Domestic Rugby Preview for Sat 23rd Mar 2019 by George Millar

Instonians bit first

ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 

DIV 1 
We have reached round 18 of the league with fixtures this week deciding the destiny of the league title and who will finish in 9th place. Five points separate Ballyclare, Instonians and Dromore at the top with Ballyclare having a two point advantage over second place Instonians and a five point lead over 3rd place Dromore. Ballyclare know a win over 3rd place Dromore will guarantee them the league title and entry into the All Ireland Round Robin Playoffs. Instonians will be hoping that Dromore can make it three wins from three against Ballyclare this season and deny Ballyclare the league title. They play their Ulster neighbours Cooke at Shawsbridge in what is always a very keenly contested match knowing a win for them and defeat for Ballyclare will see them retain the league title. Dromore in all probability will finish in 3rd place and Grosvenor in 4th place with both teams qualifying for the All Ireland Junior Cup next season. Dromore know they need several things to happen on Saturday to give them an outside chance of winning the league. They need to take all five points against Ballyclare and deny them any points with Cooke defeating Instonians. Dromore would then lift the title as a result of the head to head meetings between the two teams. Defeat for Ballyclare or a draw on Saturday would see Instonians needing a bonus point win over Cooke to lift the title they won in 2018. There are other possible permutations but I don't want to confuse you any further.

Cooke v Instonians 
Cooke Head coach Colin Atkinson: The injury list at the club has made the task of the coach frustrating in the run in to the end of season matches. Several players including Andy Hanna, Ian Moxen and Russell Hunter picked up injuries in the home defeat to Grosvenor in the McCrea Cup. Players still ruled out include Matthew Crothers, Andrew Quigley, Callum Robinson, Matty Elliott, Jason Lyons, Captain Kyle Mitchell, Philip Cartmill and Ian Anderson. Selection for the game with Instonians will be finalised on Thursday night. 

Instonians Head coach John Andress: This weekend is all about focusing on the task in hand and that is winning the match against Cooke. We all know the big rivalry between the two clubs. In the last match it was level after 60 mins before Instonians closed out the match. Each season the league is getting tougher with three teams in contention for the league on Saturday. Next season John expects to see Grosvenor up competing for the league. He is very proud of his players and the effort and commitment they have put in this season. They have only lost one league game. Whatever happens this week they will take it on the chin. Hopefully if results go their way the league title will go to Instonians. The players have done well and put up a fight. 

The coach will welcome back Matthew Kilpatrick and James Martin who missed the game at Ballyclare along with Mark Mairs and Johnny Mooney. Full back Andrew Keane remains suspended with Lewis McNamara unavailable. Paddy Bell returned to training this week but he is not ready to play. Instonians have added Bradley McNamara the brother of Lewis McNamara to their squad for this weekend. He provides options for the coaches at 10 and 15. Selection will be finalised on Thursday night with Matthew Kilpatrick expected to partner Captain David Scott in the centre in an otherwise unchanged backline. In the forwards James Martin and Mark Mairs are expected to join Massimo Kiri Kiri in the back row with John Andress, Tom Matthews and Sean Shuttleworth contesting the second row positions. The front row is expected to see Alan Whitten, Cameron Barr, and Conor Gallagher the options in the front row along with John Andress. 

John Andress: This league is very tough. You have to turn up every week and perform to get results. Several of the teams are very physical most notably Dromore. In any rugby club- culture is all important. It is all about motivating a group of players to buy into the same thing so they can maintain the same levels each week. 

In their first meeting at Shawsbridge on the 29.12.18 Instonians defeated Cooke 27 - 24. 

VOLUNTEERING 
Several clubs have spoken to me about their difficulty in recruiting volunteers to fill positions in their clubs. How do we go about addressing this is an issue I don't have all the answers. My view is that clubs need to take steps to make their committees more representative of their membership. This includes integrating their Mini and Youth sections along with their ladies section into their club committees. These sections contain the potential future members of your club. Should we not be training and equipping these people with the skills and knowledge to fill these key positions in your club. 

