It was a mixed weekend for the Ulster clubs in the UBL with six winning and five losing. Belfast Harlequins had no game last Saturday. There were wins for Ballynahinch, Malone, Queens Uni, Rainey OB, Bangor and Omagh. Both Ballymena and City of Armagh lost games by small margins. Newly promoted Banbridge made the long trip to Limerick to play Div 1B league leaders Shannon at Thomond Park losing 33 – 14. There was no joy for Dungannon and City of Derry as they suffered heavy defeats against MU Barnhall and Navan RFC. Along with Belfast Harlequins these three sides occupy the bottom three places in Div 2B.
There are five Ulster derbies in the Ulster Bank All Ireland League this weekend.
Ballymena v Ballynahinch: Referee Jonny Erskine
Malone v Queens Uni: Jonathan Peak
Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon: Referee Dan Carson
City of Derry v Rainey OB: Referee Jonny Wilson
Omagh v Bangor:Referee Rob Watson
The stand out top four/five games in the UBL this week are:
Div 1A Clontarf v Lansdowne.
Div 1B Banbridge v Old Belvedere
Div 2A Malone v Queens Uni
Div 2A City of Armagh v Highfield
Div 2B Skerries v Navan
Div 2C Bruff v Thomond
Div 2C Omagh v Bangor
In the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup we are at the quarter final stage with Munster 3 x teams, Connacht 2 x teams, Ulster 2 x teams and Leinster 1 x team. The first round produced several surprising results with the performances of the Connacht sides impressing with league leaders Ballina defeating Portadown and Connemara travelling to Dublin to defeat DLSP. Both teams have home draws and are capable of progressing to the semi finals. Munster teams have also performed well with league leaders Clonmel chasing their 4th Munster league title having to travel to Leinster to play current cup holders Ashbourne who defeated Ulster league leaders Ballyclare in the 1st Rd. Ulster representatives Instonians and Enniskillen face difficult fixtures. Instonians travel to Ballina with Enniskillen welcoming Limerick side Newcastle West to Mullaghmeen. Enniskillen were given a bye when their 1st Rd opponents Bandon from Cork were unable to travel due to injuries in their front row.
This will be Enniskillen’s first match in the All Ireland Junior Cup.
Apart from current holders Ashbourne only Instonians have made it to the final losing out to Enniscorthy in the 2016.
Current League positions of eight quarter finalists
Munster teams: Clonmel (1st) Won 4 Drawn 1 , Kilfeacle & District (4th) Won 3/5, Newcastl West(7th) won 3/5.
Connacht teams: Ballina (1st) Won 4/4, Connemara (2nd) won 4/4.
Ulster teams: Instonians (2nd) Won 5/6. Enniskillen (8th) won 2/6
Leinster team: Ashbourne (1st) won 5/6.
Just checking performances of several of the Ulster under 19 squad this season.
Michael O’Neill Rainey OB winger has scored 4 tries in his last three UBL matches.
Angus Kernohan Ballymena centre scored 3 tries in his last two UBL matches.
Clayton Milligan Ballynahinch Hooker has started in two UBL games and benched in last two.
Evan Crummie City of Armagh centre has been regular on undefeated City of Armagh second xv this season
Callum Harkin Malone scrumhalf has been regular on successful Malone 2nd xv this season including one start
for 1st xv in Senior Cup win over Dungannon.
For the ‘discerning’ Ulster rugby supporters there is the opportunity to make the effort to go along and support their local community rugby club over the next two weekends with Ulster not playing again until Friday the 24th November. What amazed me is so many of these supporters didn’t realise that players not involved with the Ulster team played for local rugby clubs. It is these clubs who provide the opportunity for these players to develop their game in the All Ireland league. Examples of players playing with their clubs this weekend include:
Ballynahinch: Jonny ‘Mo’ Simpson, David Busby, Jonny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns, Jack Regan, Rory Butler and Zac McCall. Peter Browne not released with injury ruling out Aaron Hall.
Ballymena: Clive Ross, Marcus Rea along with Sub Academy players Matty Agnew, Angus Kernohan and Michael Stronge.
Banbridge: Rob Lyttle, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole and Greg Jones. Injury rules out Michael Lowry, James Humes, Caleb Montgomery and Nick Timoney.
Malone: Jack Owens, Matthew Dalton, Joe Dunleavy and Peter Cooper.
Queens University: Jonny Stewart, Alexander Clarke, Angus Curtis and Sub Academy Mark Keane.
Rainey OB: Tommy O’Hagan and John McCusker.
