounds for the supporters unable to travel to Dubarry Park.

City of Armagh 1st xv are expecting a very tough game against a Buccaneers side boosted by their Connacht contingent with Dubarry Park being a tough place to play rugby. In this league it is all about scrapping for every point and targeting home wins. The players have a game plan to stick to for Saturday. The playing squad have set themselves goals for these three matches before Xmas as they look to kick on in the new year.

Ballynahinch v Old Wesley

For Ballynahinch coaches Brian McLaughlin and Tom Rock the team got that all important win over Banbridge. It came at a price with Second row James Simpson ( Knee injury), Stuart Morrow (Foot), Rory Butler (Fractured finger) along with Conor Kelly (Injured knee in Thursday night training) all being ruled out of the match at Old Wesley this weekend.

As Tom Rock described it the win over Banbridge was scrappy and hard fought with neither team playing a lot of rugby. It was a gritty performance with a strong defensive effort getting Ballynahinch the win. Other aspects that pleased the coaches were the strong set scrum that provided a platform. The players attitude was good towards the game and their defensive effort was very strong. The game lacked few attacking opportunities with his Ballynahinch side putting in a very limited performance to get the win.

There will be opportunities for players from the seconds who made it through to another Junior Cup Final. Ross Adair came off the bench in this tie to score a crucial try for Ballynahinch. He is a player that may come into contention this week. Maybe it is too soon for him. Robin Harte who has returned from Australia is another former 1st xv player who will come into contention this week. Josh Jordan continues his rehab after hip surgery and is expected to return in the new year.

Players who will come into consideration for the weekend include Tom Martin, Keith Dickson and Campbell Classon who can fill in the second row. Other players performing well on the seconds include Gareth Gill who was with Ireland Rugby league squad and Connor Phillips who can play wing or back row. Ronan Patterson, Johnny McCoubrey, Jonny Blair, Ryan Wilson and Paddy Wright are players pushing for involvement with the 1st xv squad.

Ulster releases involving Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Tommy O’Hagan, Zach McCall and Peter Nelson to be confirmed on Thursday night. Johnny McPhillips has not been released with Aaron Hall and Jack Regan remaining on the injured list. Iwan Hughes is with the Ireland Sevens squad.

Tom Rock described selection as very difficult last week. With good numbers attending training there is the opportunity to run two teams against each other on training nights. It is about pushing and developing these players to create strength in depth within the club.

For the game at Old Wesley it is all about the team focusing on themselves. Both Brian and Tom feel this Ballynahinch side is still developing as they look to build consistency in their performances. They will travel with confidence but you can rest assured there will be no complacency amongst the team taking the field at Donnybrook. The 4G pitch will present its own challenges for the players. Both coaches feel the team has not played anywhere near their potential. Old Wesley will be a tough ask they are a good side. It is a close league from top to bottom with all the teams capable of beating each other.

DIV 2A

Cashel RFC (2) v UL Bohemians (5). Played Friday 30.11.18. KO 8PM

Old Crescent (8) v Nenagh Ormond (6). Played Friday 30.11.18. KO 8PM

Dolphin (9) v Blackrock College (7)

Highfield (1) v Galwegians (10)

Navan RFC (3) v Queens University (4)

Queens University v Navan RFC

The students find themselves in 4th place trailing leaders Highfield by nine points. Two costly defeats on the road at UL Bohemians and Nenagh Ormond could prove expensive to their promotion ambitions if they do not win their next two games against 3rd place Navan and 2ndplace Cashel on Saturday week at the Dub. This Queens playing squad have shown the ability they have in their playing squad by defeating Div 1A side UCD in the Dudley Cup. It is all about transferring that form into their AIL matches.

Queens have won 4 and lost 2 games in their pursuit of promotion this season. The club is thriving this season under the coaching of Derek Suffern and DJ Creighton with over 70 + players at training nights. Both the clubs 2nd xv and the 3rd xv sides top their Provincial leagues.

D J Creighton acknowledges that these two games coming up against Navan and Cashel are big ones for the team. It is all about taking it one game at a time . The players are expecting a tough game at Navan. This time of the year it is a challenge for the coaches accommodating the demands placed on students with exams. They believe they have a formula in place that will ensure consistency over the Xmas period. Promotion is the goal for the team this season. The league is challenging with several trips to Munster. The students have shown their potential by defeating league leaders Highfield in Cork. Winning your home games is important. The squad are in a good place and just need to be more consistent at this time. The training environment is good with the coaches having two teams to compete against each other. Depth in strength is proving challenging when it comes to selection. No where is that more evident than in the backs with 3/4 players competing for each position.