FIXTURING SCHEDULING 
This is an issue I highlighted several weeks ago in a previous preview. The ongoing response I have had from across clubs in Ulster is the need to put in place a playing template that encourages and helps to retains players in Domestic Club Rugby in Ulster. I keep being told by the Competition Management Committee that clubs can agree to reschedule or rearrange fixtures by giving notice to the CMC. Clubs are telling me such requests are turned down. I have a view that clubs should be able to play club matches at the weekend on a Friday/Saturday or Sunday. There appears to be a problem with the fixture scheduling in October and November that remains unresolved despite being raised over the last number of seasons. Clubs are telling me that if you are not involved in the latter stages of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup or the AIL Junior Cup you can end up playing only two games in a eight week period. What happens in the second half of each season is we end up playing mid - week matches to clear the backlog. Is it right that a team like Enniskillen have to spend two hours travelling to play Dromore on a Tuesday night with a 8PM kick off. The match did not finish until 9.35PM. By the time the players shower and are given food they end up not being home to midnight. These players have jobs and family commitments. We have Clogher Valley travelling to Randalstown next week. Is it right these teams from the West of the Bann are placed in this situation. When you see a match between Grosvenor and Cooke that was postponed in September 2018 only being played on the 28th March 2019 you have to ask the question why have the CMC not dealt with this rearrangement sooner. Is it telling us that our schedule has too many fixtures and no free dates. Should the CMC not be sitting monthly to monitor fixtures to ensure this annual backlog of postponed fixtures are not rearranged for earlier dates. These problems don't arise in Leinster, Munster and Connacht with league fixtures. The ongoing problem of club matches coinciding with the kick off times in Six Nations and European matches needs to be addressed by the CMC. There is also strong support for a winter break. Is it not time in 2019 we revisited the current fixture scheduling to make sure it is fit for purpose. 

RESTURCTURING PROVINCIAL LEAGUES 
I understand the current six leagues will be reduced to five leagues with ten teams competing in each. Clubs will be invited to submit teams to compete in these leagues. Current promotion and relegation arrangements will continue. Two teams are promoted and two teams are relegated. The Regional league structures will continue in its present format. 

REVIEW WEEKEND RUGBY : 15TH/16TH MARCH 2019 

Despite the distractions of the Six Nations at the weekend there were crucial semi - final fixtures taking place in the River Rock Towns Cup and the McCrea Cup. Dub Lane was the venue for the first semi - final on Friday night in the McCrea Cup with hosts Queens University seconds playing Academy. With a sizeable crowd in attendance including Ulster and Ireland forward Ian Henderson we were treated to a highly competitive game between the two teams with Queens University picking off a late intercept try to win 18 - 10. It was a case of Academy using their experienced pack in the first half to limit opportunities for the talented students backline to run the ball. The Queens team were not helped when they lost their Captain Callum Cardwell within minutes of the game kicking off followed shortly afterwards by scrum half James Creighton with a dislocated shoulder with replacements Alex Elmore and Matthew Pentland taking their places. Early pressure from the Academy forwards allowed their out half Chris Cooper to touch down for the opening try with Matthew Pentland replying with a penalty for Queens. Academy increased their lead when turnover ball allowed winger Simon Beattie to break away and score a fine individual try to increase their lead to 10 - 3. Pentland added a further penalty to leave Academy leading 10 - 6 at halftime. The second half was very much dominated by Queens with a determined Academy defence holding firm. Eventually the students make the vital breakthrough with the backs stretching the Academy cover for centre Rory Nicholl to touch down with Pentland adding the points to give them the lead for the first time in the match at 13 - 10 coming to the end of the third quarter. The final quarter was well contested with Queens exerting all the pressure but unable to turn their pressure into points. In a closely contested game it only takes one handling error to turn around the match. With time running out Academy attempted to run the ball from in front of their own posts only for the sharp eyed Daniel Keane to pick out a Academy pass to touch down with Pentland unable to add the points. With Academy needing two scores Queens were able to hold on to the ball to see out the remaining minutes to make the Easter Monday Final at the Kingspan stadium. Both teams deserved credit for the effort and commitment they put into this match. Academy despite conceding 19 penalties and two yellow cards somehow managed to stay in the match until that intercept try that ultimately decided this Cup tie. One player who impressed me was the talented Queens scrum half replacement Matthew Pentland who came off the bench to steer his team to victory. The former Wallace High School player has all the skills including a strong kicking game to make an impact in club rugby. Their coaches Colin Hamilton and Peter Weir will have been delighted with this win against a very experienced Academy side. For Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn and his players their focus will now be on securing promotion to Div 1 of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship with two games left to play. 