Just an observation for the IRFU Clubs committee. I know the limitations of assistant referees/touch judges in the All Ireland League matches. Their role is to run the touch line and draw the attention of the referee to any foul play. Apart from that their role is limited. Can no consideration be given to using these officials to assist with managing the offside lines during a game. It is very difficult for a referee to focus on the breakdown area and at the same time keep an eye on the offside lines. When this area is not properly officiated we end up with teams suffocating each other in non stop collisions as they attempt to close down space. This is not the type of rugby we want to watch on a rugby pitch.
This weekend the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship teams will have a weekend off apart from Instonians and Enniskillen competing in the AIL Junior Cup with two matches listed in Div 3.
Last weekend we had another fascinating weekend of rugby in the three Divisions.
In Div 1 second place Instonians defeated leaders Ballyclare 17 – 13 in a very tight game at Shawsbridge to narrow their lead to two points. The two other teams making up the top four placings Dromore and Carrickfergus will have surprised many with their early season form. Both teams defeated newly promoted Coleraine and CIYMS. Dromore defeating CIYMS 31 – 20 at Barban Hill and Carrick winning 18 – 7 against Coleraine at the Tom Simms Memorial Grounds. Six points now separate the top four teams after six games played. With the first third of games completed are we going to see Dromore and Carrickfergus challenge the early season dominance of Ballyclare and Instonians. Enniskillen picked up much needed league points in defeating Cooke 15 – 11 at Mullaghmeen. With Clogher Valley in 10th place on one point the teams in 5th – 9th place are separated by six points as teams look to avoid finishing in the bottom two places. They include Cooke, CIYMS, Portadown, Enniskillen and Coleraine. The bottom team is automatically relegated with the 9th place team going into a playoff.
Instonians 17 Ballyclare 13.
Instonians: 1. Corrie Barratt, 2. Conor Gallagher, 3. Alan Whitten, 4.Jon Andress 5. Sean Shuttleworth, 6. Ben Alexander, 7. Josh Atkinson, 8. Roger Wilson, 9. Matthew Keane, 10. Jamesy Campbell, 11. Michael Melville, 12. David Scott, 13. Joe Fryers, 14. Matt Kilpatrick, 15. Gareth Burns – Delaney. 16. Neil Saulter, 20. Fraser Wright. Points scorers: Matt Kilpatrick 2 x tries, Jamesy Campbell 2 x cons and 1 x pen.
Ballyclare: 1. Rory Henderson,2. Matthew Coulter, 3. Ricky Lutton, 4. Robert Boyd, 5. Grant Bartley (Captain), 6. Paul Robinson, 7. Gary Weatherup, 8. David Clarke, 9. Thomas Holland, 10. Robert Smith, 11. Owen Kirk, 12. Joel McBride, 13. Robbie Reid, 14. Stuart Cusick, 15. Gary Clotworthy, 16. 17. A Boyd, 18.Aaron Playfair. Points scorers: Joel McBride 1 x try, Robert Smith 1 x con and 2 x pens.
Dromore 30 CIYMS 21
Dromore 1. Rory Pepper, 2. Stuart Sloan, 3. Mark Hylands 4. Stuart Russell, 5. Ross Bingham, 6. Blair McDonald, 7. Jonny Maguire, 8. Adam McGregor, 9. Lee Steenson, 10. Aaron Stuart, 11. Mike Allen, 12. Sam Russell, 13. Ryan Cobb, 14. Brian McClearn, 15. Adam McDonald, 16. Frazer Mulholland, 17. Andrew Black. Points scorers: Brian McClearn Ross Bingham, Lee Steenson 1 x try each + penalty try. Lee Steenson kicked 3 x cons and 1 xpen. Interesting footnote winger Brian McClearn has scored 5 tries in six matches.
CIYMS: 1.Ali Coulson, 2. Scott McNarry, 3. Timothy Atcheson, 4. Cory Tipping, 5. Mark McConkey, 6. Scott Dowle, 7. Jason Gilliland, 8. Stuart Ferguson, 9. Cameron Stewart, 10. Paddy Beverland, 11. Chris Devlin, 12. Callum Irvine (captain), 13. Nathan Burns, 14. Matty Butler, 15. Peter Raine. 16. Simon Baillie, 17. Ross Sinnamon. Points scorers: Chris Devlin 2 x tries, Callum Irine 1 x try, Cameron Stewart 1 x con and 1 x pen.
Former Queens winger Chris Devlin has scored three tries in his last two league games.
