2017-18 Club Rugby Men Ulster Championship

Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Preview – 27th Jan 18

The popular Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship preview from Paul McIntyre of Back of the Stand.

Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1

Ballyclare’s failure to pick up a bonus point last week at Cooke has seen them slip one point behind Instonians at the top of the table, but the Doagh Road side did remarkably well to come from 12-0 down at half time to win 12-17 at Shaws Bridge. At the other end the race for the play-off spot is a pick from any number of sides while Clogher Valley look destined for the drop.

Ballyclare v Coleraine

Coleraine are one of those sides who are in the relegation scrap. Currently second from bottom they’ll do well to get anything at Ballyclare, although they do have games in hand on their rivals. Ballyclare showed tremendous character last week to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at Cooke. They have on the other hand failed to pick up any bonus points in their last four games, but they do continue to win. Saturday might see a buck to that trend.

CIYMS v Carrick

CI have hit form and maintained their third place position with a bonus point win over Portadown last week. It’s a big game in the race for All-Ireland cup spots and Carrick will be smarting from last week’s loss to Dromore. Carrick are currently fifth but sit 10 points behind Saturdays opponents. Another reverse here could well end their hopes of a top four finish.

Clogher Valley v Instonians

Clogher Valley’s mini-revival has seemed to hit a brick wall and defeats to relegation threatened Enniskillen and Portadown has seen them cut adrift at the bottom. In years gone past this would be billed as a huge fixture in the promotion race but Saturday’s tie has the makings of being a bit one sided. Instonians are on form and should maintain top spot come 4pm on Saturday.

Dromore v Enniskillen

After losing two games in a row to last minute tries, Dromore got back to winning ways last week with a mighty important win at Carrick. Enniskillen head to Barban Hill on the back of a heavy defeat to Instonians. While they tend to pick up points against teams placed around them, they have struggled with sides in the top tier. Dromore should get the better of ‘The Skins’ for the second time this season on Saturday.

Portadown v Cooke

Cooke almost did their co-inhabitants a huge favour last week but they let a 12 point half time lead slip against Ballyclare at Shaws Bridge. Despite the defeat, it was a mighty performance from the Shaws Bridge side but their problem has been backing it up the following week. Portadown have welcomed back a few experienced heads in the last number of weeks and this has seen them pick up vital wins against Enniskillen and Dromore.

Last week they managed to grab two bonus points in defeat to CIYMS. A home win on Saturday could see them join Cooke on 24 points in mid-table. Recent form suggest they just might.

Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 2

Grosvenor have one hand on automatic promotion after last week’s demolition of closest rivals Randalstown. The Belfast side put in a tremendous team display from start to finish and could have scored more than the seven tries that they did get.

At the bottom Limavady moved out of the relegation play-off reckoning with their best display of the season to crush Ballymoney while the big game between UUC and Lisburn fell afoul of the weather.

Ards v Grosvenor

Back in December Ards nearly pulled off a shock win at Gibson Park when Grosvenor just hung on to claim a 19-18 victory. Ards have steadily improved since then while ‘The Stags’ are still unbeaten. If Grosvenor come through Saturday’s encounter with a win you could maybe see them go through the season with a 100% win rate. After seeing how they performed against Randalstown last week it’s difficult to see past another Stags win.

Ballymoney v PSNI

The PSNI continue to struggle and it looks like a straight shootout between them and UUC for the automatic relegation spot. After all their good work pre-Christmas, Ballymoney have hit a brick wall and lost their last two games. The manner of their defeat to Limavady will have been a cause of great concern to their management team. Despite this they should account for the struggling PSNI at Kilraughts to get their promotion push back on track.

Limavady v Larne

Larne have slipped into some poor form lately and now sit just five points above Limavady. On the other hand the Roesiders have seen their fortunes gradually change and last week produced their stand out performance of the season so far to hammer Ballymoney. With the Roesiders having more to play for, they are still in the River Rock Towns Cup, you would expect them to claim another home win and push for a mid-table finish.

Lisburn v Academy

Every game is like a cup final at the minute for Lisburn in their battle for survival. Only one win this season and a demoralising defeat to Lurgan in the Towns Cup has left confidence low. Their big game with UUC was postponed last week meaning that they still have to face off against the North-West students twice before the season is over. Those games will make or break their season while they try to pick up a bonus point here and there on the way. Academy’s recent form would suggest that a bonus point may be the best they could hope for here.

Randalstown v UUC

Randalstown will be glad to get back to Neillsbrook this weekend after last weeks heavy defeat to Grosvenor. They just couldn’t live with the pace with which the league leaders played the game and also suffered a few injury blows to boot. They won’t admit it, but will be glad to be facing the struggling students at home. This should allow them to get back to winning ways and a bonus point win too.

Kukri Rugby Championship Division 3

While Lurgan continued their winning ways at Newry, Civil Service caused the biggest upset of the day with a win at Holywood. Their win at Kerr Park sees the Stormont club move to within 3 points of their North Down neighbours and opens up the relegation play-off race.

BHSFP v Strabane

Home form has been vital to the Greenisland club again this year as they continue to struggle for points on the road. They did have a convincing win over Saturday’s opponents last year which will give them hope of a home win on Saturday. Strabane are nursing a few injuries and are involved in two cups still, so those games may be top of Paul O’Kane’s priority list. Whoever wins this one, it will be by a score in a closely fought game.

Donaghadee v Virginia

The Dee must’ve thought they were out of the race for the league title after defeat to Lurgan but have bounced back in the best way possible. Virginia do travel well and sit in fifth place. They might cause a few problems up front but this should be another home win for the Dee at Donaldson Park.

Holywood v Donegal Town

This fixture will be at Kerr Park after Donegal Town failed to travel in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season. Their fate is as good as sealed while Holywood have been sucked into relegation contention too. A home defeat to Civil Service last week means that this is a must win for the North Down side. This could be a fixture where anything could happen, but you would have to back Holywood to pick up the win in this one.

Letterkenny v Newry

Another home game for Letterkenny suggests another home win. Their form at Dave Gallagher Park is that of a side chasing honours at the top end of the league. Only two points separate these sides in the league so Newry will be hoping to get something from this game to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle. A losing bonus point may be the best that Newry will come away with.

Lurgan v Cavan

Cavan will hold no fears going to Pollock Park this Saturday. Last year they went there and pulled off a surprise victory in a Gordon West Cup quarter-final. That gives an indication of what they are capable of on their day. Lurgan seem to be a different animal this year and should record another home win to keep their promotion push going, but if Cavan travel with their full hand, they’ll be made to work for the victory.

Monaghan v Civil Service

A huge victory last week for the Civil Servants at Holywood has given them a hell of chance of avoiding an end of season play-off that looked a cert a few weeks back, but this could be a bad weekend for them. Holywood and Letterkenny would be expected to pick up wins and nobody leaves Monaghan with an easy game. The Farney side are having a strong season and their home form is impressive. Two weeks ago they accounted for Strabane on a 26-0 scoreline. Civil Service’s recent good form to hit a bump here.

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