In the other semi - final at Shawsbridge Grosvenor proved too strong for Cooke outscoring last seasons finalists by seven tries to three in a highly entertaining 39 - 20 win. Grosvenor built up a healthy 22 - 8 lead with tries from Peter Dawson and Peter Davison with Cooke responding with a try. Further Grosvenor tries were added by Jos McConkey and Pearce Jamison. Captain Andrew Kelly added another two tries with Cooke scoring two of their own to leave Grosvenor leading 34 - 20. This ten try thriller was ended when replacement scrum half Neil Adams scored his teams seventh try. This will be Grosvenor's first appearance in the McCrea Cup Final since they defeated CIYMS 20 - 14 in the 2013/14 season. 

Queens University seconds and Grosvenor like to play open running rugby which should entertain fans in the double header at the Kingspan stadium with Ballyclare playing Enniskillen in the River Rock Towns Cup Final on Easter Monday 22nd April 2019. Definitely a date for Domestic Rugby club followers to pencil into their Diary. 

I had the pleasure to witness Enniskillen overcome a very determined Clogher Valley side on Saturday afternoon in the semi - final of the River Rock Towns Cup at the Cran in Fivemiletown. Thanks to the efforts of the Clogher volunteers the pitch came through a late pitch inspection. With hundreds of supporters from both clubs lining the touchlines for this eagerly awaited local derby the ferocity and the intensity of the contest kept the result in doubt until the final whistle. With the usual four seasons in one weather in this part of the world the Clogher ladies made sure there were plenty of hot drinks available for all the spectators. Clogher Valley made a strong start courtesy of a Paul Armstrong penalty followed by a set piece try from a five metre scrum with the Enniskillen pack back peddling - leaving the referee Peter Martin with no other choice but to award a penalty try. With the home defence resisting the best efforts from the Enniskillen pack to cross the Clogher line it looked as if the home side would hold on to their lead until halftime only for Enniskillen out half Adam Lendrum to spot an opening and touch down for a try with Nick Finlay adding the points. The second half was no less relentless for both teams in the heavy underfoot conditions as Enniskillen went in search of the lead. Again it was their pack who created the platform to allow the backs to create an overlap for full back Ashley Finlay to touch down with Nick Finlay adding the points to give his side the lead for the first time in the match at 14 - 10. With the game entering the final quarter Clogher Valley appeared to have picked up the vital score to win the match. Again their forwards pressed the Enniskillen line with number 8 Ryan Wilson gaining the touch down with Armstrong adding the points for Clogher to lead 17 - 14. With Enniskillen pinned in their own twenty two there looked no way out for the Skins team to retrieve this match. With time running out Nick Finlay who had moved to out half to replace the injured Adam Lendrum decided to move the ball to his backs in front of his own posts. Replacement winger Connor Hoy launched a kick into the Clogher twenty two. With the home side unable to deal with the ball - Enniskillen regained possession and eventually worked their way to the Clogher line with loose head prop Gavin Warrington securing the all important try with Finlay adding the points to give his team a 21 - 17 lead they held until the final whistle. All forty players played their part in this thrilling Cup tie that did not disappoint the watching spectators. For Enniskillen this will be their third final appearance in the last four seasons. 

At the Cloughan current Cup Holders Ballyclare were made to work hard for their win against a very strong City of Armagh seconds team. Their evasive full back Kyle Faloon showed his ability to dance through the Ballyclare defence to score the opening try with Ballyclare winger Owen Kirk levelling the scores. Further scores from back row forward Stuart Hooks and out half Chris Cousens who converted one penalty and one con in reply to a Gary Clotworthy penalty had City of Armagh leading 15 - 8 at halftime. Winger Kirk added his second try to narrow the City of Armagh lead to 15 - 13. The match was decided in the final quarter with replacement Robbie Reid coming off the bench to score a try converted by himself to give Ballyclare the lead for the first time in the match. Ballyclare were able to see out the remainder of the game to make it back to back finals at the Kingspan stadium on Easter Monday. They will start as firm favourites but as Enniskillen have shown in defeats to Ballynahinch seconds and Bangor in past finals this might be third time lucky for the Fermanagh team. Ballyclare Head coach Mike McKeever and his players will now focus on their final league game at home to Dromore on Saturday. A win for Ballyclare will see them crowned as league champions after losing out to Instonians last season. 

