Domestic Rugby Preview for Sat 15th Sept 2018 by George Millar

Instonians Bit First

Enniskillen v Instonians

Head coach Stevie Welsh is looking forward to his teams match with last seasons league champions Instonians at Mullaghmeen. After being on the road to Carrickfergus and Dromore the team are looking for their first win of the season after losing against Ballyclare and drawing with Carrick in the league and losing their Junior Cup match at Dromore last weekend. The coach will make minimal changes. He is hoping to have Gareth Beatty return in the front row. Second row Davy Buchanan is unavailable with seconds Captain Gary Thorton stepping up to replace him.

Talking to Instonians Director of Rugby Anthony McKibben there was disappointment amongst the playing squad to lose their opening league game at Dromore. The team had 75/80% of possession and territory but could not break down the well organised Dromore defence who took their few scoring opportunities to win 16 – 5. With two weeks to focus on training and preparing for the game at Enniskillen this weekend there is a hunger in the squad to right the defeat at Dromore as the team look to retain the league title. The squad is virtually at full strength with only Michael Melville (Dislocated elbow at Dromore) and Francesco Mezzivillia – knee injury against Glasgow Hawks in a pre season game that will rule him out for the season. James Martin, Conor Gallagher and Sean Shuttleworth return to the squad that is strengthened by the addition of two New Zealand players Cameron Barr (NZ), Massimo Kiri Kiri (Italian Passport holder). Both these players can play in the back row with Cameron Barr also able to play at Hooker. The new coaching team of John Andress and Paul Marshall have made a big impact at the club with large numbers of players turning out up to training sessions. Instonians would be one of the few Junior clubs to bring their players in on a Monday night for weights/skills/ Fitness sessions in addition to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It is not only the players on the 1 st xv squad who are benefiting from this new structure with the clubs seconds and thirds players challenging for inclusion in the 1 st xv squad. Two examples are Robert McGibbon and Rab Brown who have played for the 1 st xv.

The club game continues to go from strength to strength in the province. Last Saturday I watched the Dromore v Enniskillen match at Barban Hill in the Junior Cup. Played on a perfect playing surface Dromore outscored Enniskillen 5 tries to 2 to win 29 – 15. It was pleasing to see Ulster under age players David Lyttle (RBAI) and Ben Heath (Dromore High School) playing their rugby in the Rugby Championship along with former Ulster prop Jonny ‘Mo’ Simpson. Dromore have strengthened  their playing squad and will compete with Ballyclare and Instonians for the league title this season. Enniskillen contributed to this entertaining game with former Ulster under age winger Tyler Millar scoring a fine individual try with Ulster Schools back row forward Jack Rutledge impressing in his first season at this level.

I have not spoken to coaches from Dungannon, Belfast Harlequins, Bangor and Banbridge who are not playing this weekend. I am aware Bangor and Banbridge are holding a training match at Upritchard Park on Thursday night as both teams continue preparing their squads for the All Ireland league opening fixtures. Next week I will catch up with Coleraine Head coach Benjy Van Der Byl.  

Davy Cartmill PRO at Cooke RFC has asked me to remind the rugby community that Ulster A will play Scarlets A at Shawsbridge on Friday the 14 th September with a 7PM kick off. Admission charge is £5. For the club community we are delighted to see Banbridge players Peter and Michael Cromie involved along with Ballyclare prop Paul McGookin and former Carrickfergus back row forward Bradley Luney along with former Enniskillen winger Robert Balacoune.

FIXTURES/RESULTS TEAMS SATURDAY 8 TH SEPTEMBER 2018

SONI ULSTER RUGBY PREMIERSHIP DIV 1

Ballymena 17 Ballynahinch 20

Ballymena team: 1. Nacho Clandero Crespo, 2. Jonny Spence, 3. Griffin Phillipson, 4. JJ McKee, 5. Connor Smyth, 6. Matthew Dick, 7. William McKay, 8. Stephen Mulholland. 9. Jack Fleming, 10. Timothy Small, 11. Jonny McMullen, 12. Sam Millar, 13. Daryl Montgomery, 14. Mark Thompson, 15. Matthew Norris, 16. Josh Bill, 17. James Taggart, 18. Jacque Bolger, 19. Steven Shaw, 20. Dean Reynolds.

Points scorers: Matthew Dick and Josh Bill 1 x try each, Timothy Small 2 x cons and 1 xpen.

Ballynahinch: 1. Ben Cullen, 2. Conor Piper, 3. Kelvin Hamilton, 4. Bradley Luney, 5. John Donnan, 6. Gareth Gill, 7. Ollie Loughead, 8. Conall Boomer, 9. Aaron Cairns, 10. Ryan Wilson, 11. Connor Phillips, 12. Hilton Gibbons, 13. Rory Butler, 14. Richard Reaney, 15. Paddy Wright, 16. Campbell Classon, 17. Graeme McKitterick, 18. Keith Dickson, 19. Aaron Ferris, 20. Eamon McNulty.

Points scorers: Conall Boomer and Conor Piper 1 x try each, Paddy Wright 2 x pens and 1  x con, Richard Reaney 1 x con.

City of Armagh 12 Malone 22

City of Armagh team: 1. Eoin O’Hagan, 2. Andrew Smyth (Capt), 3. Philip Fletcher, 4. Peter Starrett, 5. James Hanna, 6. Nigel Simpson, 7. Gareth McNeice, 8. Robert Whitten, 9. Gerard Treanor, 10. Harry Boyd, 11. Shea O’Brien, 12. Jonny Pollock, 13. Evan Crummie, 14. Matthew Reaney, 15. Chris Cousins, 16. Johnny Morton, 17. Daryl Morton, 18. Neil Faloon, 19. James Morton, 20. Stuart lester.