Examples of competition in the forwards are Stuart Evans and Tyler Arnold now playing for the seconds after playing for 1sts in opening games. Former Dalriada pupil Curtis Pollock has been a real find in the back row and alongside former Omagh 1st xv player James Catterson have added quality in the back row. Injuries continue to rule out Conor McKee, Ben Power and Andrew Clingan. Players who will come into contention this week include David Swann and Andrew McGrath. D J Creighton speaks highly of the physical presence and edge Andrew McGrath brings to the team. It is also the leadership he brings that influences the players around him on the pitch. The release of Ulster winger Angus Kernohan is expected to be confirmed on Thursday night.

DIV 2B

Galway Corinthians (4) v MU Barnhall (1)

Greystones (2) v Sunday’s Well (5)

Rainey OB (6) v Belfast Harlequins (8)

Skerries (9) v Sligo (10)

Wanderers (3) v Dungannon (7)

Rainey OB v Belfast Harlequins

Head coach John Andrews was at Uprtichard Park last Saturday to watch his second xv impress in scoring five tries in their 30 – 0 win against Bangor seconds in the Provincial league. The challenge is for the Rainey coaches to build strength in depth this season and provide competition for places. The seconds had lost players at the beginning of the season with coach Peter Boyle working hard to bring in young players from the Schools and the club Youth teams to add to his playing options. Examples are Cameron Stewart the former Rainey Endowed back rower who has returned to the club after completing his University studies. Ulster under age prop Jack McIntosh had an outstanding game and will be pushing for inclusion in the 1st xv squad this week. Other players who impressed were Adam Hunter, Ciaran Devlin and Lorcan Quinn brother of 1st xv player Oisin Quinn. These players are putting their hands up for selection each week.

The next six fixtures are important for Rainey Their next three games are against opponents where the fixtures will be reversed in the new year. Top four is the target for the Rainey players after missing out last season in the play offs.

This week the coaches welcome back Timothy Barker, Stephen Rutledge and Damien McMurray to their playing squad. Back rower Charlie Clarke is unavailable after being included in the Ulster 19 squad to play Australia Schools at the Dub on Tuesday night.

Changes this week will see Damien McMurray return to partner Conor Fitzsimons in the centre. Oisin Quinn will replace Scott McLean on the wing. Timothy Barker will partner John McCusker in the second row with Michael McCusker joining Captain Paul Pritchard and number 8 Paddy Magowan in the back row.

Jack McIntosh will come into contention for a starting place in front row along with Stephen Rutledge. The bench will see Fintan Quinn competing with Rutledge and McIntosh for front row cover. Michael Nevin will compete with Michael Caithness for covering hooker, Andrew Brown and Andrew Harbinson will start on the bench. Scott McLean who has been ill will undergo a late fitness test for a bench place along with Ciaran Devlin.

John Andrews is looking his team to start with an intensity and accuracy against their opponents Belfast Harlequins. It is all about building foundations and maintaining their accuracy. The target for the team is to make the top four before Xmas.

Belfast Harlequins team: 1. Mark McGrath, 2. Saul Herdman, 3. Charlie Sargaison, 4. Danny Annett (Capt), 5. Troy Webber, 6. Toby Mannus, 7. Jaz Andress, 8. Ben Alexander, 9. Connor Young, 10. Timmy Emerson, 11. James McConnell, 12. Mark Gribben, 13. Kyle Adams, 14. Peter Dunlop, 15. Mark Glover, 16. Matthew Borne, 17. Tom Fraser, 18. Daryl Marshall, 19. David Devine, 20. Mark Kettyle.

Dungannon v Wanderers

Head coach Andy Hughes is hoping his players respond to their 22 – 15 defeat to leaders MU Barnhall at Stevenson Park by using that performance when they travel to Dublin to play 3rdplace Wanderers. With seven points separating the teams in 3rd to 8th place the Dungannon coach is aware his team have 12 rounds of matches to finish in the top four and make the playoffs. He feels his side have just not got going this season. They are a better side this season but just lack that killer instinct on the pitch to close out games. The problem in the MU Barnhall match was despite leading 15 – 3 at halftime the team made mistakes and lost their focus. The first half had shown the capability of the team in attack and defence as they outplayed their Kildare opponents. The team have three tough games coming up against Wanderers, Greystones and Rainey OB. Three games the coach feels his team can win if they can play for 80mins and close out games. It is all about keeping standards up and keeping your focus.

