With six rounds remaining both Ballynahinch and Ballymena in DIV 1B have work to do in making the top four with both Naas and Old Wesley their nearest challengers.
In Div 2A Munster sides Highfield and Nenagh Ormond remain the favourites to contest the league title with Ulster sides Banbridge, Malone and Queens Uni battling it out for the top four and the playoffs. Belfast Harlequins looked consigned to playing their rugby in the 4th tier of the UBL after suffering a heavy 57 - 7 defeat at home to Highfield.
Armagh bounced back from two defeats to win a tense game at Thomond 13 - 12 to remain level on points with Greystones at the top of Div 2B. Dungannon ended a losing run to remain in 6th place with City of Derry continuing this remarkable run that has seen them win their last four UBL games.
The top two teams in DIV 2C meet this weekend with Rainey OB travelling to play leaders Navan who have a one point advantage. Bangor lost their 5th UBL game in a row to slip dangerously into the bottom half of the table. They will be aware only six points separate Bangor and 9th place Seapoint who defeated Bangor 15 - 3 last weekend.
In the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship the race in Div 1 has been narrowed down to two points separating Instonians, Omagh and Ballyclare with four rounds remaining. This weekend we have two of the contenders Omagh and Instonians meeting in Omagh. The battle to avoid finishing in 9th place in this division remains competitive with eight points separating Enniskillen, Carrick, Cooke, Clogher Valley and Dromore in 5th - 9th place. Bottom place Ards recorded their first league win when they defeated Cooke 19 - 5 at the weekend.
The race in Div 2 has Coleraine as the favourites with five rounds remaining and a game in hand. CIYMS have had their position in 2nd place narrowed to three points by Grosvenor. UUC and Lisburn continue to battle it out to avoid finishing in 9th place with Lisburn winning 5/6 league games.
PSNI and Ballymoney continue the race for the Div 3 title with four rounds remaining.
This weekend we have the quarter finals of the Gordon West Cup taking place. Current holders Lurgan remain favourites to retain the trophy with PSNI their main challengers after Ballymoney were eliminated in an earlier round by Lurgan.
ULSTER BANK ALL IRELAND LEAGUE (ROUND 13/18)
DIV 1 A
Garryowen (8) v UCD (7)
Lansdowne (1) v Dublin Uni (6)
Old Belvedere (9) v Clontarf (4)
Terenure College (10) v Cork Constitution (30
Young Munster (2) v St Mary's College (5)
Ballynahinch (4) v Galwegians (9)
Dolphin (10) v Shannon (8)
Old Wesley (6) v Ballymena (5)
UCC (7) v Naas (3)
UL Bohemians (2) v Buccaneers (1)
Ballynahinch v Galwegians
Despite their defeat at UCC last Saturday, Ballynahinch remain in 4th place and along with fellow Ulster side Ballymena and Old Wesley are separated by two points as they push for a top four finish and the playoffs. The Cork students became the first UBL team to complete the double over Ballynahinch this season. This week Derek Suffern's team face a strong Galwegians side that went down narrowly to Ballymena 14 - 13 at Eaton Park last Sat. Two teams that need the points this week at Ballymacarn Park. When these two sides met in Galway on the 5.11.16 Ballynahinch won a highly entertaining game 30 -24.
Injury rules out Craig Trenier, Jonny Simpson, Lorcan Dow and Aaron Cairns along with the unavailability of Stuart Morrow, Will Stewart and Aaron Hall. Ulster releases include John Donnan and Conor Joyce with both subject to late fitness tests, Jonny Murphy and David Busby.
The team for this week is expected to be along the following lines. 1 - 20. Chris Stevenson, Jonny Murphy, Stuart Orr, John Donnan, James Simpson, Conor Joyce, Callum Irvine, Michael Graham (captain), Blane McIIroy, Ross Carlisle, Davy Nicholson, Justin Rea, Jordan Gratton, David Busby and Chris Quinn with the bench to be finalised on Thursday night.