Points scorers: Penalty try, Nigel Simpson 1 x try.

Malone team: 1. Ricky Greenwood, 2. Scott Finlay, 3. Ben Halliday, 4. Tom Patton, 5. James McAllister (Capt), 6. Matthew Hadden, 7. Matthew Fisher, 8. Ryan Clarke, 9. Shane Kelly, 10. Callum Smith, 11. Connor Scollan, 12. Nathan Brown, 13. Josh Pentland, 14. Rory Henry, 15. Chris Jordan, 16. Lee Barlow, 17. Danny Kerr, 18. Max Porter, 19. Conor Spence, 20. David Irvine.

Points scorers: Matt Fisher and Ryan Clarke 1 x try each, Josh Pentland 1 x try, 2 x cons and 1 x pen.

Queens University 17 Banbridge 21

Queens Uni team: 1.  Jonny Black, 2. Andrew Clingan, 3. Brian Cunningham, 4. Stewart Evans, 5. Callum Cardwell, 6. James Longwell, 7. Curtis Pollock, 8. James Catterson, 9. Matthew Keane, 10. Michael Orr, 11. Curtis Dundas, 12. Connor Shiels, 13. Rory Bell, 14. Josh Fullerton, 15. Mark Keane, 16.Andrew Weir, 17. Jack Sleator, 18. David Whitten, 19. Conor mcAuley, 20. Ritchie McMaster.

Points scorers: 1. Josh Fullerton 2 x tries, Brian Cunningham 1 x try, Ritchie McMaster 1 x con.

Banbridge team: 1. Michael Cromie, 2. Jonny Weir, 3. Ross Haughey, 4. Chris Allen, 5. Robin Hewitt, 6. Ryan Hughes, 7. Ethan Harbinson, 8. Mike Bentley, 9. Niall Armstrong, 11. Jonny Porter, 12. Ben Carson, 13. Andy Morrison, 14. Conor Field, 15. Adam Doherty, 16. Josh Chambers, 17. John Wilson, 18. Stephen Irvine, 19. Adam Ervine, 20. Jason Gribben.

Points scorers: Ryan Hughes and Andrew Morrison 1 x try each, Adam Doherty 1 x con and 3 x pens.

SONI ULSTER RUGBY PREMIERSHIP DIV 2

Bangor 17 Belfast Harlequins 24

Bangor team: 1. Charlie Clegg, 2. Andrew Shaw, 3. Orran McIImurray, 4. Michael Ferguson, 5. Lewis Stevenson, 6. Stephen Moore, 7. James Stewart, 8. Mike Weir, 9. Lewis Brett, 10. Oscar Yandell, 11. Nathan Graham, 12. Adam Alexander, 13. Phil Broderick, 14. Adam McCusker, 15. Declan Maguire, 16. Jack McKillen – Murphy, 17. Evan Wellard – McMillan, 18. Craig Burton. 19. Zac Kerr, 20. Ben Webb.

Points scorers: Nathan Graham 2 x tries, Zac Kerr 1 x try, Declan Maguire 1 x con.

Belfast Harlequins team: 1. Mark McGrath, 2. Saul Herdman, 3. James Harrison, 4. Toby Mannus, 5. Danny Annett, 6. Daryl Marshall, 7. Matthew Borne, 8. Zac Jordan, 9. Connor Young, 10. Timmy Emmerson, 11. Ethal Boal, 12. Kyle Adams, 13. Mark Glover, 14. James McConnell, 15. Richie McKee, 16. Paul Jackson, 17. Morgan Ellis, 18. AN Other, 19. Christian Bennison, 20. Jona Siri.

Points scorers: James McConnell and Paul Jackson 1 x try each, Timmy Emmerson 1 x try, 3 x cons, 1 x pen.

Dungannon 45 Omagh 24

Dungannon team: 1. Ross Stewart, 2. Daniel Maxwell, 3. Sean O’Hagan, 4. Stephen Todd, 5. Guilhem Lopez, 6. Alex Gormley, 7. Mark Riddell, 8. Jonah Mau’u, 9. Jack Reavy, 10. Lucca Avelli, 11. Jordan McIIwaine, 12. Andrew McPhillips, 13. Mervyn Brown, 14. Matthew Montgomery, 15. Andrew McGregor, 16. Ross McCaughey, 17. Glenn Sinnamon, 18. David Leyburn, 19. Jamie McNeill, 20. Conor Milnes.

Points s corers: Mervyn Brown 2 x tries, Guilhem Lopez, Alex Gormley, Andrew McGregor and Jack Reavy 1 x try each, Lucca Avelli 6 x cons and 1 x pen.

Omagh team: 1. Kyle Alexander, 2. Richard Hemphill, 3. Richard Smyth, 4. Jonny Sproule, 5. Kaine Holden, 6. Mervyn Edgar, 7. Adam Longwell, 8. Stewart Allen, 9. Stewart McCain, 10. Scott Elliott, 11. Ryan Mitchell, 12. Luke Hanson, 13. Stephen MacLaine, 14. Ali Beckett, 15. Eoin Murnaghan, 16. Peter Todd, 17. Phil Ewing, 18. Martin Clyde, 19. Stuart Ballantine, 20. Brian Scott.

Points scorers; Adam Longwell, Mervyn Edgar and Stewart McCain 1 x try each, Scott Elliott 1 x try, 3 x cons.