Dungannon have won 2 and lost 4 games having lost their last three games.

One positive piece of news for the coach will be expected return of the influential James McMahon to the teams in the next two weeks. Prop Ross Stewart is unavailable this week with an ankle injury with Glenn Sinnamon returning from suspension to take his place in the front row. Captain Stephen Todd is unavailable and will be replaced by Alex Gormley in the second row with Adam Milligan coming on to the bench. Former St Patricks Grammar schoolboy Caolan Mulgrew has been rewarded for his consistent performances on the second xv by being given a starting place on the 1st xv this week in place of Jonny Toal who is carrying an injury. Prop Sean O’Hagan is carrying an injury and will be replaced by James Gamble. Full back Andrew McGregor is carrying a niggling hamstring injury and will undergo a late fitness test on Thursday night. The coach has to make a choice who starts at 10 between John Buckley and Conor McGeough. If McGregor is ruled out Buckley will start at 10 with Conor McGeough at 15.

The challenge for his team is to get amongst their Dublin opponents and prevent them playing their ball in hand game. He wants the players to adopt the approach that worked so successfully in the first half against MU Barnhall. It is all about this Dungannon side treating each game as a Cup Final to turn around their season. There are no easy games with each match physical in its nature.

DIV 2C

Ballina (2) v Midleton (1)

Bruff (3) v Omagh (4)

City of Derry (7) v Thomond (9)

Seapoint (8) v Bangor (5)

Tullamore (10) v Malahide (6)

Omagh v Bruff

This top four clash in Limerick will tell us a lot about the ambitions of this Omagh side who missed out on promotion in the playoffs last season. The three week break allowed the players to recover from their bumps and bruises in the first block of games. It was an opportunity for the players to work on their fitness and skills. At present the coach has 95% of his playing squad available for selection. He is expecting Ali Beckett to make himself available next week for selection. Work commitments mean Matthew Clyde will not travel and will play for the seconds with Jamie Sproule returning to the squad. The 6’ 7” – 19 stone second row was disappointed to lose his place on the 1st xv and has been pressing his opportunity in training to regain his place on the 1st xv. He will get his opportunity this weekend. Stuart Ballantine returns to take his place at out half with Scott Elliott moving to full back. Scott MacLaine injured himself in training last Sat and is being rested this week. Another player who is fighting to regain his 1st xv place is winger Ryan Mitchell. As Head coach Phil Marshall put it – you make yourself unavailable as happened to Jamie Sproule and Ryan Mitchell their replacements Kaine Holden and Matthew Eccles came in and performed and held on to their places.

Selection will be finalised on Thursday night with the coach having to decide who starts in second row alongside Jonny Sproule – will it be Kaine Holden or Jamie Sproule. Phil Ewing is expected to continue at hooker with a decision on who starts at tight head between Richard Smyth and Peter Todd. Otherwise the squad will be on similar lines to the team that defeated Tullamore 55 – 17 at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields in their last outing.

Three points separate these two teams with Bruff winning at Bangor in their last outing. His team are expecting a fierce battle at Kilballyowen Park this weekend with the squad travelling on Friday. It is all about Omagh maintaining the level of performance they put in against Tullamore. First phase ball will be crucial as well as combatting their line speed. For Phil Marshall it is his players using their momentum to keep their winning run going. It is going to be tough. It is all about consistent performances. He feels the team have left points behind on the pitch.

Phil has asked me to give a mention to second xv coach James Kane who took ill last week. After being hospitalised he is now recovering after surgery. We all wish James a speedy recovery and hope it will not be too long before we see him on the touchline with Omagh second xv.

City of Derry v Thomond

Director of Rugby Paul O’Kane has been very honest about the challenges that him and his coaching team face to keep City of Derry in the All Ireland League this season. They have a lengthy injury list that includes several players out for the season and one retiring due to injury. City of Derry have won 2 and lost 4 and are on a run of three losing games.

They have a massive game with 9th place Thomond at the Craig Thompson Stadium this weekend. It is all about his team putting in a performance. The coach is still working on finding combinations that work for them. Leadership is a key area with increasing efforts being made to improve communication in the team. One area the coach has been working on with the assistance of Sean Bloomfield from Ulster Rugby is addressing the tackling technique of the players at training this week. Sadly he is not on his own with too many players still tackling high. Paul O’Kane cant fault the work rate and endeavour his players put in every week in training and during matches. It is carrying the work they put in training this week into their game with Thomond at the weekend.

