Qualifying League Rugby Saturday 16th November 2013 by George Millar

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There are thirteen fixtures to be played in Qualifying One, Two, Three and Four this Saturday. In Qualifying One there are five fixtures in Round Seven with current champions Portadown and Clogher Valley sitting top with 26 pts followed closely by CIYMS and Bangor on 22pts and Ballymoney on 21pts. Three pts separate Donaghadee, Dromore, Cooke and Coleraine with UUC firmly rooted at the bottom on 1 pt. Both Portadown and Clogher Valley are reeling from their shock Junior Cup exits last Sat to Ballynahinch seconds and Ballyclare and will want morale boosting wins to maintain their title challenge. Ballymoney have mounted a surge up the table to fifth place and travel to Chambers Park on Sat. They also have fixtures coming up against Portadown, CIYMS and Clogher Valley before Xmas that will demonstrate whether they have the squad to push for league honours. For Donaghadee, Dromore, Cooke and Coleraine they will need to put together a run of results before Xmas to push for a top four place in the new year. The ill fated students have a daunting programme coming up against Bangor, Portadown, CIYMS and Clogher Valley in their next four league fixtures.

Qualifying One

Bangor v UUC

The seasiders will want to bounce back from their shock 20 – 13 defeat away to Ballymoney in their last league outing. The students have struggled in Qualifying One this season and will come up against a side looking the maximum five points to take advantage of their one game in hand as they push for league honours. Bangor coach Rupert Preston and Captain Jamie Clegg will ensure their side are fully focused for this vital game. Bangor have talent throughout the side with their lively threequarters of David Charles, Neil Cuthbertson, and Mark Widdowson creating and scoring tries. Bangor to win

Coleraine v Donaghadee

Sandel Lodge has not proved a happy hunting ground for the North Down side who found last weeks visit to Ballymoney one step too far in the Junior Cup. The challenge for Player/ Coach Paul McKenzie is to pick up his players for this vital league encounter as his side attempt to make another late push for a top four place and qualification for the All Ireland Junior Cup. Junior Cup semi finalists Coleraine will buoyed by their Junior Cup success and Coach Richard Beggs will hope his side can use their Cup form to put together a league run and move away from the lower regions of the league. Coleraine backrow of Kenny Calladine, Stephen Douglas and Bernard Mullan are very much the driving force within the team. Coleraine to win

Cooke v CIYMS

Despite their lowly league position Cooke forced champions Portadown to hang on in their recent narrow 15 – 10 win over the Shawsbridge side. Once again the Gourlay brothers Alan and Alex will pose a considerable attacking threat to the East Belfast side. Cooke coach Colin Atkinson will want to move around the big CIYMS pack. CIYMS Captain Stuart Ferguson knows his side have had to dig deep to win recent games as they hung on to win 11 – 9 at home to Dromore. CI have match winners in backs Andy Hodgen and Matthew McCormick along with the presence of Ross Hackney, Steven McReynolds and Gavin Woods in the forwards.
CIYMS to win

Dromore v Clogher Valley

After sitting in the top four Dromore have slipped down to seventh place after narrow defeats to title contenders CIYMS and Portadown in their last two league outings. Coaches Dewet Bekker and Jeremy Ogle know their side need to win these close games if they are to push for a top four finish. The Dromore back row of Jonny Maguire, Adam McGregor and Gareth Fitzpatrick along with half backs Chris Jenks and Ryan Cobb have vital roles to play in this game. Clogher Valley will be hurting from their Junior Cup defeat last Saturday and expect coaches Glen Kyle and Davy Black to push for a convincing win from their charges. Ballyclare’s defence was able to withhold the onslaught of the Tyrone sides forwards last Saturday and secure the all important win. Can the County Down side secure a win against one of the top four sides. No doubt the vociferous Barban Hill faithful will turn out in large numbers to urge their side on. Dromore to win

Portadown v Ballymoney

Once again the Chambers Park faithful will have another pretender to their throne to visit them on Sat. Coach Richard Hedley will have been disappointed by their defeat to Ballynahinch seconds in the Junior Cup last Sat. Their forward strength is being challenged by sides playing an expansive game as witnessed by the recent Cooke side. Ballymoney have only lost once in their last nine outings ( 21 – 15 defeat to Ballymena seconds in the Conference league). Expect coaches Neil Beddow and Jason Taggart to have their Toon side up for this game. With a Junior Cup semi final to look forward to, their is real competition for places. Out half Jamesy Campbell have become a prolific goal kicker for his side. Captain Alex Watson and his backrow of Jonny Hanna, Garvin Bellingham and Ryan Clyde will have to battle it out for supremacy against the experienced Gary Hall, Dairmund O’Kane and James Carleton. Ballymoney to win