Rainey OB 27 City of Derry 8

Rainey OB team: 1. Stephen Rutledge, 2. Daniel O’Neill, 3. Kieran Donaghy, 4. John McCusker, 5. Ronan McCusker, 6. Andrew Harbinson, 7. Matthew Millar, 8. Michael McCusker, 9. Jack Lloyd Evans, 10. Scott McLean, 11. Mark Mulholland, 12. Andrew Brown, 13. Damien McMurray, 14. Nicholas Stirling, 15. Caolan Moran, 16. Fintain Quinn, 17.Michael Nevin, 18. Eunan Shaw, 19. Jason Bloomfield, 20. Regan Sanderson.

Points scorers: Nicky Stirling, Daniel O’Neill and Damien McMurray 1 x try each. Scott McLean 1 x try 2 x cons and 1 x pen.

City of Derry team: 1. James Hamilton, 2. Stephen Duffy, 3. Sam duffy, 4. Adam Bratton, 5. Gerard Doherty, 6. David Ferguson, 7. Craig Huey, 8. Stepehen Corr (Capt), 9. Tiarnan Thorton, 10. Conall Gill, 11. Colm Campbell, 12. James Perry, 13. David Graham, 14. Paddy Blennerhassett, 15. Thomas Cole, 16. Ross Harkin, 17. Ben Pollin, 18. Jack Townley, 19. A McDonnell, 20. Denis Posternik.

Points scorers: Adam Bratton 1 x try, Conall Gill 1  xpen.

MILLAR McCALL WYLIE JUNIOR CUP 1 st Rd

Dromore 29 Enniskillen 15

Dromore team: 1. Jonny Simpson, 2. Stuart Sloan, 3. Mark Hylands, 4. Matthew McMaster, 5. Ross Bingham, 6. Ben Heath, 7. Adam McGregor, 8. Jonny Maguire, 9. Lee Steenson, 10. David Lyttle, 11. Brian McClearn, 12. Graeme McCandless, 13. Aaron Stewart, 14. Andrew Gilmore, 15. Adam McDonald. 16. Andrew Black, 17. Stuart Russell.

Points scorers: Jonny Simpson, Andrew Gilmore, Adam McDonald, Jonny Maguire and Brian McClearn 1 x try each. Lee Steenson 2 x cons.

Enniskillen: 1. Gavin Warrington, 2. Ryan Cathcart (capt), 3. Alan Ferguson, 4. David Buchanan, 5. James Carleton, 6. Jamie Kelly, 7. Gavin Parke, 8. Jack Rutledge, 9. Paddy McCleery, 10. Nicky Finlay, 11. Jonny Magwood, 12. Mark O’Shea, 13. James Ferguson, 14. Tyler Millar, 15. Donagh O’Callaghan. 16. Steven Fox, 17. Philip Dickie.

Points scorers: Donagh O’Callaghan and Tyler Millar 1 x try each. Nicky Finlay 1 x pen and 1 x con.

Limavady 50 Banbridge seconds 5

Limavady team: 1. Clive Scott, 2. Luke Montgomery, 3. John McCollum, 4. John Purcell, 5. Adam Currie, 6. Ben Riley, 7. Perry Semple, 8. Daniel Irvine, 9. David Craig, 10. Matthew Haslett, 11. Stewart Roddy, 12. Stuart Simpson, 13. Robert lamberton, 14. Mark woods, 15. Rohan Mulligan, 16. Dylan Purdy, 17. Graham McAleese.

Points scorers: Daniel Irvine 2 x tries, Perry Semple, Ben Riley, Robert Lamberton, Stuart Simpson, David Craig and Mark woods 1 x try each. Matthew Haslett 3  x cons, Robert Lamberton 2 x cons.

Banbridge team: No details

Lisburn 33 City of Armagh seconds 28

Lisburn team: 1. Jamie Dickson (Capt), 2. Peter Graham, 3. Uate Caquea, 4. Andy Hamilton, 5. Kitione Dominiqbau, 6. Peter Simpson, 7. James Cromie, 8. Joe Taginacku, 9. Josh Cardosi, 10. Peter Dillon, 11. Jake Bebbington, 12. Dylan Postlethwaite, 13. Jonah Manu, 14. Conor Gascoigne, 15. Richard McGregor, 16. Chris Nimmons, 17. Andy Barron.

Points scorers: Dylan Postlethwaite, Peter Dillon, Joe Tagibacku, Conor Gascoigne and Chris Nimmons 1 x try each. Richard McGregor 4 x cons.

City of Armagh seconds team: 1. Jonny Clarke, 2. Michael Hoey, 3. Neil Lutton, 4. Stephen Morton, 5. Willy Martin, 6. Ryan Morton, 7. Joshua Kennedy, 8. Ollie Millar, 9. Nathan Rogers, 10. Cormac Fox, 11. Sam Shepherd, 12. John Faloon, 13. Andrew Winder, 14. Misi Bogotini, 15. Andrew Knipe, 16. Andrew Reaney, 17. Connor Simms.

Points s corers: Jonny Clarke, Ollie Millar and Andrew Winder 1 x try each. Cormac Fox 2 x cons and 3 x pens.

Omagh seconds 19 Ballymoney 21

Omagh seconds: No details

Ballymoney team; 1. Matthew Blair, 2. Kenny McAneaney, 3. Adam Smith, 4. Russell Blair, 5. Danny Platt, 6. Garvin Bellingham, 7. Lewis Wray, 8. David McKeeman, 9. Matthew Steele, 10. John Hyndman, 11.Matthew Bell, 12. Martin Irwin, 13. Andrew Young, 14. Michael Armstrong, 15. Thomas Hunter, 16. Joel Heggarty, 17. Chris Watson.