In the rearranged Kukri Rugby Championship Div 2 match played between Limavady and Ballymoney on the 4G pitch at the Meadowbank Sports complex in Magherafelt - Limavady secured the all important bonus point for scoring four tries as they defeated Ballymoney 34 - 10 with scrum half Peter Wilson contributing 15 points. The win enabled Limavady to take a one point lead over 2nd place Clogher Valley and a two point lead over 3rd place Academy with two games remaining. Randalstown in 4th place have two games in hand and can maintain their promotion challenge with two wins. 

Have to mention Omagh seconds who travelled to play Ballymena seconds at Eaton Park on Saturday in the second xv league and came away with a crucial 20 - 19 win to remain in 3rd place. What an achievement for a team that was playing Provincial league rugby up until their 1st xv were promoted to the AIL two seasons ago. Rather than enter their second xv in the Provincial league - Omagh RFC took the decision to enter their second xv in the Conference league and the 2nd xv league. They may have a young playing squad but they are learning quickly the importance of developing strength in depth as their 1st xv compete for the playoffs again this season in Division 2C. 

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH JUNIOR CLUBS IN LEINSTER/ MUNSTER AND CONNACHT 

LEINSTER PROVINCE. 
Enniscorthy have won Junior 1A with Wicklow, Gorey and Ashbourne qualifying for the AIL Junior Cup. Three former AIL clubs Boyne, Bective Rangers and Dundalk occupied bottom three places in this league. Boyne were relegated with Bective Rangers struggling after being relegated from the All Ireland League last season. They will have to play 2nd place Longford in the Junior 1A/1B playoff to keep their place in Junior 1A . Also interesting to note that former AIL club Suttonians have won Junior 1B and will play in Junior 1A next season. We keep reading about the emerging clubs coming through in Irish rugby. Longford are another example and have progressed to the semi finals of the Leinster Towns Cup where they will play Wicklow with league winners Enniscorthy playing Gorey on the 24th March. If Longford defeat Bective Rangers in the play off they will be another new club coming through and playing in Junior 1A next season. Both Boyne in Drogheda and Dundalk had struggled to make an impact in the All Ireland league and are finding themselves again struggling to make an impact in Junior rugby. 

MUNSTER 
Clonmel secured their 4th Munster Junior 1 title in five seasons after defeating last season's winners Bandon 17 - 7 at the weekend with Newcastle West, Bandon and either Kilfeacle & District or Richmond joining them in the AIL Junior Cup. St Mary's are relegated to Junior 2 with 13th place Kanturk another former AIL club struggling to keep their place in Junior 1. Mallow another new club on the move and will take their place in Junior 1 after winning Junior 2. Former AIL club Clonakilty have finished second and will play off against Kanturk for a place in Junior 1 next season. Clonakilty have shown they are a club rebounding after relegation from the AIL - winning the Munster Clubs - Challenge Shield. Richmond another former AIL club defeated Bandon to win the Munster Junior Challenge Cup this season. Clonmel are into the quarter finals of the Munster Bank of Ireland Junior Cup where they will play Kilfeacle & District on the 24th March. 

CONNACHT 
Connemara were confirmed as league champions and will be joined by Creggs, Monivea and Castlebar in the AIL Junior Cup. Also worth noting that Connemara and Creggs will contest the Connacht Junior Cup on the 24th March. Westport won their playoff match against NUIG on the 10th March to keep their place in Junior 1A. Tuam are promoted as league winners from Div 1B to play in Div 1A next season. Also worth noting that Galwegians seconds have been relegated from Div 1A to 1B with Corinthians seconds now relegated from Div 1B to Div 1C. What has happened to Galwegians and Corinthians RFC's. Galwegians are bottom of Div 2A after suffering successive relegations in the AIL with Corinthians relegated to Div 2B this season. They are in a contest to make the play offs in this Division. Buccaneers after being relegated last season find themselves battling it out to avoid relegation again this season in Div 1B despite the support they receive from Connacht rugby. It is the newly promoted clubs in Connacht that are making an impact in the AIL. Ballina top Div 2C and Sligo are in 4th place in Div 2B as they push for a playoff place. 

We have witnessed the fall of several former AIL clubs in Ulster who have been replaced by the new clubs coming through from Junior rugby. A lot of clubs on the island of Ireland had invested heavily in the AIL and now find that such commitments are short term. The key to clubs sustaining their future is developing their own players. We have noticed this in the AIL and the new clubs coming through from Junior rugby. If one or more of the Provincial Junior league winners come through the Round Robin to claim a place in the All Ireland league the team that finishes in 5th place in their league will take their place in the AIL Junior Cup. It will be Enniscorthy (Leinster), Clonmel (Munster), Connemara (Connacht) or either Ballyclare or Instonians (Ulster)who will compete in this season's Round Robin. 