Carrickfergus 18 Coleraine 7
Carrickfergus: 1. Derek McKeen, 2. Alan Whitley, 3.Paul Greenaway, 4. Chris Rodgers, 5. C Taylor, 6. Ryan McGonigle, 7. Bradley Lunney, 8. Andy McKeen (captain), 9. Conor Cambridge, 10. Adam White, 11. D Moore, 12. Jason Wady, 13. Peter Simpson, 14. Fionn McCormick, 15. Michael Black, 16. Stuart Cheshire, 17. Ryan Crymble. Points scorers : Chris Rodgers and Conor Cambridge 1 x try each. Fionn McCormick 1 x con and 2 x pens.
Coleraine Points s corers : Paddy McGowan 1 x try, Mikey Poskitt 1 x con.
Enniskillen 15 Cooke 11
Enniskillen points scorers: Kaine Holden 2 x tries, James Ferguson 1 x try.
Cooke 1. Karl Sloan, 2. Curtis Montgomery, 3. D McErlean, 4. Andrew Quigley, 5. Jonathan Walsh, 6. Matthew Elliott, 7. Callum Robinson, 8. J Lyons, 9. Ryan Flavelle, 10. Rob Mitchell, 11. Andrew Nelson, 12. Kyle Mitchell, 13. Philip Cartmill, 14. Jonathan Backus, 15. Alex gourley, 16. Liam Bennett, 17. Adrian Dodd. Points scorers: Matthew Elliott 1 x try, Rob Mitchell 2 x pens.
Have to mention Clogher Valley who earned an 18 – 18 draw against Armagh seconds in the Conference league at Armagh last Sat. Despite their struggles this season they became the first team to deny Armagh seconds a win in any match so far this season. City of Armagh are top of Conference league 1 one point ahead of Ballynahinch seconds having played one game more than their rivals. These two teams are due to meet at Ballymacarn Park on the 2nd December.
In Conference league 2 Grosvenor lead Malone seconds by six points having played two games more. Malone seconds have a chance to close the gap when they play a rearranged game against Omagh seconds at Gibson Park on Saturday. No date has been fixed for the postponed game at Limavady.
Grosvenor remain in control of their own destiny in Div 2 with another bonus point 36 – 5 win at Limavady. All their points coming in a strong 1st half performance. Their nearest challengers Randalstown and Ballymoney both won with Randalstown defeating the PSNI 36 – 0 and Ballymoney winning 27 – 11 at UUC. 4th place Academy suffered a heavy defeat at Ards after leading 7 – 0. They were overrun by an Ards team who scored nine tries to win 57 – 12 with winger Trevor Devlin scoring five. Can Larne challenge the top four after winning back to back games with Lisburn and the PSNI away. Ten points separate the top three teams with Ballymoney having a game in hand with Randalstown four points behind Grosvenor who have picked up 29/30 points in their opening six games.
Limavady 5 Grosvenor 36
Grosvenor points scorers: Mitchell McComb 2 x tries, Jeff Mealiff, Allen McCluggage, Ben Coard and Stuart McIIwaine 1 x try each. Allen McCluggage kicked 3 x cons.
Randalstown 36 PSNI 3
Randalstown points scorers: David Smith 2 x tries, Conor Ferry, David Millar and Martin Connolly 1 x try each. Martin Connolly 2 x cons.
Ballymoney 27 UUC 11
Ballymoney: 1. Matthew Blair, 2. Kenny McAneaney, 3. Andy Brown, 4. Michael Allen, 5. James Blakely, 6. John McFetridge (Captain), 7. David McKeeman, 8. Daniel Ramage, 9. Matthew Steele, 10. Marty Irwin, 11. Andrew Young, 12. James Cleland, 13. Aaron Brown, 14. Matthew Bell, 15. Michael Armstrong, 16. Dan McCord, 17. Neale Mulholland.
Lisburn 15 Larne 22
Lisburn points scorers: Uate Caquea and Matt Edgar 1 x try each. Ernest Caseta 1 x pen
Larne point s scorers: Stuart Andrews and Ryan Garrett 1 x try each. Philip Andrews 4 x pens.
Ards 57 Academy 12
Ards team: 1. Andrew Foster (Captain), 2. Tom Arthur Donnan, 3. Matty Kane, 4. Ross Torney, 5. Gareth McBurney, 6. Paddy Bond, 7. Danny Patton, 8. Graham Taylor, 9. Alex Hendricks, 10. Mark Banford, 11. Trevor Devlin, 12. Stuart Paul, 13. Scott Young, 14. Adam Coulter, 15. Paul Cox, 16. John Dowey, 17. Onisi Burekama.. Points scorers: Trevor Devlin 5 x tries, Mark Banford, Adam Coulter, Alex Hendricks and Paul Cox 1 x try each. Paul Cox kicked 6 x cons.
Academy points scorers: Keith Dobbin and Stevie Stewart 1 x try each. Chris Cooper 1 x con.