Points scorers: Martin Irwin, Chris Watson and Matthew Bell 1 x try each, John Hyndman 3 x cons.

Portadown 62 Ballymena seconds 0

Portadown team: 1. Mark Henderson, 2. Robbie Reid, 3. Conor Webster, 4. Willy Graham, 5. Karim Ahizoun, 6. Lloyd Gravatt, 7. Jordan Taylor, 8. Gary Hall (Capt), 9. Brian Forrestal, 10. Brett Fleck, 11. Matthew Neill, 12. Jonny Holden, 13. Tom Caesar, 14. Jack Orr, 15. Mark Adamson, 16. Aaron Abraham, 17. Jonathan Reid.

Points scorers: Gary Hall 2 x tries, Tom Caesar, Jack Orr, Jordan Taylor, Willy Graham, Matthew Neill and Jonny Holden 1 x try each, Mark Adamson 2 x tries and 6 x cons. (22pts).

Ballymena seconds team: 1. L McClinton, 2. Ryan Matheison, 3. Houston Bonnar, 4. David Waulahan, 5. C Galbraith, 6. Connor White, 7. Mark Foster, 8. I Veikune, 9. C Smyth, 10. E Ritson, 11. P Rainey, 12. J Pattison, 13. Jack Lewis, 14. M Matalravula, 15. C Cosgrove, 16. D Forsythe, 17. D Fullerton.

MILLAR McCALL WYLIE JUNIOR CUP DRAW

The draw on Tuesday night for the second round has paired up eight fascinating ties for decision on the 29th September. The Dromore v Ballyclare match is the stand out fixture and will surely attract a large crowd to Barban Hill with both these teams expected to contest the Div 1 league title this season. Ballyclare are current Towns Cup holders and will look to add the Junior Cup to the trophy cabinet at the Cloughan.  Ballymoney were semi finalists last season and will look to go one step further this season when they welcome Towns Cup Finalists Portadown to Kilraughts Rd. Both Larne and Carrickfergus have already met pre season in the Hawkins Cup with Carrickfergus winning this contest in what will be an eagerly awaited East Antrim return for Carrickfergus to the Glynn. Malone seconds made the semi finals last season before narrowly losing out to eventual winners Ballynahinch seconds. The meeting of both Instonians and Malone seconds at Shaws bridge will again be eagerly awaited by both sets of supporters. Limavady remain unbeaten this season and accounted for Ards 48 – 0 in their opening league match at the John Hunter playing fields in August. Can Ards make amends for their early season defeat. Lisburn caused a major upset last weekend by defeating last seasons Junior Cup Finalists City of Armagh seconds at the Blaris 33 – 28. Their opponents Clogher Valley have a great tradition in the Domestic Cup competitions and will have ambitions to make progress in this competition. Grosvenor pipped Randalstown to the Div 2 league title last season with Randalstown losing out in the playoff to Portadown. Another game that both sets of supporters will look forward to at Nelisbrook. The winners of the Coleraine and Cooke game will play current holders and favourites Ballynahinch seconds at home. Eight terrific games that will bring the supporters out to cheer on their teams.  If Cooke win their game with Coleraine Shawsbridge will host two games on the 29 th September.

MILLAR McCALL WYLIE JUNIOR CUP 2 ND ROUND

Dromore v Ballyclare

Ballymoney v Portadown

Larne v Carrickfergus

Instonians v Malone seconds

Limavady v Ards

Lisburn v Clogher Valley

Randalstown v Grosvenor

Coleraine/Cooke v Ballynahinch

Ties to be played on or before the 29 th September 2018

The outstanding tie between Coleraine and Cooke has been rescheduled for Saturday the 22 nd September at Shawsbridge.

FIRST TRUST SENIOR CUP QUARTER FINALS

Ballymena v Malone

City of Derry v Ballynahinch

Rainey OB v Queens Uni

City of Armagh v Omagh. Played Friday 14.9.18. KO 8PM

Ballymena v Malone

Head coach Andy Graham was disappointed to see his team lose their Premiership game with Ballynahinch at Eaton park last Saturday. Turnovers and only winning 3/13 lineouts did not help his team. Yes their was a lot of changes to the starting xv with Scott Willoughby, James Beattie, Glenn Baillie, David Whann, Chris Cundell and Jonny Rossborough all unavailable due to injury/sickness and work commitments. This left the second xv understrength for their Junior Cup tie at Portadown. Scott Willoughby remains unavailable for this week with James Beattie ruled out for several weeks. Scrum half Glenn Baillie tweaked a hamstring and is a major doubt for the Malone game. Illness ruled out Chris Cundell with him only rated 50/50 to play at the weekend. Both David Whann and Jonny Rossborough are expected to be available. The coach is also waiting on second row JJ McKee who picked up a shoulder injury against Ballynahinch. Rodger McBurney remains a doubt with a groin injury. Matthew Norris who played full back on Saturday is another doubt with an eye infection. The positive news was the return of out half Timothy Small who despite being a bit rusty made a huge difference to the backline on Saturday with his work in defence/attack and his organisation. Young prop Griffin Phillipson done well at tight head after playing hooker against Dungannon the previous week. Jonny Spence is another player who has returned to the club this season. He put in a very industrious performance at hooker and played like another back row forward. This block of fixtures prior to the start of the AIL has given Andy Graham and his coaching team the opportunity to see what players can do at this level. It is making sure Ballymena have a team that is competitive every week.

Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong has been keen to strengthen his playing panel this season. Last week he selected Chris Jordan, Rory Henry, Matthew Fisher and Matthew Hadden to start on the 1 st xv. These players made a significant contribution to the teams win at City of Armagh. The coach is pleased to see a number of players making their debut for the team including Rory Henry who has come through the Malone Youth system. The goal for his coaching team is to continue giving players opportunities this weekend and rotate a number of the players. Players to call upon include Andy Bryans, Josh Davidson, Captain Ross Todd, Stuart Doddington, Jack Milligan, Michael Shiels and Phil Eadie.

City of Derry v Ballynahinch

Paul O’Kane is well aware of the challenges City of Derry face this season. They played well for 40/50 mins in the win over Bangor. He was disappointed with the teams performance particularly with ball in hand in the defeat at Rainey. The team had plenty of possession  with the scrum and lineout secure. Derry are relying on two young out halves Conall Gill and Alex McDonnell this season. Last Saturday they struggled to compete with the Rainey options at 9/10 Jack Lloyd, Jason Bloomfield and Scott McLean. It is a matter of the backs transferring the work on the training pitch into a match on a Saturday. One positive piece of news is the return of former Foyle and Londonderry scrum half Michael Rankin to the club. He is unavailable this week but will be available for the game on Saturday week against Dungannon. Numbers at training have been good with 35 players turning up on a Tuesday night and 50+ players on a Thursday night. This week the club will be fielding three adult teams despite 21/22 players unavailable this weekend along with the three Youth teams. Paul continues as CCRO for the  Strabane area. Last week under Development coaches Ricky Huey and Sean Bloomfield  eight primary schools from the area came together for a blitz involving 300 children. As Paul put it there is a lot of good work ongoing in the North West to build the player base.

For the match with Ballynahinch several players including Simon Logue, Conall Gill, Ben Barbour, Craig Huey, James Perry and Stephen Duffy are unavailable. The front row will see Ross Harkin starting in place of James Hamilton alongside David Ferguson at hooker and Sam Duffy at tight head. Jack Townley comes off the bench to join Gerard Doherty in the second row. Adam Bratton moves into the back row  with Chrissy Robinson and Captain Stephen Corr at number 8. Phil Duffy starts at scrum half alongside Alex McDonnell. Paddy Blennerhassett joins Denis Posterik in the centre with Jack Beattie and Colm Campbell on the wings with Thomas Cole at full back. On the bench will be Cathal Cregan, James Hamilton, Ben Pollin, Tiernan Thorton and David Graham.

No updates available on Ballynahinch selection.

Rainey OB v Queens Uni

Head coach John Andrew’s has used the opening Premiership games against Omagh and City of Derry to develop strength in depth for his 1 st xv playing squad. When one looked at the players not involved last Saturday you can see the quality and depth available to the coaches. They include Captain Paul Pritchard, Andrew Magrath, Oisin Quinn, Michael O’Neill, Andrew Donaghy, Philip McCusker, Matthew McClelland, Adam Thorton, Connor Fitzimmons, Timmy Barker, Brad Roberts, Paddy McGowan, George Fritz, jack McIntosh, Callum Smith, Charlie Clarke and Peter Stewart.

This week John Andrew’s will add Michael O’Neill, Connor Fitzimmons and Oisin Quinn to his backline options against Queens Uni. His intention is to field his strongest team for the Premiership game with Bangor on the 22 nd September before they kick of their AIL programme away to MU Barnhall on the 29 th September.

Talking to Queens Head coach Derek Suffern he is delighted with the work done by the clubs backroom staff to strengthen the students playing squad this season. Early season wins over Ballymena and Banbridge have added to the belief the 1 stxv can challenge for promotion in Div 2A of the AIL this season. As the coach has pointed out students have an appetite and enjoy playing the brand of rugby Queens are renowned for. It is a new challenge for Derek Suffern having spent 12 years at Ballynahinch. Last season he joined Neil Doak’s coaching team at Queens and this season he was given the opportunity to take charge after Neil Doak moved to Worcester Warriors in the Premiership. What pleases the coach is the attitude of the players to training and playing rugby. The foundations are in place to move the club forward with numbers up attending training compared to last season. When you look at the Queens squad you have Brian Cunningham, Andrew Clingan, Jonny Black, Matthew Millar, Andy Weir competing for the front row along with hookers Alexander Clarke, David Swann, Andrew McGrath and Jack Sleator. Stuart Evans, Callum Cardwell, Ali Burke and Captain David Whitten are the second row options. In the back row James Catterson, Tyler Arnold, Gary Dillon, James Longwell, Matty Kernohan and Curtis Pollock are the players in contention. The half backs are another example of the talent available. At scrum half you have Conor McAuley, Matthew Keane and Josh Fullerton with Michael Orr challenging Ritchie McMaster for the out half position. Johnny Milliken, Conor McKee, Rory Bell and Conor Shiels are the main contenders. On the wings you have Josh Fullerton, Chris Dundas, Mark Keane and Angus Kernohan with Matthew Keane making an impact at full back. The advantage for the coaches is the ability of the backs to play in several positions. Freshers will also bring in players who can be part of the 1 st xv squad in the coming weeks. The coach has been impressed by the impact James Catterson, Tyler Arnold, Michael Orr, Matthew Keane have made in the early season games.

In summing up Derek Suffern is pleased with the additional coaching staff put in place to look after the seconds and thirds. It is important to have that extra help. Coaching in a student environment is different to a club where you have to plan your season in around exams and student life to fit in rest weeks. The challenge for the playing squad will be the travelling involved in the AIL this season. Queens are the only Ulster team in Div 2A. Training has been very positive as the players prepare for the physical challenges against teams from Munster Leinster and Connacht in the AIL.

Players unavailable for the First Trust Senior Cup match at Rainey include Alexander Clarke, David Swann, Andrew Clingan and Gary Dillon who are ruled out due to injury. Players unavailable include Ali Burke, James Catterson and Mark Keane.

