Paul McIntyre of Back of the Stand has a look at the games in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship taking place on 16th December.
It’s safe to say the weather was the winner last week as only three matches took place in the Kukri Leagues.
Ballymoney kept up their good form with a win over Limavady while Academy claimed a great victory on the road in Larne. In the only game in Division Three Donaghadee just about held off Letterkenny in a tie that could’ve gone either way.
This weekend also sees the Division One sides back in action as last weekend saw another round of the All-Ireland Cup. Unfortunately all the Ulster sides are out so they all had a free weekend.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division One
Buoyed by their recent win over Dromore, Cooke will be looking forward to getting back into action. A fantastic defence display laid the founds for a hard earned and much needed win. A short trip to Belmont to face CIYMS should prove to be another fruitful day out for the Shaws Bridge side.
At Barban Hill Dromore will be looking to get back to winning ways against Coleraine. The County Down side left Shaws Bridge two weeks ago feeling that it was a win that got away from them. After dominating for long periods they couldn’t break down a resilient home defence. What was impressive was their fitness levels and on heavy pitches at this time of the year, this could prove to be a big plus. Dromore is never an easy place to go, and while Coleraine have picked up wins in their previous two games, it’s hard to see them making it three row.
With leaders Ballyclare in Conference action Instonians should cut the gap at the top of Division One to just two points as they welcome Portadown to Shaws Bridge. The Mid-Ulster side have struggled this season and with Clogher Valley’s surprise win over Carrick two weeks ago, Portadown find themselves in a relegation battle.
Clogher will be aiming to build on that win as they go to Enniskillen. This is a huge game at the bottom of the table and come Saturday evening three teams could be locked together on nine points. After getting the better of Carrick, the South Tyrone side will have targeted this game as a must win and don’t be surprised if they were to claim only their second win of the against their Fermanagh neighbours.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division Two
The big game of the weekend takes place at Neillsbrook where 3rd place Randalstown welcome unbeaten Grosvenor. The Belfast outfit currently boast a record of eight wins from eight played and are seven clear of Gary Longwell’s side. A win for the Town will really open up the promotion race, a race which also includes Ballymoney.
Grosvenor have managed to get the better of every other team in Division Two so far this season and a win on Saturday will see them clear the first batch of fixtures unscathed. Against Ballymoney defence was the key to keep the home side at bay and record a 23-0 win.
Randalstown have only the one loss against them so far and will fancy their chances at home. Not many visiting teams leave Neillsbrook Park with an away win. Grosvenor would’ve been given a scare last time out against Ards who gave them their best game of the season. Only one point separated the sides at the end. This could prove to be the kick up the backside to keep the Belfast side in focus and that scare may just see them come out on top in this one. A couple of points may just be all that separates the sides come 4pm on Saturday.
At 2pm in Limavady, Ards are the visitors to the John Hunter Memorial Grounds. Ards have had a difficult last couple of years but seem to have found their feet in recent weeks with the hammering of Academy followed up by that narrow defeat to Grosvenor.
Last week against Ballymoney, Limavady started all guns blazing and raced into 12-0 lead. Once Ballymoney got into the game and levelled matters, the Roesiders heads dropped and their game became littered with silly mistakes and unforced errors to eventually lose 45-12. If a more focused home team take to the field then this could be a huge win for Mark Nicholl’s team as they try to move away from the relegation zone.
Also at 2pm UUC will have home advantage against Larne. While UUC were inactive last week, Larne crashed to a surprise home defeat to Academy. They won’t relish a trip to the North West coast against bottom of the table UUC. If they fail to get going like they did last week, this could be another surprise defeat. UUC may just nick this one to spice things up at the bottom of the table.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division Three
Lurgan currently sit at the top of the tree in Division Three looking down on the rest of the league with a record of eleven wins from eleven played. They are two points clear of nearest challengers Donaghadee who have also played a game more. The Pollock Park side will fancy their chances of getting full points this weekend too with Holywood the visitors.
Donaghadee should also pick up the full points with Donegal Town making the long journey to North Down.
Third place Strabane face a difficult test and a long journey. They head to South Cavan to take on Virginia. The Tyrone side have been hit with a few injuries of late but last weeks postponement may have been a blessing for some players. Paul O’Kane will need to have a full pick to choose from as a tough afternoon awaits them in Virginia.
While Letterkenny prove to be an almost unbreakable force in Dave Gallacher Park, the same cannot be said when they go on their travels. After shipping over sixty points in Donaghadee, they almost, and probably should’ve beaten the North Down side last week. BHSFP host the Donegal side this weekend and will fancy their chances of another home win.
Monaghan will be fancied to get the better of Newry while Cavan should leave Stormont with a win over Civil Service.
All games kick off at 2,30pm except the Limavady v Ards and UUC v Larne fixtures which get going at 2pm.