While Instonians and Ballyclare were pulling away from the chasing pack in Championship One, teams from the other two divisions were competing in the 1st round of the River Rock Towns Cup. Credit must be given to Division Three leaders Lurgan who saw off opposition from a higher league in the form of Lisburn, and Strabane who claimed the scalp of City of Derry 2nds thus securing their first ever victory in the competition.
This weekend sees a full programme in each of the three divisions as teams battle it out on many fronts.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division One
Instonians now sit level at the top of the section on 43 points after last weeks bonus point win over Carrick. Ballyclare travelled to Dromore and came out two point winners in a keenly fought contest. A big result for the promotion chasing ‘clare’. Both will be expected to win their respective games this weekend, Instonians at Coleraine and Ballyclare against CIYMS. CI have now sneaked up to third after two fine wins on the road, but sit fourteen points off the pacesetters.
Cooke could put an end to any relegation play-off fears by seeing off bottom of the table Clogher Valley at Shaws Bridge while Dromore should have too much for Portadown at Chambers Park. Carrick’s recent form has taken bit of a dip and won’t be looking forward to a trip to Enniskillen. Don’t be too surprised if the struggling Fermanagh side pick up a vital win here.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division Two
Pace setters Grosvenor sit eight clear of their nearest challengers and they will be expected to pick up the full quota of points against the PSNI at Newforge. Randalstown and Ballymoney are joint second and third respectively as they battle it out for the one promotion play off spot. With home advantage Randalstown will be expected to see off struggling Lisburn, and while Ballymoney may be expected to get the better of Academy, they certainly will be made to work for the win at Mallusk. The BRA Old Boys only trail their opponents by seven points.
Bottom club UUC head to the Glynn to take on Larne and current form suggests that it may be a fruitless road trip for the students. In North Down Ards welcome Limavady to Hamilton Park. A month ago the Roesiders appeared to be heading to a victory over Saturday’s opposition but a late collapse saw a vital win slip from their grasp and Ards recorded a narrow one point win. Saturday will tell if they will have learnt anything from that defeat.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division Three
Lurgan reacted in the best possible fashion to their first league defeat by picking up a big win in the Towns Cup. Bottom club Donegal Town head to Pollock Park this Saturday in what is looking like a damage limitation exercise as their relegation back to the junior league looks already assured. Second placed Donaghadee only trail Lurgan by three points and will be expected to get the better of Cavan at Donaldson Park.
The top game in the division is sure to be at Rafeenan as fourth place Monaghan welcome third placed Strabane. Only seven points separate these sides and when they last faced each other in September the points were shared after a 17 all draw. Saturday is sure to be another tight affair.
After ending Lurgan’s unbeaten run, Letterkenny will fancy themselves to get the better of Holywood as they continue to pull themselves away from the relegation play-off spot. A home win here will see the North Down side being brought into that scenario so it’s all to play for at Dave Gallacher Park. Looking at Letterkenny’s home form and Holywood’s away record, it’s hard to look past another home win here.
Virginia face a long trip to Stormont and if they travel in the right frame of mind should record another win to keep the pressure on fourth placed Monaghan. The form of Civil Service has improved but they are running out of games to pick up points and look like favourites at this stage to be in the relegation play-off spot come the end of the season. In the day’s other game home advantage should work in the favour of Belfast High School Former Pupils who welcome Newry to Greenisland.
River Rock Towns Cup
There is one outstanding tie left to play in the 1st round of the River Rock Towns Cup. Old foes Dungannon 2nds and Ballymena 2nds will go toe to toe to earn the right to host Ballyclare on 3rd February.
All games on Saturday kick off at 2.30pm.