With Ards picking up five valuable league points they have games in hand on 7th place Lisburn. It would look like the contest to avoid finishing in the bottom two places will be between Lisburn, Limavady, PSNI and UUC with four points separating the bottom four teams.
In Div 3 the contest appears to be between Lurgan and Donaghadee to see who finishes in 1st and 2nd place. After eight games Lurgan have picked up a maximum 40 points with Donaghadee on 36 pts. Donaghadee will be pleased that they defeated another of the top four teams in winning 21 – 5 at Monaghan last Saturday.
ULSTER BANK ALL IRELAND LEAGUE: ROUND 7
Clontarf (3) v Lansdowne (1): Played Friday 10. 11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Garryowen (5) v Young Munster (6): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
St Mary’s College (8) v Dublin Uni (9): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Terenure College (2) v UCD (7): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Buccaneers (10) v Cork Constitution (4)
Ballymena (7) v Ballynahinch (2): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 8PM
UCC (5) v Dolphin (10): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Naas (6) v Shannon (1). Kick off 2PM
Banbridge (3) v Old Belvedere (4)
UL Bohemians (9) v Old Wesley (8)
Ballymena v Ballynahinch
It was another near miss for Head coach Andy Graham and his players when they came up short at home to UCC losing 35 – 34 last Saturday. The positive for Ballymena is that despite losing 35 – 20 with five minutes to go the team rallied to score two late converted tries and collect two valuable league points. This defeat made it three losses at home for the Eaton Park side. This was also the first UBL match Ballymena had scored four tries in with Ulster Academy prospect Angus Kernohan scoring another two tries to bring it to three tries in his last two games. Despite these defeats Ballymena have picked up points from 5/6 of their games. It is turning these narrow losses into wins.
With injuries and this being a rest week in the Ulster Rugby squad players including Adam McBurney, John Andrews, Andy Warwick, Matthew Rea, Ross Kane, Brett Herron, Callum Patterson and David Shanahan have not been released. Both Patterson and Shanahan are recovering from injuries.
The only Ulster releases include Clive Ross and Marcus Rea along with Sub Academy players Matthew Agnew, Angus Kernohan and Michael Stronge.
Injuries are likely to rule out David Whann and Stephen Mulholland with Adrian Hamilton 3/4 weeks from returning. The coach welcomes back the experienced Alan Smyth in the centre to add experience along with Rodger McBurney and Glenn Baillie to the backline that includes young players Michael Stronge, Matthew Norris, Angus Kernohan and Dean Reynolds.
In the forwards Ulster under 19 second row JJ McKee will make his debut from the bench for Ballymena 1st xv. He will be joined by other rising stars from Ballymena in Scott Agnew and Joe Thompson.
These young players are putting pressure on the more established players with their hunger and commitment to be part of the Ballymena 1st xv squad. Recent weeks have witnessed the second xv winning their last two games with the Under 20 side playing at Ballymoney on Wednesday night. Head coach Andrew Graham believes that there is a considerable momentum swing at the club with the vacuum of player losses being filled by talented local players. The success of the club in attracting back young players through the mid week under 20 games has been a bonus along with the progress being made at Youth level to develop players to play adult rugby at the club.
Friday night is the first of two back to back games involving Ballymena and Ballynahinch with the two teams meeting again in the semi final of the First Trust Senior Cup at Eaton Park on the 18th November.
The release of Ulster players to Ballynahinch will give them the advantage on Friday night in this difficult fixture for the Braid men.
Ballymena team 1. Nacho Crespo, 2. James Taggart, 3. Chris Cundell, 4. Mark Foster, 5. Connor Smyth, 6. Marcus Rea, 7. Matty Agnew, 8. Clive Ross, 9. Michael Stronge, 10. Glenn Baillie. 11. Matthew Norris, 12. Alan Smyth, 13. Angus Kernohan, 14. Dean Renynolds, 15. Rodger McBurney, 16. Scott Agnew, 17. Andrew Ferguson, 18. Joe Thompson, 19. J J Mckee, 20. David O’Hara.
It was an important win for Ballynahinch over Naas on Sat. They kept their unbeaten home record at Ballymacarn Park when they moved up into 2nd place level on points with neighbours Banbridge. Ulster releases will be crucial for Ballynahinch particularly in the front five with second row and captain James Simpson continuing his recovery from injury and John Donnan unavailable for the next four weeks. Brian Mclaughlin will also be aware that his team are seven points behind league leaders Shannon and cant afford any slip ups at Ballymena on Friday night.