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE ROUND 16 
DIV 1B 
What immediately impacts on selections for four of the five Ulster teams this week is the unavailability of Ulster players who are playing for the Ulster A in the USA this week. The Munster and Leinster teams will be impacted in Round 17 and 18. 

Ballynahinch: Clayton Milligan, Zach McCall, Jack Regan, Bradley Luney, Lewis Finlay, Johnny McPhillips, Iwan Hughes. 
Malone: Peter Cooper, Ross Kane, Joe Dunleavy, Graham Curtis, Jack Owens, Stewart Moore, Ben McCaughey 
Banbridge: Callum Reid, Corrie Barrett, David McCann, Caleb Montgomery 
Ballymena: JJ McKee, Marcus Rea, Michael Stronge, Bruce Houston. 

Ballynahinch have won 4/6 in 2019 and find themselves level on points with Old Wesley at the top of the league with three games remaining. They play a Old Belvedere team who won their last three homes games against Ulster sides Malone, City of Armagh and Ballymena. They have lost their last two away games against St Mary's College and Buccaneers. Can Ballynahinch maintain their home form to remain in contention come round 17 and 18 without their Ulster releases this weekend. 

Malone have lost their last three AIL games. With seven potential players away with the Ulster A squad they will be hoping players such as Adam McBurney and Matty Dalton maybe released this week. They find themselves trailing the top two by four points and can't afford any slip ups this week if they are to remain in contention. City of Armagh are one point behind the top two teams and have won 3/4 of their last AIL games. They are unaffected by Ulster releases. 

Banbridge are missing several Ulster releases this week and face a Naas team who won 7 - 5 at home to league leaders Old Wesley in Round 15. Banbridge are in 6th place two points above 9th place Buccaneers and need a win to remain in contention for a top four finish. 

Ballymena find themselves 14 points adrift of 9th place Buccaneers with three rounds remaining. With games coming up away to St Mary's College and Malone and Naas at home it will require a monumental effort for the team to keep their place in Div 1B. They will be without Captain Marcus Rea, JJ McKee and key half backs Michael Stronge and Bruce Houston this week for the trip to St Mary's College. 

DIV 2A 
Queens University have been unaffected by Ulster releases this season. The result is that coaches Derek Suffern and DJ Creighton have been able to select a consistent squad each week that has seen the team pick up a maximum 20 points from their last four AIL games to move into 4th place and the playoffs - four points behind 3rd place Navan with three games remaining. Their opponents Galwegians maybe struggling this season but these are the potential 'banana skin' matches that the students can't afford to lose their focus and concentration on. 

DIV 2B 
Rainey OB recorded an impressive bonus point win at Galway Corinthians to remain in 3rd place one point ahead of 4th place Sligo. This young squad have added the experienced Terry McMaster to their coaching team to work alongside Head coach John Andrews. They will need all their experience with 2nd place Greystones the visitors to Hatrick Park this week to hold on to 3rd place. 

Dungannon have found their form in 2019 after a difficult first half to the season winning 4/6 games to move up into 7th place. A win at Belfast Harlequins on Saturday would almost certainly guarantee their place in Div 2B next season with two rounds remaining. For Belfast Harlequins winning two games from six in 2019 may not seem impressive. Three of their defeats came against top four teams Rainey OB 19 - 10, Greystones 28 - 26 and leaders MU Barnhall 20 - 17 with the team picking up valuable league points before securing their first home win of the season against Wanderers 15 - 5 in round 14. The Deramore side remain in 9th place and know a win is vital this weekend against their Ulster neighbours Dungannon to avoid finishing in the bottom two. With Skerries playing Wanderers this is a must win game for Head coach Nicky Wells and his players. Recent performances have shown that this Quins side can avoid the playoffs by winning their final three matches. 

DIV 2C 
Omagh were considered to be very much in the mix to challenge leaders Ballina at Xmas. Three away defeats in 2019 have seriously dented the ambitions of the County Tyrone club to make the playoffs. They find themselves in 5th place - three points behind 4th place Malahide. With Malahide playing leaders Ballina this week the Omagh coaches and players will be looking maximum points against Thomond at home this weekend before travelling to play Malahide away in round 17 with leaders Ballina the visitors to the Thomas Mellon playing fields in round 18. 