Injury rules out back row Tiarnan Thorton this week with second row Conor McMenamin training with Ireland under 19 squad. Winger David Jackson is also unavailable. Other injuries rule out Chrissy Robinson, Paddy Blennerhassett, Conall Gill, Isia Morris, Jack Beattie and Shane Beattie long term. Richard Baird has announced his retirement after fracturing his ankle in the match against Omagh due to work commitments. In total the club have 15 players unavailable due to injury.

The City of Derry team: 1. James Hamilton, 2. David Feguson, 3. Sam Duffy, 4. Adam Bratton, 5. Gerard Doherty, 6. Craig Huey, 7. Chris Lamberton, 8. Stephen Corr (Capt), 9. Simon Logue, 10. Alex McDonnell, 11. Thomas Cole, 12. Denis Posternik, 13. David Lapsley, 14. David Graham, 15. James Perry, 16. Colm Cregan, 17. Chris Shiels, 18. Ben Pollin, 19. Colm Campbell, 20. Phil Duffy.

Paul O’Kane is full of praise for the volunteers in the club who are working so hard at Ladies, Mini and Youth rugby as they build pathways into Adult rugby to sustain the club.

The All Ireland League is a harsh learning environment for the players and the club with the players not getting the same time on the ball in this league. He is aware of how important the match is to both teams this weekend. He is looking his team to be more clinical with the ball in hand and to be more solid defensively. His players have to match the physicality of the Thomond team . If you look after your defence you will win games. The plus point for his team has been their set piece scrum and lineout this season that has provided plenty of possession. It is how the team make use of that possession to win more games.

Bangor v Seapoint

Head coach Michael Ferguson is hoping his team address their poor starts to their games. This was highlighted in the defeat at home to Bruff where they allowed their opponents to start strongly and build a lead. The second half was much better with Bangor the stronger team. Too many errors and poor decision making have been addressed in training this week. The Bangor squad is still very young with young players filling key positions. The players are good enough it is getting consistency into their performances each week.

One blow for Bangor is an injury to returning scrum half Ali Lockhart. He has discovered he has fractured a bone in his hand that will rule him out for several weeks. Out half Declan Maguire is another injury doubt. The coach has made the decision to start Mark Widdowson at scrum half with Liam Preston at out half for the crucial game at Seapoint. Back rower James Henley is being troubled by an ongoing hamstring injury. David Bradford who like Ali Lockhart has just returned from a lengthy injury has picked up an elbow injury that will rule him out this week. Philip Whyte has come through his games and will start in the front row.

Bangor squad with selection to finalised on Thursday night: Philip Whyte, Andrew Shaw, James Leary, David Caughey, Lewis Stevenson, Craig Burton, Jamie Clegg, James Henley, Michael Ferguson, Mark Widdowson, Liam Preston, Adam McCusker, Adam Alexander, Phil Broderick, Desi Fusco (Capt), Nathan Graham, Andrew Jackson, Orran McIImurray, Matt Nesbitt, Curtis Stewart, Declan Maguire, Shaun Fair.

Michael Ferguson – This is a big game for Bangor. The team have been on a bad run and need to turn their season around. The game at Seapoint is all about managing the conditions and their game. The team need to impose themselves from the start and stick to their game plan. It is a tough place to go to. The players have to back themselves . We must make sure we are in the right place for this weekend. The defeat at Tullamore was that the home team wanted it more. Bangor have to learn the lessons from those defeats against Bruff and Tullamore.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 1

Carrickfergus (7) v Cooke (5)

Coleraine (10) v Grosvenor (4)

Dromore (3) v Portadown (6)

Enniskillen (9) v CIYMS (8)

Instonians (2) v Ballyclare (1)

Carrickfergus v Cooke

Talking to Andy Kinkaid – Carrickfergus welcome back the experienced Paul Greenaway into the squad after being ruled out due to illness. He played for 70 mins last week and will come into contention this week. Other possible changes are envisaged with players who missed the Dromore game coming into consideration. David Moore misses the game after being red carded in the Dromore match. There are a few players carrying knocks who will undergo fitness tests before selection is finalised on Thursday night.