Ballymena v Old Wesley
Two teams that are only separated by two points in the chase to finish in the top four along with Ballynahinch. Ballymena had to work hard to defeat a strong Galwegians team 14 - 13 last Saturday at Eaton Park. When these two sides met at Ballymena on the 5.11.16 Old Wesley were narrow winners by 27 - 25.
Once again Ballymena Head coach Andy Graham is having to negotiate his way through injuries and unavailabilities before finalising his starting team for this week. Three players have been released by Ulster subject to fitness tests on Thursday. They include Stephen Mulholland, Brett Herron and Mark Best. Injury has ruled out both David Whann and try scorer Adam McBurney from the win over Galwegians. Russell Blair is unavailable this week with Paddy James taking a six month sabbatical to New Zealand. Injury continues to rule out Ulster players Matty Rea, Callum Patterson, Ross Kane, Michael Lagan and Conal Boomer.
Ballymena squad for Old Wesley, 1 - 20 Bryan Young, Andrew Cundell, Chris Cundell, Connor Smyth, Mark foster, Stephen Mulholland, Tony McGuinness, Adrian Hamilton, Glenn Baillie, Brett Herron, Jonny Rossborough, Marty Irwin (Captain), Mark Best, James Beattie, Rodger McBurney, Houston Bonnar/Adrian Kirkpatrick, James Taggart, Joe Thompson, John Creighton, Richie McMaster and Jordan Foster.
The coach was impressed by the Galwegians team that included 10 releases from Connacht. It was a game of two halves dictated by the wind. Ballymena used the advantage to lead 9 - 0. He felt his team were unlucky not to get over the white line on a couple of occasions during the first 40 minutes. In the second half Ballymena had to deal with a gale blowing in their face. It was very much a defensive effort with the Braid men using their maul to score a try through Adam McBurney. With one forward yellow carded in the final ten minutes the Ballymena players had to hold on to the ball to keep the Connacht side out. It was a much needed win after losing to Ballynahinch and drawing with Buccaneers.
Other positives for Ballymena were the performance of number 8 Adrian Hamilton who carried so much ball in the difficult conditions along with Ulster back row forward Clive Ross.
This week at Donnybrook it will be a case of adapting to the artificial surface. The coach feels there is little to choose between the two teams. He felt a lot of his players stood up against Galwegians last week and he is hoping the players can build on that performance this weekend.
Banbridge (3) v Nenagh Ormond (2)
Cashel RFC (9) v Belfast Harlequins (10)
Highfield (1) v Blackrock College (6)
Malone (4) v Galway Corinthians (8)
Queens Uni (5) v Sunday's Well (7)
Banbridge v Nenagh Ormond
There was relief for Bann Head coach Daniel Soper as his Banbridge team ended a three match losing run to win 13 - 10 at Cashel last week. Their task does not get any easier as they welcome 2nd place Nenagh Ormond to Rifle Park this week. With six matches remaining every league point could turn out to be crucial in deciding the league winners and what teams will make the playoffs. When these two teams met at New Ormond Park on the 5.11.16 Nenagh ran out 25 - 5 winners.
Banbridge Head coach Daniel Soper new it was going to be a difficult match at Cashel. He was pleased the players stayed in the game with Ulster Academy out half Andrew McGrath kicking a couple late penalties to secure a vital win in Munster. The coach has been pleased with the performances of Andrew McGrath who kicked well out of hand, defended strongly and as he settled into the game managed it well in the latter stages.
Nenagh Ormond is an important game this week with the end to the league closing in quickly. He is looking his team to improve their performance from last week and put in a performance on the pitch that he can be satisfied is a reflection of the hard work being put in by the players with a win an obvious bonus.
For this week the coach welcomes back former Ulster/Connacht scrum half Ian Porter and the experienced Mike Bentley into the match day twenty. Full Back Adam Doherty is ruled out with a hamstring injury with the rest of the squad similar to last week. Ulster Academy out half Andrew McGrath has been released for Saturday.