City of Armagh v Omagh

This game has been brought forward to Friday night at the Palace grounds. City of Armagh are hosting a fund raising dinner at their club on Saturday night with Omagh hosting their annual dinner at their clubhouse on Saturday night.

City of Armagh will not be retaining the Stevenson Shield this season after losing their opening two premiership games against Ballynahinch and Malone. Niggling injuries and unavailability have denied the coaches the services of several players in the opening weeks of the season. As assistant coach Chris Parker put it, it opens up opportunities for other players.  Several players who would have been involved with the third xv have trained hard in pre season and put themselves forward for selection for the 1 st and 2 nd xv sides including Andrew Knipe, Andrew Winder, Neil Lutton and Sam Shepherd. Eoin O’Hagan who played mostly on 2nds last season has trained well in pre season and been rewarded with a place in 1 st xv squad including starting against Malone last Saturday. Second row Josh McKinley remains on holidays. Winger Stuart Lester has returned after a year in Australia. Prop Paul Mullan is another who has returned after his summer travels. Cormac Fox has been training with the Ulster A squad and played for the seconds in their defeat at Lisburn last Saturday. Two former Youth backs Evan Crummie and Shea O’Brien have been making a case for inclusion in the AIL squad after performing well for the 1 st xv  in the opening weeks of the season. Upwards of 18/19 players were unavailable for selection last weekend.

Injuries rule out Jonny Pollock, Harry Boyd, Harry Doyle, Timmy McNeice, Andrew Winder for the game against Omagh. James Hanna, Nigel Simpson, and Josh McKinley are unavailable. Players available for this week include Ryan Purvis, Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin and Paul Mullan.  Ollie Millar and  Jonny Clarke who played for the seconds will also be considered for selection.

For the Armagh coaches it is all about the team getting performances from the players. Week on week the team continues to improve. The target is to get the squad ready for the opening AIL match on the 6 th October against Old Wesley at the Palace Grounds.

Omagh Head coach Phil Marshall makes a number changes for the match at Armagh. Jamie Sproule returns to the second row with Kaine Holden dropping down to the seconds to get 80 mins of rugby. Matthew Clyde starts at number 8 with Mervyn Edgar dropping down to the bench. The coach is without five of his first choice backs. Ali Beckett fractured his cheekbone against Dungannon and will be out for 2/3 months. Winger Neil Brown continues his rehab. Both Scott Barr and Matty Eccles are on holidays with Yonga Taleni on a rugby sabbatical. Dean Kane comes into the centre with Stephen MacLaine moving out to the wing. The Dungannon game was a good test for the players in only their second game of the season. The coaches are looking forward to a very difficult game against Armagh. Phil Marshall views it as an opportunity to test yourself against a team three leagues above Omagh. His players have nothing to lose. It is all about continuing the build up to their first AIL game away to Ballina on the 29 th September.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 1

Carrickfergus v CIYMS

Cooke v Dromore

Enniskillen v Instonians

Portadown v Grosvenor

Carrickfergus v CIYMS

Talking to Andy Kinkaid Carrick will have a full squad available for the match with CI on Saturday. Scrum half Conor Cambridge returns after missing the game against Enniskillen. Selection to be finalised on Thursday night.

CI Head coach Gareth Fry has had to deal with his team playing their opening four league games away from Belmont due to cricket commitments. Defeats away to Grosvenor and Ballyclare don’t make his task any easier. As Gareth points out there are no easy games in this league with Instonians away on Saturday week. His team had two cracking games with Carrick last season. He is expecting another close game at the weekend. Their scrum and maul are amongst the best in the league. The coach has been delighted with the numbers they have had at training over the last couple of weeks with the seconds winning at the weekend. He is still without several experienced  backs including Nathan Burns who will be ruled out for several weeks. He will welcome back Paddy Beverland after his cricket commitments. Number 8 Mark McConkey dislocated his shoulder against Grosvenor and will be out till after Xmas. Back row forward Scott Dowle returns after picking up an injury in the same match. CI have assembled a large squad this season and despite the injuries it gives other players the opportunity to press for a 1 st xv place. Selection for the weekend will be finalised on Thursday night with few changes expected from the team that lost at Ballyclare two weeks ago.

Cooke v Dromore

Head coach Colin Atkinson is very happy with the start Cooke have made to their league season winning their opening matches against Coleraine and Portadown. As he points out it is all about the squad keep their feet firmly on the ground. The squad are fully aware they have many areas that can be improved.

Dromore have also started well and will prove a very stern test at the weekend. They have strengthened their squad and are obviously playing with a lot of confidence at the minute. The team picked up a few niggling injuries in the win at Portadown two weeks ago with some of these players doubtful for this weekend. Late fitness tests will be carried out on Thursday night before selection is finalised. Matthew Crothers and Jonathan Walsh are on holidays this week and will be replaced by Luke Tarry and Callum Robinson. Other players fighting to return to the squad are the Gourley brother Alex and Alan  along with new lock Matthew Robinson and front row forward Ian Moxen.

Dromore Head coach Jonny Cullen has been pleased with the performance of his playing squad after wins over Instonians and Enniskillen. For the match at Cooke the coach makes three changes from last Saturday. Andrew Rutledge  comes into the centre with Marcus Heath starting on the wing and Peter Elliott taking his place on the bench after all three performed very well for the seconds at the weekend. It results in Stuart Russell, Aaron Stewart and Andrew Gilmore making way this week. The coach is delighted with the team having drawn Ballyclare at home in the Junior Cup on the 29 th September. It will be an excellent test for his players against a top junior team. Players added to the Dromore squad this season include William Heron (CIYMS), Andrew Rutledge (Queens Uni) and Chris Barbour ( City of Derry/Coleraine). In total Dromore have signed 10 players this season.