Ulster releases include: Jonny ‘Mo’ Simpson, David Busby, Jonny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns, Jack Regan, Rory Butler and Zac McCall. Injury rules out Aaron Hall with Peter Browne not released.
Banbridge v Old Belvedere
The County Down side lost their unbeaten record at leaders Shannon 33 – 14 last Saturday. Banbridge were level with Shannon 7 – 7 after 15 minutes when they lost two of their key forwards Robin Sinton and Nick Hayes to injury. The impact of these injuries unsettled the team for long enough to enable Shannon to build up a 21 – 7 halftime lead.
This weekend they face another top four side at Rifle Park in Old Belvedere who are coached by former Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan who defeated UL Bohemians 18 – 13 last week.
As Head coach Daniel Soper put it his team have another tough match but they all are. He welcomes back team Captain Ian Porter who missed the trip to Limerick. His brother John joins the match day squad for the first time this season. Selection for Saturday is up in the air as the coach awaits to see how the injured players front up later this week.
Ulster releases include: Rob Lyttle, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole and Greg Jones. Injury rules out Michael Lowry, James Hume , Caleb Montgomery and Nick Timoney.
Blackrock College (10) v Greystones (9): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Cashel RFC (6) v Nenagh Ormond (4): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Galwegians (8) v Galway Corinthians (7): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Malone (1) v Queens Uni (3): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 8PM
City of Armagh (5) v Highfield (2)
Malone v Queens Uni
Anyone who was at Gibson Park last Sat for the match between Malone and City of Armagh could not have failed to be impressed by the rugby produced by both teams in a nail biting contest that was settled by a late Josh Pentland drop goal that sealed a 28 – 26 win for the home side. We can expect more of the same when Malone and in form Queens Uni meet at Gibson Park under the Friday floodlights.
Malone remain the only unbeaten Ulster team in the UBL with Queens bouncing back from two surprising home losses against Cashel and Nenagh Ormond to run in 13 tries in their defeats of Galwegians away and Blackrock at the Dub over the last two weeks.
It has been a challenging time for the 1st xv squad at Gibson Park with the 2nds competing for Conference league 2 title and the team progressing to the semi finals of the Junior Cup after defeating Portadown 1st xv last Saturday, where they will play Junior Cup holders Ballynahinch seconds at Ballymacarn Park on the 25th November.
Injuries and unavailability have stretched the playing resources available to Head coach Paddy Armstrong and his coaching staff in recent weeks.
More of the resolve and determination that got them over the line against Armagh will be required this week.
Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong is looking at the Queens match as another tough game for his team. Queens have had a number of good results of late and are a well coached side. They are a different team compared to previous years as they are a much more experienced side with the addition of a number of more experienced players and returning former players to the squad. They have a number of good ball handlers throughout the team.
The Malone players are looking forward to the challenge on Friday night. From the team that played on Saturday Phil Lucas faces a late fitness test.
Ulster releases include Jack Owens, Matthew Dalton, Joe Dunleavy and Peter Cooper.
Queens Uni have welcomed back in recent weeks key backs Jack Milligan, Angus Curtis and Mark Keane with all three scoring six tries in their last two matches. Experienced players returning to Queens this season have included forwards Daniel Dass and Jonny Lees in the back row along with half backs John Creighton and Richie McMaster. It is the addition of these experienced players that has strengthen the belief of coaches Neil Doak, Derek Suffern and DJ Creighton that this Queens team have the resources to finish in the top four this season. Captain Nigel Simpson has led by example scoring 5 tries in 6 games. The availability of Ulster scrum half Jonny Stewart, Anus Curtis and Mark Keane who are involved with the Ireland under 20 squad will have a big impact on Queens ambitions. One of the most impressive results achieved by this Queens squad this season was travelling to 2nd place Highfield in Cork on the 30 . 9 .17 and winning 16 – 13. Despite inconsistent home form they will be more than a match for this Malone team with their running style of rugby.
From Queens Uni 1st Manager Ian McAvoy. Queens played well against Blackrock College in their 49 – 13 win. Only changes expected for the game at Malone is a doubt over the availability of number 8 Daniel Dass who is away on a two day job interview with Alexander Clarke returning to the match day squad.
Ulster releases include Jonny Stewart, Alexander Clarke and Angus Curtis.
Queens team 1. Anton Lupari, 2. David Swann, 3. Andrew Clingan, 4. Ali Burke, 5. Marc Campbell, 6. David Whitten, Jonny Lees, Nigel Simpson (Captain), 9. John Creighton, 10. Richie McMaster, 11. Mark Keane, 12. Rory Bell, 13 Conor Shiels/Angus Curtis, 14. Jonny Milliken, 15. Jack Milligan, 16. Jonny Black, 17. Alexander Clarke, 18. Gary Dillon, 19. Jonny Stewart, 20 Conor Shiels/ Angus Curtis.