Belfast Harlequins v Cashel RFC
Quins face difficult opponents as they head to Tipperary to play Cashel this week. They were well beaten 57 - 7 by league leaders Highfield at Deramore Park last Sat. Cashel lost 13 - 10 at home to Banbridge last week. When these two sides met at Deramore Park on the 5.11.16 Cashel were 22 - 14 winners.
Quins Head coach Andrew Gillespie admits it is backs to the wall stuff for his players. They must keep on going and keep fighting and looking for the performances to pick up league points. The coach awaits late fitness tests on Danny Annett and Ben Sloan with number 8 Ben Alexander expected to come back into contention for inclusion this week.
Malone v Galway Corinthians
The Galway side inflicted the heaviest defeat the Gibson Park team have suffered this season losing 46 - 3 on the 5.11.16 in Galway. Since that defeat Malone remain undefeated in their last six UBL games to move into 4th place. Along with 3rd place Banbridge they are five points behind leaders Highfield and Nenagh Ormond. Galway Corinthians lost 34 - 18 at home to Nenagh Ormond last week.
Head coach Paddy Armstrong continues to be impressed by the hard work the players are putting in at training each week. It is this hard work that has moved the team into contention for a top four finish. He is aware there is a lot of rugby to be played with six matches remaining. It is the old cliché of taking it one game at a time. His players are focused on the match with Galway Corinthians at home this week. With competition for places there will be several difficult calls to be made which is a credit to how well the players have been training with selection to be finalised. Forward Michael Shiels remains on the injured list with the coach hoping to see this talented player return before the end of the season.
Queens Uni v Sunday's Well
The students made it 1/4 in the UBL when they lost 13 - 8 at Blackrock last Sat. They have slipped down to 5th place two points behind Malone and Banbridge. Again both sides will be seeking the points with Sunday's Well three points ahead of 9th place Cashel. When these two sides met in Cork on the 22.10. 16 Queens won 21 - 16.
It has been a difficult time for Queens Head coach Bob Young with injuries and unavailabilities impacting on his selection. He loses Ulster players Marcus Rea and Jonny Stewart to Ireland under 20s, Nick Timoney to Ireland Sevens who scored Queens try in defeat at Blackrock and Rob Lyttle, Rory Butler and Angus Curtis to injury along with Conor Kelly. Half backs Jack Milligan and Conor Young had to go off with injuries in the Blackrock game. Both (Captain) Alex Thompson and Zac McCall have been released by Ulster.
Queens had a lot of possession and territory in the difficult conditions at Blackrock but came came up against a very resolute defence on the day. Two soft scores proved too much to pull back. The Queens players had put in a huge effort to dominate areas of the contest and were unlucky not to get the win.
Selection for Saturday will not be finalised until Thursday night.
Dungannon (6) v Wanderers (3)
MU Barnhall (5) v Greystones (1)
Old Crescent (4) v Armagh (2)
Skerries (8) v Thomond (10)
City of Derry (9) v Bective (7)
Dungannon v Wanderers
There was relief for the Dungannon players and supporters when the team ended their losing run by winning 16 - 10 at Bective last Sat. The Stevenson Park side find themselves eight points behind 4th place Old Crescent as they mount a late push for a top four finish. Wanderers will also be after the points as they look to close the gap on Greystones and Armagh. When these two teams met at the Aviva stadium on 5.11.16 Wanderers won 41 - 7.
Dungannon Head coach Andy Hughes was delighted with the win at Bective last week. It was a massive result for the team. Especially as his side play two of the top four sides in the coming weeks. Although it was maybe not the performance he had hoped for, at this stage it was just what the team needed to stop the rot. Wanderers will be tough. Apart from Greystones they are the form team at the minute.