Enniskillen v Instonians

Head coach Stevie Welsh is looking forward to his teams match with last seasons league champions Instonians at Mullaghmeen. After being on the road to Carrickfergus and Dromore the team are looking for their first win of the season after losing against Ballyclare and drawing with Carrick in the league and losing their Junior Cup match at Dromore last weekend. The coach will make minimal changes. He is hoping to have Gareth Beatty return in the front row. Second row Davy Buchanan is unavailable with seconds Captain Gary Thorton stepping up to replace him.

Talking to Instonians Director of Rugby Anthony McKibben there was disappointment amongst the playing squad to lose their opening league game at Dromore. The team had 75/80% of possession and territory but could not break down the well organised Dromore defence who took their few scoring opportunities to win 16 – 5. With two weeks to focus on training and preparing for the game at Enniskillen this weekend there is a hunger in the squad to right the defeat at Dromore as the team look to retain the league title. The squad is virtually at full strength with only Michael Melville (Dislocated elbow at Dromore) and Francesco Mezzivillia – knee injury against Glasgow Hawks in a pre season game that will rule him out for the season. James Martin, Conor Gallagher and Sean Shuttleworth return to the squad that is strengthened by the addition of two New Zealand players Cameron Barr (NZ), Massimo Kiri Kiri (Italian Passport holder). Both these players can play in the back row with Cameron Barr also able to play at Hooker. The new coaching team of John Andress and Paul Marshall have made a big impact at the club with large numbers of players turning out up to training sessions. Instonians would be one of the few Junior clubs to bring their players in on a Monday night for weights/skills/ Fitness sessions in addition to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It is not only the players on the 1 st xv squad who are benefiting from this new structure with the clubs seconds and thirds players challenging for inclusion in the 1 st xv squad. Two examples are Robert McGibbon and Rab Brown who have played for the 1 st xv.

Portadown v Grosvenor

It is not often Portadown Head coach Richard Hedley is able to pick the same team two weeks in a row. This week he is able to do that after the team defeated Ballymena in the Junior Cup. Portadown will be looking a win after losing their opening league game against Cooke two weeks ago.

Grosvenor Head coach Robert Ford makes a number of changes this week with Matthew Cahoon returning to the side. Connor McKee makes his debut in the pack. In the backs Stuart McIIwaine gets his first start of the season with Matthew Fitzsimmons making a return to the team after a lengthy absence. The coach was pleased to see Mitchell McComb making a try scoring return for the second xv against Bangor. Robert Ford is expecting Portadown to be a very tough test for his side after their win over Ballymena seconds.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP/CONF DIV 1

Ballynahinch seconds v Ballyclare

City of Armagh seconds v Coleraine

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 2

Academy v Lurgan

Clogher Valley v UUC

Larne v Limavady

Randalstown v Lisburn

Academy v Lurgan

Talking to Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn his selection will not be finalised until Thursday night.

Talking to Lurgan Backs coach Jason Wallace it has been a case of his Lurgan team having to adjust to the pace and intensity of playing rugby in Div 2 for 80 mins. Last season in Div 3 Lurgan could run up 30 points in the first 20 minutes of a game and then sit back. Not this season as the team have experienced in their opening two league defeats away to Clogher Valley and Randalstown. In both games Lurgan went into a early lead before falling behind. When you are defending for 40 mins it takes it toil  with fatigue setting in. In training the focus has been working on the set piece to ensure the team secure their own ball. One positive aspect from the opening games has been the performance of their talented  backline. The team are expecting a tough game up at Academy this weekend. Again it all about the team finding their level and adjusting to the intensity of rugby in this division. There is plenty of experience in this playing squad with forwards Marty Follis having played at Dromore and brothers Josh Lyness and Daniel Lyness who both played for Instonians. Scrum half Chris Jenks played at Dromore. Brothers Ben and Mark McIlwaine provide a cutting edge in the centre. Centre James Andrews who played at Banbridge will be available for selection this week. Second row Neil Adamson remains unavailable due to injury. Brother of back row forward Lee Allen - Chris plays in the second row for Banbridge 1 st xv. Lurgan have a small playing squad and have lost players including Jordan McIIwaine (Dungannon), Matthew Laird (Banbridge) and Ruben McCreery who signed for Banbridge this season. How the club would love to have these players return to strengthen their playing squad. Full back Stephen Nolan is now 38 years old but is probably playing his best rugby at this time as decides to give it one more season. Stephen has been playing rugby at Lurgan since he arrived as a 17 year old. The challenge for Lurgan this season is to stay in Div 2 and establish themselves in this league.

Clogher Valley v UUC

Clogher Valley team: 1. Neil Henderson, 2. Timmy Smyton, 3. Rodney Bennett, 4. Mark McKenna, 5. Michael Treanor (Capt), 6. Eugene McKenna, 7. Aaron Dunwoody, 8. David Sharkey, 9. Neil Trotter, 10. Dylan Eakin, 11. Mark Boles, 12. Reece Smyton, 13. Fleming Agnew, 14. Dylan Crawford, 15. Ewan Haire, 16. Josh Fegan, 17 Not confirmed yet.

Both Paul Armstrong and David Speers remain on the injured list. Changes to the team from the win over Lurgan on the opening weekend include Mark Boles replacing G Kozi on the wing. Neil Trotter replacing Mark Ellis at scrum half. In the forwards Rodney Bennett replaces Phillip Hopper. Mark McKenna joinds Captain Michael Treanor in the second row. Eugene McKenna moves into the backrow with David Sharkey replacing Rodney Bennett at number 8.