City of Armagh v Highfield
Two narrow defeats against Nenagh Ormond and Malone have seen Armagh slip out of the top four places. They have a chance on Saturday to make amends when they play 2nd place Highfield at the Palace Grounds. Not an easy task considering the Cork side won 37 – 22 at Nenagh Ormond last Saturday.
Assistant coach Chris Parker welcomes back Timmy McNeice into the backline after the player got 40 mins off the bench at Malone. Second row Josh McKinley who was unavailable due to illness returns this week. John Faloon is available again and returns to the match day squad with centre Jonny Pollock facing a late fitness test on Thursday night.
Skerries (3) v Navan RFC (5): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 8PM
Belfast Harlequins (10) v Dungannon (8): Kick off 2PM
Wanderers (4) v MU Barnhall (6)
City of Derry (9) v Rainey OB (2)
Sunday’s Well (7) v Old Crescent (1)
Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon
Head coach Nicky Wells will be hoping his Quins team can secure their first win at home to Dungannon on Saturday in the UBL. An early red card picked up by centre Mark Gribben meant the team had to play for 70 mins against MU Barnhall in their 22 – 22 draw two weeks ago. In fact they recovered from a 22 – 7 deficit to achieve a draw with new NZ out half Matty McKenzie kicking the all important score to level the match. Five points separate Quins and Dungannon with this game being massive for both teams.
The only changes Quins are expected to make from the draw with Barnhall will be Mark Glover coming in to replace the suspended Mark Gribben in the centre with Lewis Loane returning from injury to take his place in the back three. Promises to be quite a contest between the talented Mark Glover on the Quins side and Paul Armstrong the powerful and skilful Dungannon centre who scored two tries against MU Barnhall last Saturday.
Dungannon lost their game at MU Barnhall 41 – 24 after having back row forward Jona Mau’u red carded. The team did score four tries in picking up a valuable league point. It has not been the season Head coach Andy Hughes had planned for with the team winning one, drawing one and losing four games.
For the coach he thought last Sat was going to be the day given the attitude in training all week from the players to win. Unfortunately two decisions in the space of 5 mins just turned the game on its head for Dungannon. Firstly the referee overruled the linesman to allow a try for Barnhall after he had called the player in touch followed by the sending off Jona Mau’u.
In the forwards the set piece went well against a substantial Barnhall pack especially at scrum time as well as the team scoring 4 tries was a big plus.
In looking forward to the Quins game it is more than a Ulster derby game. Both teams desperatedly need the points at this time to get their season going. His team know where they need to improve and the coach is confident the players can turn their fortunes around.
Selection has not been finalised as they club await the outcome of the Jona Mau’u red card. The squad has no new injury worries.
City of Derry v Rainey OB
This will be a special weekend in the North West as Craig Thompson will be present to officially name the grounds as the ‘The Craig Thompson Stadium’, Judges Road prior to their Ulster derby against second place Rainey OB.
The City of Derry coaching team this season: Head coach Trevor Will, Backs coach Richard McCarter assisted by James Doherty with Joe Gallanagh as the Strength and Conditioning coach.
The games don’t get any easier for City of Derry after heavy defeats against Old Crescent and Navan RFC. Despite these defeats the team have scored 16 tries in their opening six matches. In three of the games the team has just missed out on picking up losing bonus points after scoring three tries. Their NZ scrum half Tyler – Rogers Holden has impressed scoring four tries in his six appearances and has formed a solid half back partnership with the experienced Neil Burns.
Backs coach Richard McCarter is expecting another tough game this week against an inform Rainey team. It is the inability of the team to pick up losing bonus points which is frustrating the coaches and players in their fight to avoid 9th and 10thplace in this Division.
City of Derry are making a number of changes this week due to the unavailability of Thomas Cole and Simon Logue in the backline. One positive piece of news is the return of the back row forward Stephen Corr to the pack this week.
Rainey OB Head coach John Andrews has only tasted defeat once this season from his teams opening six matches when they lost at home to league leaders Old Crescent 22 – 21 in their 1st Rd UBL game at Hatrick Park. They have demonstrated their attacking flair with 20 tries in these games with 13 tries being scored in their last three games. With several new faces added to the squad in the off season including Paul Pritchard, Josh McIIroy, Jason Bloomfield, Andrew Magrath, Brad Roberts, Robert Lamberton and Nicholas Sterling there is real strength in depth in the club.
The presence of Jason Bloomfield and Andrew Magrath at 9 and 10 has enabled Rainey to play their games at a great pace according to the coach.