The coach felt his team let themselves down badly in the first fixture on the 4G pitch at the Aviva so the players know they have a point to prove. If the team want to finish in the top four they need to be beating these sides. At the minute the team just need to prove to themselves that they are better than what they have shown over the last two months.
Injury rules out Mark Riddell and Rodney Bennett from last weekend with both Karl Egan and JJ Kane coming back into the match day squad.
Armagh v Old Crescent
Another trip to Limerick this week for Armagh after holding on for a narrow 13 - 12 win at bottom club Thomond. Crescent like to play open running rugby and showed how dangerous they are in scoring four tries in their 31 - 27 defeat at City of Derry last week. The Limerick club are in 4th place as they look to make the playoffs.
Head coach Alex McCloy is expecting to field a similar squad to the one that won at Thomond last week. He is hoping that James Morton and Chris Colvin will return to the squad with Andrew Willis a major injury doubt.
City of Derry v Bective
The remarkable turnaround in the performances of City of Derry 1st xv continued as they defeated top four side Old Crescent in a highly entertaining 31 - 27 win at Judges Road last week. They will look to extend their winning run to five matches when they welcome Bective to the North West. Defeat for Skerries and a win for Derry will see them move from 9th to 7th place. We talk about the influence of Brian McLaughlin at Armagh, the impact of Terry McMaster on this Derry team has been considerable since Xmas. Bective lost 16 - 10 at home to Dungannon last Sat. When these two teams met at Donnybrook on the 5.11.16 Bective won 29 - 3.
City of Derry Player coach Richard McCarter was delighted with the performance of his team last week in defeating Old Crescent at home. There were many stand out performances with number 8 Joe Dunleavy scoring another try and out half Neil Burns contributing 21 crucial points.
William McCleery broke his nose and cheekbone on Saturday that will rule him out of the squad that is expected to be on similar lines to last week.
Bangor (6) v Kanturk (8)
Navan (1) v Rainey OB (2)
Seapoint (9) v Midleton (7)
Sligo (3) v Boyne (10)
Tullamore (4) v Bruff (5)
Bangor v Kanturk
The North Down team have lost their last five UBL games and find themselves only six points ahead of 9th place Seapoint who defeated the seasiders 15 - 3 last week. After a promising start to their UBL programme it has been all downhill since December for Head coach Jason Morgan and his players. This week they play Kanturk who are six points behind Bangor in 8th place. When these two sides met at Kanturk on the 5.11.16 Bangor won 17 - 12.
As Bangor 1st xv Manager Ricky Armstrong put it. Big weekend for Bangor 1st xv after a dreadful couple of months. Concussions and long term injuries have stopped the progress of Bangor over the last two months. This week the coaches welcome back Craig Burton, David Bradford, Ryan Latimer, Ali Lockhart, Phil Broderick and Desi Fusco to the 1st xv.
Bangor squad for Sat 1 - 20 Philip Whyte (Captain), Andrew Shaw, James Leary, Evan Wellard McMillan, Andrew Jackson, Craig Burton, James Henley, Ryan Latimer, Dave Lynn, David Bradford, Ali Lockhart, Jason Morgan, Mike Apsley, Mark Widdowson, Dave Charles, Phil Broderick, Gareth Wright, Rob Gamble, Desi Fusco and Adam McCusker. Starting xv to be finalised at training on Thursday night.
Rainey OB v Navan
The meeting of the top two teams this week with one point separating them. Rainey have won 5/6 league games with Navan undefeated in their last four games. Both teams are aware that Sligo are only a further three points behind with the race for the league title between these three teams. When these two sides met at Hatrick Park on the 5.11.16 Navan won 17 - 13.
Rainey Head coach John Andrews is looking his players to keep their good run going at Navan on Saturday. Injuries continue to rule out Ulster Academy prop Tommy O'Hagan along with South African hooker George Fritz.
