Paul McIntyre of Back of the Stand has a look at this week’s games in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 2
With leaders Grosvenor and second place Randalstown both in Conference league action on Saturday, the rest of the sides in Championship Two have a chance to make some ground on the top two.
Ballymoney in particular will see this as a great opportunity to get back into the promotion race as they have Limavady at Kilraughts Road.
The Toon got back to winning ways last week following their Junior Cup exit to Armagh 2nds by seeing off the PSNI at Newforge. They ran in five tries in a convincing display to keep up their excellent league form.
Only the top two have managed to get the better of Ballymoney this season as they continue to impress in their return to Junior Rugby’s middle league. A win over the Roesiders will see them go second, ahead of Randalstown, though they will have played two more games than their East Antrim rivals. But that would be taking Saturday’s result for granted.
While Limavady coach Mark Nicholl will be frustrated not to have picked up more wins so far, after last season’s fourth place finish, they have shown in the past that they can go anywhere and perform. Take last season’s win away to CIYMS for example. A tremendous defensive display topped off by three attacks which yielded three tries. If the real Limavady turn up then this could be quite a contest, if not, then the scoreboard will have a similar look as to that when they met in the Junior Cup in October.
Ards appear to be a team rejuvenated. A thumping win over Academy three weeks ago was followed up by giving leaders Grosvenor a fright last Saturday in Gibson Park, the North Down All Blacks losing by just a single point. Struggling PSNI are the visitors to Hamilton Park.
The PSNI have found the going tough this season with player availability continuing to hamper any chance of consistency in both team selection and performances.
This should be another home win as Ards look to continue their climb up the table.
Home advantage will be a big factor for Larne as they welcome Academy to the Glynn. At home they have managed to run both Grosvenor and Ballynahinch 2nds very close.
Academy are another team that has shown little consistency this season. A bad beating at Ards was followed up by a narrow win at home to relegation threatened Lisburn.
Larne’s good home form should continue with another win.
Blaris will stage the biggest game of the day between seventh placed Lisburn and bottom of the table UUC.
Just five points separate these two and a win for Lisburn would create some breathing space for them while putting the North-West students under some severe pressure.
Lisburn’s only other win came against fellow strugglers PSNI while the ‘Uni’s only victory was in Limavady. Another side struggling near the bottom of the league.
Those four points collected that day are the only points collected thus far while Lisburn have been able to collect a few bonus points in defeat along the way, like in last weeks defeat to Academy. Lisburn won this corresponding fixture last season in similar circumstances and they should do this this Saturday.
- Malone II v Randalstown. (Thursday 7th December. 7.30pm.)
- Ballymena II v Grosvenor.
- Omagh II v Banbridge II
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 3
Its advantage Lurgan in the title race in Championship Three after last weeks 12-10 win over fellow contenders Donaghadee. The Pollock Park side are now six points clear of the Dee at the halfway stage having won all of their eleven games to date.
However Lurgan still have to travel to Strabane, where they lost last year, before going to Donaghadee on the final day, so plenty of rugby to be played yet.
Belfast High School Former Pupils are next in the firing line for the league leaders and this should be another home win for Lurgan.
Donaghadee should get back to winning ways when they visit Letterkenny, but they should expect a tougher encounter on Saturday than they did on the first day of the season.
Strabane have shown a bit more consistency this season and sit comfortably in third place. Their only defeats coming against the two teams above them. After digging out a win in Cavan last week they are on the road again with a run to Holywood.
The Tyrone side have had the upper hand in recent league meetings and they should continue to hold the upper hand against the North Down side on Saturday.
All games on Saturday will have a 2.30pm kick off.
Weather permitting we’ll be at Ballymoney v Limavady and Larne v Academy – look out for the reports and photo galleries on Monday.