Cooke Head coach Colin Atkinson- Both Jonathan McClune and Ian Moxen return to the front row this week. Backs Andrew Pollock, Jonathan Backus and Captain Kyle Mitchell are ruled out through injury.

Carrickfergus have won 1, Drawn 2 and lost 3 with Cooke winning 3 and losing 2 in the league

Coleraine v Grosvenor

Head coach Benjy Van Der Byl faces late fitness tests on several players before finalising his team for Saturday. They picked up a number of injuries in their 36 – 14 defeat at Instonians two weeks ago.

Robert Ford and his players are looking forward to this game at Coleraine. They were disappointed to lose their games against Ballynahinch seconds in the Junior Cup and Instonians in the league. For the coach these games are about his players adapting to playing at this level. He again feels his players are making that step and played very well in that loss against a strong Ballynahinch side.

This week he welcomes back Peter Dawson and Conor McKee to his pack. Stuart McIIwaine picked up an injury last Sat and will miss the game at Coleraine with back row forward Jeff Mealiff not available.

For the coach and his players this game at Coleraine is a must win to maintain their top four ambitions this season.

Coleraine have won 1 and lost 6 with Grosvenor winning 4 and losing 2 in the league.

Dromore v Portadown

Head coach Jonny Cullen retains the same starting xv from last Saturday’s win over Malone seconds in the Junior Cup.

Portadown Head coach Richard Hedley will looking to his players to build on their recent league wins over CIYMS and Coleraine. They face a stern test at undefeated Dromore on Sat. Centre Johnny Holden was injured in the CI game and will be out until the new year. Second row Karim Ahizoun has returned to France. Returning to the squad this week are forwards Robert Reid, Aaron Abraham and Gary Hall. Selection is expected to be similar to the CIYMS match.

Dromore have won 6 lost nil with Portadown winning 2 and losing 5 in the league.

Enniskillen v CIYMS

Head coach Stevie Welsh will be hoping his team can carry the improved performance from the 29 – 20 loss at Grosvenor following their 25 – 15 defeat at Cooke into this weekends crucial game with CIYMS at Mullaghmeen. Points are vital for both teams.

He is to finalise selection on Thursday night.

CIYMS Head coach Gareth Fry has a significant number of injuries and unavailability for the trip to Enniskillen. His pack will be strong with a number of the key backs missing. But again the match provides opportunities for the fringe players to stake a claim for a regular starting place on the 1st xv.

Enniskillen have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 6 with CIYMS still searching for their first league win. They have drawn 1 and lost 6 in the league.

Instonians v Ballyclare

The meeting of the top two teams in Div 1 will surely attract a large crowd to Shaws bridge this weekend. Instonians on the back of a hard fought win at Grosvenor and another bonus point win over Coleraine find themselves trailing Ballyclare by seven points. A win for Instonians will close the gap and allow Dromore and Grosvenor back into contention for the league title.

Instonians Head coach John Andress is expecting to make a few changes this week with Matthew Kilpatrick and Alan Whitten returning to the squad after missing the win over Coleraine. The coaching staff have some difficult selections to make as several of the players who have taken their opportunity have put their hands up in performances for the 1st xv. Ross O’Donnell who was red carded in the Grosvenor will not complete his suspension until Sunday ruling him out of the Ballyclare match. John Andress believes the squad are starting to show their potential with Saturday an opportunity to demonstrate they are serious contenders for the league title this season.

Ballyclare Head coach Mike McKeever is looking forward to this match on Saturday with so much at stake for both teams. Their recent defeats were summed up as follows: The game against Wicklow was a closely fought affair with the players showing great commitment and effort from all at the club.

The match with Conference 1 holders City of Armagh allowed the coaches to do a bit of rotation – creating opportunities to see several players play in different positions and bring some players up to get a run out against a very strong City of Armagh second xv side.

This weekend the players are looking forward to playing Instonians in Shaws bridge. They always give his side a great challenge away from home against last seasons league winners who haven’t finished outside the top two since being relegated from the AIL . With John Andress and Paul Marshall incharge at Instonians this season. Mike McKeever knows his team will face a well drilled aggressive pack with the lively Paul Marshall at scrum half.

Ballyclare will field as close to their strongest side missing the injured Aaron Playfair, David Clarke and Robert Smith.