ULSTER RUGBY SECOND XV LEAGUE
Armagh seconds (3) v Malone seconds (4)
Ballymena seconds (2) v Ballynahinch seconds (1)
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 1 (ROUND 15/18)
Carrickfergus (6) v Ards (10)
Clogher Valley (8) v Ballyclare (3)
Enniskillen (5) v Dromore (9)
Omagh (2) v Instonians (1)
Portadown (4) v Cooke (7)
Carrickfergus v Ards
Two teams that have found form in recent weeks. Carrick are undefeated in their last three league and Cup games. Coaches Davy Scott and Michael Rainey will be hoping their team can continue their good form with Ballynahinch seconds the visitors to the Tom Simms Memorial Grounds on Saturday week in the quarter finals of the Towns Cup. Carrick won 10 - 3 at Dromore last Sat with Ards winning their first league game of the season against Cooke 19 - 5. Ards also have Enniskillen at Hamilton Park on Sat week in the Towns Cup. When these two teams met at Hamilton Park on the 8.10.16 Carrick won 17 - 6.
Ards Head coach John West felt his team played some good rugby in their win over Cooke last week. This week he is looking forward to his team testing themselves against a good Carrick side. He agrees it is never an easy place to go but his squad are focused on improving every game and lets see where that takes the players. This is another big weekend for the club with both the 2nds and 3rds involved in Cup matches.
The 1st xv squad are still working to fulfil their personal targets which means numbers are still good at training with the players getting the rewards for their hard work.
Selection this week will again be difficult with forwards Andrew Foster and Gareth McBurney returning from injury as well as Taylor Nutt in the backs after recovering from illness. Once again coaches John West and Scott Young have several difficult selection decisions to make before finalising their team on Thursday night.
Clogher Valley v Ballyclare
Two teams with different reasons for taking the league points in this match. Clogher Valley have lost their last three league games and slipped down into 8th place three points ahead of 9th place Dromore. Ballyclare have drawn level with Omagh on 51points, two points behind leaders Instonians. They are the outsiders for the league title in the eyes of many rugby pundits with four games remaining and are unbeaten in their last seven league and Cup matches. When these two teams met at the Cloughan on the 24.9.16 Ballyclare won a keenly contested game 12 - 6. Ballyclare also recorded a 28 - 17 win at Clogher Valley in the 2nd round of the Junior Cup on the 1.10.16.
Clogher coaches Glen Kyle and David Black have made a number of changes this week with Aaron Best returning at scrum half and Neil Trotter dropping down to the bench. Injury rules out Neil Henderson and Andy Breen with Phil Moore and Neil Cullen replacing both.
Ballyclare Head coach Mike McKeever is expecting another difficult game with Clogher Valley this week. As he put it any game with Clogher Valley is always difficult. But his players travel in the knowledge they have already beaten them twice this season. With that being said the coach will not underestimate the challenge Clogher Valley provide for his players.
The goal for the Ballyclare coach has been to build a strong squad and with that comes frustration for some players who miss out on the 1st xv, but when the opportunity comes to play , he hopes that the players take their chance to do their bit. This week with injury to second row Robert Boyd this will mean a chance to introduce the experienced of Willy Logan and the youth and enthusiasm of Ross Johnston to the pack.
The coach is excited for his Ballyclare squad to be in the mix at the top of the table at this stage of the season with the addition of having a crack at the Towns Cup next week. A large strong squad is needed to be competitive in this league. The coach is hoping to play as close to the same side that played the previous week against Portadown in an excellent 28 - 7 win.
Enniskillen v Dromore
Two teams struggling to find any form in the league. Enniskillen have lost their last five league games including a 22 - 3 defeat at league leaders Instonians last week. Dromore remain without a win in their last eight league and Cup matches. They will need more of the team effort that secured them a 19 - 19 draw at Cooke two weeks ago. Dromore lost 10 - 3 at home to Carrickfergus last Saturday. When these two teams met at Barban Hill on the 8.10 16 Dromore won a tight contest 16 - 14.
