Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1
All eyes will be on the big clash at Doagh this weekend as leaders Instonians go to second placed Ballyclare. An away win will see Inst taking a huge step towards the AIL round robin play-offs.
At the other end of the table defeat for Clogher Valley at Portadown could all but end their survival hopes.
Ballyclare v Instonians
At the beginning of last November these two sides played out a cracker at Shaws Bridge. Then Inst held off a strong second half from the then league leaders to win by four points, 17-13. An ability to pick up more bonus points has seen Inst take over at the top and they now hold a six-point lead over their only challengers for the coveted top spot, although they have played a game extra.
Ex Ulster props John Andress and Ricky Lutton will once again square up against one another while Roger Wilson adds further experience to the Shaws Bridge pack. Wingers Matt Kilpatrick and Michael Melville caused all sorts of bother that day before a second half charge from Ballyclare led by Gary Clotworthy and out-half Robert Smith almost snatched an away win.
If Inst are to prevail on Saturday, then they will have to curb Smith’s influence. He constantly at their defence the last day and caused all sorts of trouble. On the other hand, if Lutton, Weatherup and Bartley get a good supply of ball to him, then we could well see the title race go right down to the wire. With home advantage I’m going for a six-point home win.
CIYMS v Dromore
It’s third verses fourth at Belmont as the two sides leading the charge for All-Ireland cup spots go head to head. CI’s recent good run came to and end last week in Enniskillen while Dromore lost to leaders Instonians. All Dromore’s big results have come at Barban Hill. CI score quite well at home but they also concede a lot too. Their concentration in the last quarter of games being their downfall. Dromore’s better fitness may see they record a rare away win.
Coleraine v Carrick
A massive result for Coleraine last against Portadown ended their winless run while Carrick picked up their first win in seven league outings when they saw off Cooke. Coleraine still occupy the play-off spot but do have games in hand. A second win in a week for Carrick could see them stay in the hunt for an AIL cup spot, but it looks like a second home win on the trot for the Bannsiders.
Cooke v Enniskillen
A bonus point win was just what the faithful have been begging for down in Fermanagh last week. They sit two points clear of Coleraine but have played two more games. Cooke are another side that has struggled for consistency this season but have at home they have proven to give the best a run for their money. Just ask Ballyclare. A home win here for Cooke to quell any lingering doubts of being dragged into a scrap for the relegation play-off.
Portadown v Clogher Valley
Despite having the upper hand over Portadown in recent times, it’s hard to see anything past a home win at Chambers Park on Saturday. While Portadown were able to recall on some experienced ‘oul heads’ and claim some much needed wins, Clogher have struggled and have only collected nine league points after twelve games played. They may still be in the Towns Cup, but their fate in the league could be all but sealed come the weekend.
Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 2
Randalstown are still in pole position for the promotion play-off. Ballymoney unable to make any inroads as they too have seen their form dip while at the bottom UUC picked up their second win of the season to move above the PSNI and give themselves a fighting chance of staying in Championship 2 next season.
Academy v Ards
After a difficult start it’s all going rather well now for Ards. They are still in the Towns Cup and after an impressive win over Randalstown last week they now sit above Academy. The North Belfast side lost to UUC last week after losing their previous game to Lisburn. Form dictates an away win at Roughfort.
Ballymoney v UUC
A local derby at Kilraughts Road this week as third takes on ninth. The students will be buoyed by their surprise win over Academy last week but will find Ballymoney a harder nut to crack. ‘The Toon’ are still in the promotion shake up and should record another home win.
Larne v Lisburn
A convincing win last week over one relegation threated side should be backed with another one this week for Larne. They ran in seven tries last week against the PSNI and will be big favourites to see off Lisburn this week. They might not run in seven tries in this one but will still have enough for Lisburn whose season will come down to two games against UUC.
PSNI v Randalstown
Randalstown have hit a wobble the past few weeks. A heavy defeat to Grosvenor has seemed to knock the wind from their sails and this was followed by another defeat on the road to Ards last week. They will however stay in the drivers seat for the promotion play-off with a win at Newfordge over the struggling and now bottom of the table PSNI.
Following a death in the Limavady Club, their game with Grosvenor at Gibson Park on Saturday has been postponed and will be played at a later date.