Qualifying Two

Fixtures involving the top five sides Ballyclare, Lisburn, Randalstown, Carrickfergus and Omagh over the next three weeks will go some way to decide the challengers to Ballyclare for this league. Ballyclare have 23 pts, Lisburn 19pts, Randalstown 15pts, Carrickfergus 15pts and Omagh 14pts. Ballyclare have to remain firm favourites after they won 8 – 6 at home to Clogher Valley in the Junior Cup.

Qualifying Two

Academy v Grosvenor

Two sides sit mid table after their opening five league games. Relegated Academy are rebuilding and are capable of mounting a strong finish to their league campaign. Grosvenor after a promising start to their season have failed to live up to their potential. Academy to win.

Ballyclare v Carrickfergus

A County Antrim derby that will attract a large crowd to Cloughan. On paper the Clare side have to be firm favourites and coach Bob Young and Captain Robert Boyd know their players cannot afford to be complacent against an improving Carrick side under player coach Jonny Cullen and Captain Andy KinKaid. The Carrick side know any mistakes will be punished by a potent Clare backline directed by half backs Adam Wardrop and Collie Morrow. Ballyclare to win

Enniskillen v Limavady

Both sides were expected to mount a challenge in the league this season. Results have placed them eighth and nineth in the league above winless Strabane. Limavady recorded a 20 – 10 away win against Enniskillen in the 1st rd of the Junior Cup and the North West team were expected to build on this performance. Unfortunately they have only one league win to show for their efforts from six outings with Enniskillen winning two from six. Skins coach Alastair McKee and Captain Ricky Connor have much work to do to lift the fortunes of the Fermanagh club. Enniskillen to win.

Omagh v Randalstown

Having played only four league games Omagh coach Philip Marshall knows his side have to close the gap to catch league leaders Ballyclare. Randalstown have quietly moved up the league table under the guidance of coaches Gary Longwell and Alastair Strange and become serious promotion challengers to both Ballyclare and Omagh. Omagh will rely on forwards Mervyn Edgar, Mark Smyth and Captain Andrew Ferguson to build a platform for their talented backline. Influential No 8 Chris Allen has become a key player for the Antrim side scoring match winning tries in recent games. Difficult fixture to call. Omagh to win

Qualifying Three

Holywood and Larne were expected to be the only contestants battling it out for promotion this season in this league. Donegal Town sit proudly at the top of the league 2 pts ahead of Holywood with Larne and Letterkeeny on six points. Winless Monaghan secured their first league win last Sat 28 – 24 at Lurgan. Such is the competitiveness of the league Larne had to work extremely hard to win recent matches against Donegal and Newry.

Holywood v Donegal Town

This vital game at Kerr Park will draw a large crowd as the unbeaten Holywood side will want to regain top place in the league. Donegal know this is a must win game for them if they want to win the league. Their only defeat in the league was a narrow 16 – 10 lost at Larne. They returned to winning ways after defeating Letterkenny 15 – 10 last Saturday. Expect this game to be physically competitive. Holywood to win.

Larne v PSNI.

Laurence Kelly’s side continue to impress after their early season league defeat to Holywood. Hard earned wins over Donegal and Newry have galvanised the side in their push for leagu honours. PSNI have disappointed this season and are struggling to avoid relegation. Expect a convincing Larne win.

Letterkenny v Newry

Interesting game between two sides who have improved and will prove difficult opposition for any sides in this league. Letterkenny pushed Donegal all the way before losing narrowly 15 – 10 last Saturday. Letterkenny have a proud home record this season. Letterkenny to win. Dont be surprised if Newry pull of a result they have the talent within their squad.

Qualifying Four

Ophir sit comfortably at the top with ten points from five games. Surprise team Virginia have moved into second place on eight points with four wins from five. Both BHSFP and Cavan sit mid table. Disappointing Armoy were unable to fulfil their fixture at Virginia last Sat. Hopefully the North East Antrim side can regroup and complete their fixtures.

BHSFP v Cavan

The Greenisland side recorded a 36 – 6 win at Armoy in their last outing scoring six tries. Cavan lost 16 – 6 at home to league leaders Ophir in a keenly contested game last Sat. Both sides are evenly matched. Home advantage should see a High School win.

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