Enniskillen Head coach William Gibson thought his team got into good areas in the game against Instonians despite playing 50 minutes of the match with 14 players. He felt the players weren't exact enough and got a bit sloppy in the set piece and first phase that let them down. He thought Instonians were a tough side and used their experience on the pitch.
The coach is aware that the game at home to Dromore is a must win for his players. Dromore turned over Enniskillen earlier in the season and are looking the league points to move away from 9th place. They like Enniskillen will be fighting hard for the points this week. Gavin Parke comes in at 7 with the coach awaiting one late fitness call on a prop otherwise the squad will similar to the one that lost at Instonians.
For Dromore Head coach Jonny Cullen it was another game last Saturday that was decided on fine margins against Carrickfergus. The coach felt that the players attention to detail in parts of the pitch cost his side points last week. With results going in their favour last week the players are aware that that it is in their hands and control to be able to climb away from 9th place in the remaining matches.
For this week Ryan Cobb returns at out half with Adam McDonald coming in at full back.
Omagh v Instonians
A game deserving of a large vocal support at the Thomas Mellon playing fields this week. Despite the inclement weather at Omagh last week hundreds of Omagh supporters turned out to cheer on their team in the local derby with Clogher Valley. Omagh are unbeaten in their last six league matches with Instonians on a nine match unbeaten run. Both teams won last week with Omagh defeating CV 17 - 0 and Instonians defeating Enniskillen 22 - 3. When these two teams met at Shaws bridge on the 17.9.16 Omagh were narrow 22 - 21 winners.
Omagh Head coach Phil Marshall is expecting a hell of a game this week if both teams play to their strengths with every point crucial with five games remaining. The coach welcomes back Neil MacLaine in the centre with the team along similar lines to last week.
Instonians Director of Rugby William Leacock found Enniskillen a very tough team last week at Shaws bridge. He thought they really took it to his team and defended like their lives depended on it, especially when they went down to 14 players in the first half. He felt Enniskillen did not threaten the Inst line much but denied his Inst team the bonus point. All credit to Enniskillen for not giving up when the game was lost and they were down a man.
The coach was pleased with the performance of number 8 Franco Maggiolo in the second half against Enniskillen but thought the Inst 7 Jordan McMullan was very impressive at the breakdown and defensively throughout the game. Hooker Corrie Barrett plays his last game this week before he travels to New Zealand. Corrie has had a great start to his Senior career in rugby and all the players at Instonians wish him well on his travels.
Rory McCurry, Harry Gallagher, and Joe Fryers remain on the Inst injured list with Mathew Kilpatrick returning to the back line for Omagh. The coach is expecting a keenly contested game between both sides this weekend with a win for Omagh putting them in a very strong place for the league title. Both teams like to play rugby which should make it a good game. The Inst players are looking forward to the game and it's an exciting weekend for both clubs with the Inst players under no illusions about the task that lies ahead of them this week.
Portadown v Cooke
Two teams who need the league points. Portadown are hoping to consolidate 4th place and secure a place in the All Ireland Junior Cup next season. Cooke are five points ahead of 9th place Dromore and suffered a surprise league defeat at Ards 19 - 5 last week. Coach Colin Atkinson will be looking a much improved performance form his team at Chambers Park this week. Portadown suffered back to back defeats against Ballyclare in the league and Towns Cup. They have now lost their last three league and Cup games. When these two sides met at Shaws bridge on the 24.9.16 Portadown ran out 32 - 20 winners.
Portadown Head coach Richard Hedley is disappointed his team haven't done as well through the middle of the season after a good start. He felt his team came out on the wrong side of too many close matches. It is now important for the players to finish the season well to stay in 4th place.
For this week Willie Graham and James Wright are unavailable with Gareth McCoy, Mal Allister and Luke Ashton returning to the starting team.