Ballyclare team: 1. Dean Jones, 2. Matthew Coulter, 3. Al Boyd, 4. Grant Bartley (Capt), 5. Robert Boyd, 6. Paul Robinson, 7. Gary Weatherup, 8. Ryan Tweed, 9. Andy Eastop, 10. Robbie Reid, 11. Michael Kirk, 12. Willie Stewart, 13. Joel McBride, 14. Owen Kirk, 15. Gary Clotworthy, 16. Rory Smith, 17. Niall Lawther.

Gary Clotworthy, Andy Eastop and Matthew Coulter are the only players who have been involved in all the 1st xv games with the coach using 35 players so far this season. This will greatly help come the January fixtures. Potentially Aaron Playfair and David Clarke could return next week with James Nelson expected to be available the following week.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP/CONF DIV 1

City of Armagh seconds (2) v Ballynahinch seconds (5)

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 2

Academy v Clogher Valley

Lurgan v Limavady

Randalstown v Larne

Academy v Clogher Valley

Seven points separate these two teams in 1st and 4th place. Academy have a game in hand and know a win will advance their promotion ambitions as they look to overtake the league leaders Clogher Valley. Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn knows it is a huge game for his players on Saturday.

Academy team: 1. Chris Nash, 2. Lewis Moody, 3. Troy Wilson, 4. Brian Cahill, 5. Keith Dobbin, 6. Stuart Martin, 7. Jamie Watts, 8. Richard HendFleming erson (Capt), 9. David Kenny, 10. Jordan Buchanan, 11. Simon Beattie, 12. Callum Lyle, 13. Mark Wylie, 14. Steven Fawcett, 15. Chris Cooper, 16. Jamie Wilson, 17. Peter Jackson.

Talking to David Sharkey the ambitions for Clogher Valley are to finish top four this season and continue their building of the squad to move them forward. The squad are also looking forward to a run in the Towns Cup this season.

Clogher Valley team: 1. Philip Hopper, 2. Kyle Cobane, 3. Neil Henderson, 4. Eugene McKenna, 5. Michael Treanor (Captain), 6. Aaron Dunwoody, 7. David Sharkey, 8. Ryan Wilson, 9. Mark Ellis, 10. Reece Smyton, 11. Josh Coulter, 12. Andrew Johnson, 13. Fleming Agnew, 14. Sam Odor 15. Ewan Haire, 16.BJ Wilson, 17. Mark McKenna.

Academy have won 5 and lost 1 with Clogher Valley winning 6 and losing I in the league

Lurgan v Limavady

From assistant coach Jason Wallace – Squad for Saturday will be finalised on Thursday night. Captain Dean Wilson is still out after fracturing his hand in the league game at Larne. The coaches are expecting captain Ben McIIwaine to be available this week.

From Limavady Head coach Graeme Eastwood – Lurgan will be a tricky away fixture for his team but one his squad is looking forward to. The players have continued to work hard at training over the past few weeks theyv’e had off. Gavin Martin, Darren Corrigan and Jonny Lees all return to the squad this week with the team expected to be on similar lines to recent games.

Lurgan have won 2 and losy 5 with Limavady winning 5 and losing 1 in the league

Randalstown v Larne

Manager Willie Allen was at Shaws bridge last Saturday to watch his Randalstown seconds team overwhelm Instonians 52 – 7 in the Crawford Plate. The team played very well against a team from the league above them. The 1st xv for this week will not be finalised until Thursday night. Both Marty O’Neill and Paul Laverty who played in the win at Clogher Valley will miss this weekend with the team expected to be on similar lines to the team that played Clogher Valley.

Larne Head coach Graham Cloke will be missing Ryan McAllister and Jack Hill with Johnny Ogilvy facing a late fitness test. The squad is expected to be on similar lines to the squad that defeated Lurgan 38 – 6. The coach felt there was nothing between the two teams in their matches last season with Randalstown sneaking late scores to win. He is well aware how well Gary Longwell has this team organised and is expecting a competitive game this weekend.

Randalstown have won 6 and lost 1 with Larne winning 2 and losing 3 in the league

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP/CONF DIV2

Ards (8) v Ballymena seconds (6)

Ballymoney (3) v Omagh seconds (11)

Lisburn (13) v Banbridge seconds (9)

Malone seconds (7) v UUC ( 14)

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 3

Cavan v BHSFP

Civil Service v Newry

Donaghadee v Virginia

Holywood v Monaghan

Ophir v Strabane

PSNI v Letterkenny

Sorry for late publication of the preview this week. Busy programme.

Enjoy your rugby this weekend.

Cheers

George