UUC team: 1. Callum Boardman, 2. Michael Smyth, 3. Gary Burke, 4. M McMenimen, 5. Jake Stevenson, 6. Neil Stewart, 7. Sam Hetherington, 8. Dan Morgan, 9. Ryan Jackson, 10. Adam Johnston, 11. Chris Allen, 12. David Gilkinson, 13. C Allen, 14. TBC, 15. Hayden Maxwell, 16. Andrew Janes, 17. Linsey Mclaughlin.

Injuries and unavailability rule out Ollie Doherty, Sam Hall, Stephen Hall, Stephen Logan, Joe McKinney, Peter McCully.

UUC finished last season strongly defeating Donaghadee in the playoff to keep their place in Div 2. Unfortunately instead of building on the progress UUC made last season they have lost several players in the off season as they endure another challenging start to the season as they look to rebuild a squad to be competitive in Div 2 this season. We wish coaches Des Jackson and  James Blair and the management team of Alan McCully and Johnny Wright every success in strengthening their playing squad. Student rugby is all about providing opportunities for young players to develop their skills within the University environment during their academic studies.

Larne v Limavady

Talking to Larne Head coach Graham Cloke his small playing squad has been decimated with injuries and unavailability for the match with Limavady at the Glynn. Skipper Jonny Cole along with both props and a couple of backs are ruled out along with Stevie McReynolds and Jonny Ogilby for selection. Ryan Garrett and Phil Andrews continue as half backs with Barry John McFaul moving to full back. Aaron McBride and Jonny Hall will make up the centre pairing. Both Antonio White and Liam Slaughter continue on the wings. Jordan Burns takes his place on the bench along with the evergreen Derek Lough who will cover the front row.

In the absence of Head coach Graeme Eastwood who is honeymooning this week. We all send our congratulations. Assistant coach Jody McMurray has been looking after team affairs this week. Just for clarity three of the Limavady signings are Magherafelt/ Rainey players including Jody, Jonny Lees and Gavin Martin. Jonny Lees in fact has been with Queens Uni for the last two seasons before signing for Limavady. Work commitments limit his opportunity to train and play. The coach was delighted with the performance of the team in defeating Banbridge seconds 50 – 5 in the Junior Cup last Saturday. Despite several players being unavailable Limavady proved too strong running in eight tries. Jody made the decision to take his first steps into coaching by moving to Limavady and challenging himself in a new environment. He has been impressed by the attitude of players and officials at the club. There are no egos with the players all buying into the strategy to take the club forward. With the strength in depth at the club there is real competition for starting places with good numbers turning up to training.

For the game at Larne this weekend the Limavady team will be front row of Clive Scott, Luke Montgomery and john McCollum with John Purcell and Ben Riley in the second row.  The back row will be from Stuart Simpson, Jonny Lees, Perry Semple and Daniel Irvine. The half backs will be Peter Wilson and Luke Faulkner  with the centres from Stuart Simpson, Jody McMurray and Robert Lamberton. The wingers will be Stewart Roddy and Mark Woods with Gavin Martin at full back. Adam Currie will be one of the bench replacements with injury ruling out Matthew Haslett. David Craig is unlucky to lose out at scrum half after performing well against Banbridge along with Rohan Mulligan. Both Darren Corrigan ( Fractured hand), Michael Barr (Dislocated shoulder) are ruled out for several weeks.

Several players including Tom McClelland, William McCleery, Jack Elliott, Jamie ‘Mo’ Millar, Jamie Millar , Michael Rice, Colin Henry, Thomas MaCauley, Graham McAleese, Adam Millar, ben Brown and jack Connor were part of the 1 st xv last season. One can see the strength in depth Limavady have. The coaches are working on converting second row Michael Rice into a prop. Jamie Millar was unlucky to pick up a fracture playing cricket at the tail end of the season that will rule him out for several weeks. Last seasons number 8 Sam Mackey is away to Uni in England. Prop Rory Squires is completing his PGCE in England. 

Randalstown v Lisburn

Talking to Willie Allen Randalstown 1 st xv Manager. Head coach Gary Longwell will not finalise his team until Thursday night. The forward pack that played against Lurgan is expected to be the same, however three backs are missing from that match. They include out half Martin Connolly, centre Matthew McWhinney and full back Michael Smith. The Lisburn win over City of Armagh seconds has shown Lisburn are much stronger team this season.

Lisburn DoR Mike Knowles has told me coaches Andy Postlethwaite and Nathan Moore have some really difficult decisions to make this week with selection not being finalised until Thursday night. Adam Jameson, Craig Walsh, Wili Lil Tee, Matt Nelson and Jonny Dunlop are back available this week and are in contention. Winger Jake Bebington picked up a knock against Armagh and will miss the game at Randalstown as will peter Dillon who is working. Noel Hooke and Dave Curry are also both back available after being out with long term injuries and will hopefully get a full 80 mins with the seconds.

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP/CONF DIV 2

Ards v Omagh seconds

Ballymoney v Malone seconds

Banbridge seconds v Ballymena seconds

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP DIV 3

Civil Service v PSNI

Donaghadee v Newry

Letterkenny v Holywood

Ophir v BHSFP

Strabane v Virginia

Monaghan v Cavan. Played Friday 14.9.18. KO 7.30PM

Once again spread the word about the Domestic Rugby game in Ulster. If you want a copy of the preview emailed directly to you please contact me at ga_  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or ring me on 07849071514.

Cheers

George