Cooke Head coach Colin Atkinson has an injury crisis after finishing the Dromore game with 12 players. The squad against Ards showed 9 changes due to injuries and unavailabilities. The team did not cope well at Ards with all the changes and so many key players missing.
The coach felt his team had enough chances to get over the Ards line. It was a frustrating afternoon, performance was well below what was expected. All credit to Ards they showed a lot of hunger for the win and great credit to them.
For this weekend at Portadown the coach will nor finalise his team selection until Thursday night.
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 2. (ROUND 14/18)
Coleraine (1) v Academy (4)
Larne (6) v Donaghadee (10)
Limavady (5) v CIYMS (2)
Lisburn (8) v Grosvenor (3)
UUC (9) v Randalstown (7)
Coleraine v Academy
Coach Richard Boyd will be pleased his Coleraine side remain the only undefeated team in the Kukri Ulster rugby Championship this season. His team scored eight tries in their convincing 52 - 5 win over Larne last week. Academy are visitors this week on the back of a poor run in the league winning only 1/5 games. They suffered a 55 - 10 defeat against an inform Grosvenor side last Sat. When these two sides met at Roughfort on the 12.11.16 Coleraine won 17 - 0.
Coleraine Head coach Richard Boyd was pleased with the result against Larne but disappointed with the teams overall performance. He felt the scrum was excellent and his team scored some well worked tries but the players need to look after the ball better and be more clinical when they do create chances. Josh Christie has stood out in recent weeks and the coach is looking him to lead from the front this weekend.
Academy has never been an easy fixture for Coleraine and there have been some very close encounters in recent meetings. They have a strong set piece and are very good at the breakdown so the Coleraine pack will have to perform well on Saturday.
In terms of selection this week. Roger Bonnar returns to the squad to ensure the pack is at full strength. In the backs injury rules out Bokkie Carstens and he is replaced by Kyle McAuley.
It is important for the team to keep the momentum going and keep improving on the teams performances from now until the end of the season. Coleraine have four home games in a row throughout February and it is crucial they get as many points on board as possible.
Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn has a growing list of unavailable and injured players for this weekend. He acknowledges it has not been an easy period for the club in recent weeks.
Larne v Donaghadee
Head coach Laurence Kelly will be hoping his Larne side bounce back from their 52 - 5 defeat at Coleraine last week with Donaghadee the visitors this week to the Glynn. Donaghadee remain without a league win this season and lost 41 - 12 at home to UUC last week. When these two sides met at Donaldson Park on the 12.11.16 Larne ran out comfortable winners 73 - 0.
Larne Head coach Laurence Kelly felt the score line at Coleraine did not reflect how well his team played last week with Number 8 Eddie Hunter and scrum half Ryan Garrett playing particularly well. Like several clubs with small playing squads the coaches are having to deal with an ever increasing injury lists and unavailable players each week.
Donaghadee coaches Paul Blewitt and Chris Good are determined their Donaghadee side will complete their league programme with five matches remaining. It has not been an easy time for the players and coaches during this transitional season.
Limavady v CIYMS
The Roesiders are one of three teams to have defeated the Belmont side this season. They are in a run of poor form at present having won only 2/6 league games. Limavady lost 9 - 7 at Lisburn last week with CIYMS winning 22 - 3 at Randalstown. CIYMS will be looking maximum points from this trip to the John Hunter Memorial Grounds. Three points separate CIYMS and Grosvenor in the battle to secure 2nd place and the playoffs. When these two teams met at Belmont on the 12.11.16 Limavady won 17 - 16.
Limavady Head coach Mark Nicholl felt his players got what they deserved last week in their 9 - 7 defeat at Lisburn. He thought it was his teams worst performance of the season.
This week training has gone very well with the coach close to selecting a full strength team with scrum half Jamie Millar missing out after fracturing his leg at Lisburn.
The players and the coaches are looking forward to the visit of CIYMS this week and know they will have to improve immeasurably to defeat a strong CI team on Saturday.
