Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1
With Ballyclare in Towns Cup action this weekend, Instonians have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of Championship 1, while at the other end of the table Enniskillen and Coleraine face big games at home as they battle it out to avoid the relegation play-off.
Carrick v Cooke
After a run of six defeats on the bounce, Carrick finally got back to winning ways with a 52-12 win at Strabane in the Towns Cup. A score line that both managers agreed was sore on the losers and reflective of the game. However, a win is a win and will this result will no doubt help restore some confidence in the camp.
Consistency has been Cooke’s big issue this season. Unable to backup one good display with another. Carrick’s bigger pack and mobile back row may just prove to be the difference and help Carrick to a home win.
Coleraine v Portadown
What has happened to Coleraine? Last season’s Championship 2 winners were fancied to do well this year, and early season form suggested that they would do well. But a run of poor form and a home defeat to Championship 2’s Randalstown has raised more questions than answers.
Portadown on the other hand have pulled off a great escape act and it would be no surprise to see them win at Rugby Avenue.
Enniskillen v CIYMS
CI have been involved in some great high scoring contests of late, but as good as they have been in attack, they have been just as bad in defence. Carrick almost nicked a win at Belmont two weeks after being 21 points down with 15 minutes to go, so CI will need to improve the concentration levels as well as working on their defence.
The going is usually heavy in Enniskillen and the East Belfast side will find it hard going to notch up 30 plus points for the fourth time in five games. They still may have enough to see off the Erne side and put more pressure on the Skins at the wrong end of the table.
Instonians v Dromore
There is no greater motivation in sport than revenge.
Instonians will have been waiting for this fixture since the sides last crossed paths on the 14th October last year. The Inst Old Boys led 19-0 with less than a quarter of the game to go but Dromore fought back to claim a 21-19 victory. This so far has been Instonians only reverse this season. You can expect a lightning start from the home side in this one as Inst go in pursuit of extending their lead at the top of Championship 1.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 2
Runaway league leaders Grosvenor are still unbeaten and since their last Championship match have bagged the Conference 2 title following a comprehensive win over Banbridge 2nds. The Stags are still unbeaten in their own league and following a win over Ards two weeks ago, it’s hard to see anyone beating them at the minute.
Ards v Randalstown
Ards have shown great form since the turn of the year and now have their sights on a top four finish, as well as an extended run in the Towns Cup. Back in October Randalstown coasted to a 20-point win over the Ards Men, but this encounter looks set to be a lot tighter.
Randalstown had a great win in Coleraine last week while Ards had a good win over Ballymoney. Two teams on form with very little to separate them at the final whistle.
Grosvenor v Ballymoney
After taking Championship 2 by storm the surprise element has gone from Ballymoney’s game. Their recent form has been poor with just one win in three league games as well as being dumped out of the Towns Cup.
No one looks like stopping the Grosvenor juggernaut and it’s hard to look past anything else than another home win.
Larne v PSNI
Larne have nothing to play for but pride, but they did show in Limavady two weeks ago that they have no intention of letting their season fizzle out.
PSNI are struggling for points and will probably experience another tough afternoon at The Glynn on Saturday.
Lisburn v Limavady
While Limavady look to have done enough to stave off any fears of a relegation play-off, the same cannot be said about their hosts. This game is huge for Lisburn and one more victory may just be enough to make the relegation battle a two-horse race between the PSNI and UUC.
Limavady are in a rich vein of form at the minute but are down five players for the trip to Blaris. Lisburn may just make it two home wins on the bounce following their victory over Academy two weeks ago.
UUC v Academy
UUC may be given some hope that Academy lost on their last day out to Lisburn. Still chasing their second win of the season, the students remain bottom and face an up-hill battle to hold on to their Championship 2 status. Academy had been on a great run of form before that recent defeat and they should get back to winning ways in the North-West.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 3
Donaghadee played their game in hand last week and their bonus point win over Newry saw them cut Lurgan’s lead to just three points. Monaghan won again while the game of the day is in the North-West as league leaders Lurgan travel to play Strabane.
Cavan v Letterkenny
County Cavan sit comfortably in mid table and will hope to get a good run out before they start the defence of the Gordon West Cup. Letterkenny are out of the cup but a recent home defeat to Newry has kept them dangerously close to the relegation zone. Their away form this season has been very poor, and you can’t see it getting any better in Cavan.
Civil Service v Donaghadee
Second from bottom against second from top. Since defeat to Lurgan in December The Dee have brought a more ruthless edge to their game and they should be too strong at Stormont for Service.
Holywood v Monaghan
Monaghan have been the most improved side in the division this season. Currently occupying third spot they will more than fancy their chances of claiming an away win at Kerr Park. Their defence is also in great form as they have kept four of their last five opponents scoreless. Holywood may have just done enough to avoid a relegation play off but won’t be climbing the table any further after Saturday as Monaghan should claim another win on the road in North Down.
Newry v Donegal Town
Two weeks ago, Newry surprised the division’s other Donegal side, Letterkenny, with a win in the North West. As they prepare for the visit of Monaghan next week they should run out convincing winners over the division’s bottom club who have still to register any points this season.
Strabane v Lurgan
The big game of the day and a dress rehearsal for next weeks Gordon West Cup quarter final at the same venue. This leads to a dilemma for Strabane Coach Paul O’Kane. Out of the promotion race does he keep his cards close to his chest and then play his full hand the following week?
For Lurgan this game is the most important one. No doubt they would love to get back to another Kingspan final, but if the club wants to make any progress, then promotion must be their number one goal. Lurgan will be hoping that captain Ryan Wilson’s injury isn’t as bad as first looked. The influential No. 8 left the field last week against Limavady in some distress after suffering an arm injury.
This will be a hard-fought battle with the league leaders just shading it come the end.
Virginia v Belfast High School Former Pupils
A long road trip for the Greenisland club to South Cavan. Like Monaghan, Virginia have made great strides this season as a successful youth policy begins to reap rewards.
A home win is on the cards here as Virginia hope to close the gap on Strabane should they fail to pick up anything in their clash with Lurgan.