Qualifying league One
What an opening three weeks we have had to the league programme. UUC after two early defeats were unlucky to lose narrowly to a last minute try at Coleraine. All the teams in the league are capable of beating each other. This week we have several interesting fixtures.
Ballymoney V Cooke
After an opening day win at Coleraine Cooke have slumped to defeats at home to Dromore and away to Donaghadee. Ballymoney secured a valuable draw at Dromore after defeats to Clogher Valley and Coleraine. Cooke coach Colin Atkinson is already under pressure to turn around the fortunes of the Shaws bridge club. This fixture has a bottom of the table clash already with a win vital for both sides. Ballymoney to win.
CIYMS v Donaghadee
CI will have been disappointed with an under par performance in their 17 – 6 lost at Portadown. The loss of scrum half Michael Wilson to injury was a major blow to the Belmont team. They will be looking to get back to winning ways. The Dee players have an inspirational player in scrum half Alastair Lockhart and they will travel with confidence to take all four league points. Despite losing several key players the Dee squad has introduced several new faces to their playing squad this season. CI will be expected to win. Can the Dee pull off another win to strenghten their pursuit of a top four finish.
Clogher Valley v Portadown
Table toppers Portadown will travel with confidence to the Cran after three league wins against potential league contenders. Coaches Richard Hedley and Ciaran O’Kane know a win will strengthen their grip on the league. Clogher Valley lost a tight game at Bangor when poor handling cost them the points. Expect the Fivemiletown team to bounce back with a win.
Coleraine v Bangor
On paper you would expect Bangor to win. Coleraine under the guidance of coach Richard Beggs and Captain Stephen Douglas have bounced back from an opening day defeat to Cooke to storm up the league table. Their near neighbours UUC almost pulled off a shock win at Sandel lodge but thanks to South Afircan Bakkies Carsten’s they secured a last minute win courtesy of his try. Bangor under the guidance of coach Rupert Preston and influential Captain Jamie Clegg have demonstrated they have the strength in depth to compete for the league. Fascinating contest in prospect. Bangor to win.
UUC V Dromore
Another difficult fixture to call. The students will have taken confidence from their narrow defeat at near neighbours Coleraine. Winger Sam Hall has once again demonstrated his try scoring prowess when given the opportunity. Student coaches Nathan Moore and Ryan Milligan will be confident their team can secure their first league win. Dromore coaches Dewet Bekker and Jeremy Ogle will want to build on their impressive away win at Cooke. UUC to win.
Ballyclare v Enniskillen.
Coach Bob Young and Captain Robert Boyd will have been pleased by Ballyclare’s two early season wins in the league. Is there any other team in the league capable of challenging their push for promotion to Qualifying One. Opponents Enniskillen required a last minute try to win 8 – 6 at home to Carrickfergus last Saturday. Can the men from Fermanagh stall their charge. Skins coach Alastair McKee and Captain Ricky Connor’s have a difficult task.Ballyclare to win
Carrickfergus v Limavady
Failure to take their scoring opportunities cost Carrick dearly at Enniskillen. Limavady were overwhelmed by Ballyclare. Both teams will want a win. Limavady to win.
Lisburn v Strabane.
Newly promoted Strabane will play their first competitive game in Qualifying Two at Blaris on Saturday. Their coaches Willy Gibson formerly Enniskillen and Adrian Hamilton formerly Omagh have the task of moulding a team to compete in this highly competitive league. The coaches are optimistic they can hold their own in this league. Lisburn will present a stern test after they bounced back to secure a 13 – 13 draw at Academy. Lisburn to win
Randalstown v Academy
This Antrim derby is important for both clubs with Randalstown looking to build on their excellent Junior Cup win at Rainey. Academy will have been disappointed to throw away their lead at home to Lisburn in their opening league game. Home advantage – Randalstown to win.
A potential league decider at this early stage of the season. Larne impressed with a 48 -12 Gordon West cup win at Lurgan last weekend. In the same competition Holywood proved too strong for Civil Service at Stormont winning 55 – 7. This fixture will bring out a large crowd. Larne were relegated from Qualifying Two with Holywood winning Qualifying Four and the Gordon West Cup last season. Holywood to win
Letterkenny v Monaghan
Both teams suffered heavy defeats to Donegal 44 – 0 in Gordon West Cup and league 68 – 0. Monaghan bounced back with a 34 – 5 victory away to Cavan last Saturday in the Gordon West Cup. Letterkenny to win
PSNI v Newry
Ophir recorded a 46 – 22 win over the PSNI last Saturday in the Gordon West Cup. Newry won their opening league game against Lurgan 23 – 20. Expect PSNI to win this one.
Armoy v Ophir
Ophir have impressed with a opening day league win over BHSFP 55 – 11 and a Cup win over PSNI. Armoy lost their Gordon West Cup match at home to BHSFP 25 – 10 last Saturday. Ophir to win.
Cavan v Civil Service
Difficult game to call. Civil Service will look to reverse their heavy Cup defeat to Holywood by picking up their first league points at Cavan.
Virginia v BHSFP
Interesting game. Virginia recorded an impressive 20 – 15 win at home over Newry in the Gordon West Cup last Saturday. Former Malone and Ballymena player Rhys Botha was pivotal in influencing the BHSFP win at Armoy. Virginia to win.
Busy weekend of rugby ahead for the clubs. Some cracking games at all levels.