CIYMS Head coach Gareth Fry thought his team started the game really well at Randalstown last Saturday with only last ditch tackles stopping his players running away with the game in the first half. To be fair to Randalstown their second half performance was massively improved on the first half and they gave CI quite a few problems. Overall the coach was pleased with the away win.
The coach is looking forward to the Limavady game this week. They are a good side and beat CI earlier in the season at Belmont. He is looking forward to the challenge and is expecting his team to be very similar to last week. He is still awaiting a few injury concerns to be confirmed on Thursday night.
Lisburn v Grosvenor
Two in form teams who meet at Blaris this week. Lisburn have won 5/6 league games in their efforts to avoid 9th place UUC who are nine points behind them with five games remaining. Grosvenor have won 7/8 league games and defeated Academy 55 - 10 at Gibson Park last week. Lisburn defeated another top five side in Limavady 9 - 7 at home last Sat. When these two teams met at Gibson Park on the 12.11.16 Grosvenor won 35 - 5.
Lisburn Head coach Andy Postlethwaite has a few injuries and unavailable players for this week and will not be able to finalise his selection until Thursday night.
He is expecting a tough fixture with an inform Grosvenor team who have great strength in depth.
Grosvenor Head coach Robert Ford is taking it one game at a time with his players working hard in training. The team managed to come through to win over a tough Academy side at the weekend with no injuries.
This week Grosvenor welcome back Captain Andrew Kelly after being unavailable last week. Ben Coard will return to the backline with Sam Purdon returning to action last week for the first time this season after a long term hamstring injury.
Lisburn are a side rejuvenated under Andy Postlethwaite who is doing a great job. He is also aware that Lisburn will be a difficult proposition on their home ground at Blaris. He will be looking his team to be at their best if they are going to beat them.
UUC v Randalstown
The students still believe they can make up the points difference on 8th place Lisburn to avoid 9th place and the playoffs. UUC won 41 - 12 at Donaghadee last week with Randalstown losing 22 - 3 at home to 2nd place CIYMS. When these two teams met at Nelisbrook Park on the 12.11.16 Randalstown were 25 - 15 winners.
UUC Director of Rugby Brett Campbell along with the coaches and players are enjoying the contest with Lisburn to avoid finishing in 9th place and the playoffs. Lisburn are very much the form team in the league at the moment, which makes the students win over them a few weeks ago all the more impressive. The UUC squad are taking the view that they will just take each week at a time as a challenge rather than think they have to chase Lisburn and apply pressure on themselves with the team hopeful of picking up a few wins/points along the way.
It was really encouraging on Monday night at training to see 30 plus students enjoying coach Jonny Black's training session with the competition for places on the 1st xv.
Looking to the Randalstown fixture the students welcome back Lewis McCrabbe in the second row and Mitch Lucas in the back row. Vice Captain Dan Morgan returns after a work placement to take his place on the bench. The backs continue to perform with wingers James Perry and Stephen Logan scoring two tries each at Donaghadee. Full back Stuart Ballantine continues to impress with his kicking from hand and the tee.
UUC are aware that Randalstown under Gary Longwell are always well prepared and difficult to break down. They take their scoring opportunities with the students defence having to be at its best and not give away kickable penalties.
Brett Campbell and his team would like to thank Donaghadee rugby club who looked after the student players with beverages and food after the game in the clubhouse last week. Brett like many people believe Donaghadee are in the process of rebuilding with a young team who played with spirit and pride in the Dee shirt.
Randalstown Head coach Gary Longwell has great respect for the UUC team. He felt his team were fortunate to win a tight game in the home fixture against them. The coach is aware his team have not performed for the full 80 minutes in recent matches and have been punished by some quality opposition.
GORDON WEST CUP QUARTER FINALS
Holywood v BHSFP
Lurgan v Cavan
Newry v Monaghan
PSNI v Letterkenny