Not only are the 1st xv in 2nd place in Div 2B the clubs 2nd xv are top of Div 2 of the Provincial Rugby League. One of the key successes at the club has been the development of the Youth Section with Ulster rugby players Tommy O’Hagan and John McCusker coming through the clubs Youth system. Other players to be involved with the Ulster under age teams have been winger Michael O’Neill who has scored 4 tries in his last three UBL games along with Callum Smith and Josh McIntosh who are pushing for inclusion in the 1st xv match day squad. What the Youth section are doing is producing players who can play 1st xv rugby.
One eye catching statistic is out of the clubs 42 man UBL squad – 29 of the players have come through the Youth and Rainey Endowed Grammar School with six players signing straight from School.
Strength and Conditioning coach Ryan Keatings along with centre Josh McIIroy have played a pivotal role in developing young players for Adult rugby at the club. The work put in by Ryan Keatings with the Senior squad this season with the clubs gym on site has been pivotal in reducing the number of injuries in the squad. Head coach John Andrews has remarked on the fitness levels of his players to dominate the final 20 minutes of games this season.
Several unfamiliar faces have stepped in to become key members of the 1st xv squad. They include current full back Oisin Quinn who has played at 9 and 10. He has a great fighting character and never gives up during a game. He is an aggressive player who runs good lines and links well with his backs. Back row forward Andy Harbinson the former Cambridge House player has had to deal with recent family bereavement and has shown the powerful player he is by pressing his claim for a regular starting place in the 1st xv after scoring two tries against Dungannon. He is known as a big strong direct runner who is a match winner. Others include Michael Nevin who has the ability to play across the front row and is expected to develop further over the next 12 months.
Mattie Millar is a young player still playing under 20s rugby. He has come through the Rainey Youth and as a centre has a terrific work attitude on the pitch and has deservedly earned his place in the match day squad.
Last season South African George Fritz was Rainey’s overseas player as their hooker. Due to injury he was unable to return this season. Through George the club were able to sign 21 year old Natal Sharks Academy hooker Brad Roberts who has impressed everybody at the club with his work rate, commitment and desire to play for Rainey rugby club.
For the game at City of Derry. Ronan McCusker remains on the injured list after picking up an HIA at Dungannon. He is following return to play protocols. Prop Stephen Rutledge is being rested with Aidan McSwiggan taking his place on the bench. As John Andrew’s put it the players must take the field against City of Derry on Sat with the right mind set to win the game.
Ulster releases this week include: Tommy O’Hagan and John McCusker.
Bective Rangers (10) v Seapoint (8): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Bruff (3) v Thomond (2): Played Friday 10.11.17. Kick off 7.30PM
Midleton (9) v Malahide RFC (6)
Omagh (5) v Bangor (4)
Sligo (1) v Tullamore (7)
Omagh v Bangor
The County Tyrone team added another three tries in their 20 – 10 win at Seapoint to make it 23 tries in their opening six UBL matches. Winger Neil Brown made it five tries in six games with a brace on Sat. Scrum half and Captain Stewart McCain also made it five tries as he added the third try at Seapoint. One point separates Bangor in 4th and Omagh in 5th. A lot to play for in this Ulster derby game for both teams. Bangor rode their luck at home to 2nd place Bruff last Sat after watching the visitors strike the post with a late penalty for the seasiders to win 13 – 11 and keep their unbeaten three game run at home. Three seasons ago these two sides were playing Qualifying rugby in Ulster. In consecutive seasons both made it through the playoffs to return to playing in the All Ireland League.
What has been impressive for Bangor is that they have now beaten two of the top three teams in recent weeks. As many would say about playing in the UBL it is all about winning your home games. What will be interesting on Saturday is the contest between the two scum halves. Stewart McCain who has scored five tries and the young Bangor pivot Lewis Bret in his first season out of school who has scored four tries for Bangor in four games. The contest between the respective forwards will be eagerly watched as Omagh look to compete with a dominant Bangor front five.
Omagh Head coach Phil Marshall was delighted with the response of his team last Sat in winning at Seapoint. It was a good all round performance. The coach makes two changes in the forwards with Andrew Ferguson replacing the injured Jonny Sproule and Adam Pollock returning to take his place on the bench. His players know they are going to face a big Bangor forward pack. What he is looking from his players is a good defensive effort and lots of continuity in their play.
Bangor coaches Jason Morgan and Lewis Stevenson make a number of changes with Andrew Jackson replacing the injured Andrew Shaw at hooker. David Caughey returns from injury to join Lewis Stevenson in the second row. Mark Widdowson returns to start on the wing with Jules Storey continuing at full back. Former Captain Jamie Clegg returns from injury to take his place on the bench. Prop Orran McIImurray may return after being unavailable to take a place on the bench.
ULSTER BANK ALL IRELAND JUNIOR CUP: QUARTER FINALS
Ballina (Connacht) v Instonians (Ulster)
Ashbourne RFC (Leinster) v Clonmel RFC (Munster)
Connemara (Connacht) v Kilfeacle & District (Munster)
Enniskillen (Ulster) v Newcastle West (Munster)
Instonians v Ballina
Two wins against Div 1 leaders Ballyclare and Leinster opponents Gorey in the AIL Junior Cup have prepared this Instonians team for the journey to play undefeated Connacht league leaders Ballina who convincingly defeated Portadown in the 1st Rd.
What was interesting about the league game between the top two teams in Ulster Junior rugby last Sat was the fact that three former professional rugby players were involved. Jon Andress and Roger Wilson for Instonians and Ricky Lutton for Ballyclare. AS Ricky Lutton tweeted he was delighted to play against his fomer professional colleagues. What surprised him most was the physicality in the game for Junior rugby.
The instonians coaches have not been afraid to make changes as competition increases for starting places. It was noticeable how former Ballymoney out half Jamesy Campbell was given the nod to start ahead of Fraser Wright at out half against Ballyclare. Another player who has hit form at the right time is winger Matt Kilpatrick who has scored three tries in his last two matches against Ballyclare (2) and Gorey (1). The Instonians forwards have impressed in recent games and more of the same will be required at Ballina.
Instonians Director of Rugby William Leacock was delighted to see his team come through a tight game with Ballyclare to maintain their title challenge. He felt his players got the job done in a must win game. It was a good team performance with the players showing the potential they have going forward. The squad continues to work hard and have worked very hard to win two tough games in the AIL Junior Cup and the league.
Ballina will be another big game. They are flying high in the Connacht league and beat Portadown in the last round of the Cup. A few injuries will delay the Instonians squad being confirmed until Thursday night with the coaches welcoming back Mark Mairs and Harry Clelland to training this week. The coaches may rotate a few players with the squad expected to be the same as last week with three additional replacements.
Enniskillen v Newcastle West
For the County Fermanagh club this is their first appearance in the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup. After receiving a bye in the 1st Rd the 1st xv will welcome tough opponents in Munster side Newcastle West to Mullaghmeen. What the teams from Munster will bring is a physicality in their play that Ulster clubs can struggle to compete with. I watched the Instonians v Gorey game in the 1st Rd that would not have been out of place in the All Ireland League. Fortunately Instonians had experienced former professional players in Roger Wilson and Jon Andress to strengthen their young team and see them through to secure victory.
It has not been the ideal start to the season for Enniskillen after reaching the Towns Cup Final last season and securing a place in the All Ireland Junior Cup. Injuries and unavailability have impacted on the squad. The loss of key forwards David Buchanan, James Carleton and Gareth Beatty has been felt along with their star winger Robert Balacoune.
Enniskillen find themselves in the bottom half of Div 1 of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship and had to dig deep to turn around 11 – 0 deficit at home to Cooke last Saturday to win 15 – 11. Much needed league points for Head coach Willy Gibson and his playing squad. New faces that have had to step in include young forwards Jamie McKane, Jamie Kelly and Sam Parke with Alex Gormley, Tyler Millar and Matthew Dane in the backs.
Head coach Willy Gibson is looking forward to his team playing in the All Ireland Cup. The team started poorly against Cooke last Sat who despite the poor conditions played a wide expansive game that troubled the home team. As the coach put it his team were lucky to only concede 11 points during this period. When it was needed the players especially the pack turned it on for 30 mins to win the game.
Enniskillen go into this match without the experienced Gareth McCoy, Ashley Finlay and Chris McVitty.
Captain Ryan Cathcart will be looking to his inform number 8 Kaine Holden who scored 2 tries against Cooke to lead from the front along with Ulster Juniors back row Jamie Johnston.
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMP/CONFERENCE DIV 2
Malone seconds v Omagh seconds
ULSTER RUGBY PREMIERSHIP 2nd XV League
Ballynahinch seconds v Ballymena seconds
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 3
Lurgan (1) v Civil Service (11)
Monaghan (4) v Cavan (9): Played Friday 10.11.17: Kick off 8PM.
Results from Under 20 matches played on Wednesday night.
Ballymena 48 Ballymoney 19
Rainey Ob 57 City of Derry 0
Coleraine v Limavady game postponed.
As I said lets all make the effort to get out and support out local rugby clubs this weekend. The clubs have excellent facilities. So lets make use of them.