City of Derry may be in 6th place but they find themselves in a group of four teams separated by five points in 6th - 9th place with three rounds remaining. They make the trip to 9th place Seapoint on Saturday followed by Bruff at home in round 17 and Tullamore away in round 18 to avoid finishing in 9th place and the playoffs. It will be a massive ask for Director of Rugby Paul O'Kane and his players in these remaining weeks. Can they do it. They have shown in 2019 the talent is in the squad to get over the line. 

Bangor returned to the All Ireland League in 2016 after dominating Junior rugby in 2015 /16. They were expected to make an impact. The opposite has been the case as the team find themselves struggling for the third season in a row to avoid relegation from the AIL. They are in 8th place three points ahead of 9th place Seapoint. This weekend they are at home to second place Midleton. Nothing less than a win will do with the team travelling to 10th place Thomond in round 17 followed by the inform Malahide at home in Round 18. Wins for Seapoint and Midleton this week will see Bangor drop down into 9th place. We have witnessed many surprising results in 2019 in this league. Don't be surprised we see more with teams fighting for their lives in the bottom half of this league. 

ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 
DIV 1 
We have reached round 18 of the league with fixtures this week deciding the destiny of the league title and who will finish in 9th place. Five points separate Ballyclare, Instonians and Dromore at the top with Ballyclare having a two point advantage over second place Instonians and a five point lead over 3rd place Dromore. Ballyclare know a win over 3rd place Dromore will guarantee them the league title and entry into the All Ireland Round Robin Playoffs. Instonians will be hoping that Dromore can make it three wins from three against Ballyclare this season and deny Ballyclare the league title. They play their Ulster neighbours Cooke at Shawsbridge in what is always a very keenly contested match knowing a win for them and defeat for Ballyclare will see them retain the league title. Dromore in all probability will finish in 3rd place and Grosvenor in 4th place with both teams qualifying for the All Ireland Junior Cup next season. Dromore know they need several things to happen on Saturday to give them an outside chance of winning the league. They need to take all five points against Ballyclare and deny them any points with Cooke defeating Instonians. Dromore would then lift the title as a result of the head to head meetings between the two teams. Defeat for Ballyclare or a draw on Saturday would see Instonians needing a bonus point win over Cooke to lift the title they won in 2018. There are other possible permutations but I don't want to confuse you any further. Carrickfergus know they can secure 5th place with a bonus point win over relegated Coleraine at the Tom Simms Memorial Fields with 6th place Cooke finishing their season with games against Instonians and Grosvenor. If Ballyclare or Instonians are promoted to the All Ireland League and no Ulster team is relegated - Carrickfergus would play in the AIL Junior Cup next season. Both Cooke and Enniskillen should be safe. It all comes down to the match at Chambers Park between Portadown and CIYMS to decide the team that will finish in 9th place. Portadown have lost six from seven league game sin 2019 with CIYMS winning three from four of their last league games. All set up for a fascinating encounter between these two former Senior clubs. Enniskillen will want to maintain their winning seven match run with league games against Dromore (Tuesday night) and Grosvenor at home on Saturday. Again there are several possible permutations that can decide who finishes in 9th place. What Enniskillen and Cooke don't want to see happen at Chambers Park is both Portadown and CIYMS scoring four tries each and drawing the match that would give each team three points. This would mean Enniskillen and Cooke needing to win their matches on Saturday. It has been a tough second half to the season for Cooke Head coach Colin Atkinson and his players in 2019. They have lost their last five league games as they hang on to their place in Div 1. Have to say I am surprised that the league match between Grosvenor and Cooke that was postponed on the 22. 9. 18 is only going to be played on Tuesday the 28th March 2019. Why has it taken so long to reschedule this outstanding fixture. All league matches were to be completed by this weekend. For a number of teams in this league their season will end this weekend with other teams potentially involved in fixtures that will not be completed until the end of April. Some coaches and players will welcome the end to their season whilst others continue their pursuit of league and Cup honours. 

DIV 2 
Limavady made a big statement at the weekend with their bonus point win over Ballymoney to take a one point lead over Clogher Valley and a two point advantage over 3rd place Academy. Two bonus point wins over Larne and Clogher Valley in their remaining games will see the league title go to the North West side. It is easy to say that in this this highly competitive league. There will be twists and turns with games involving the top four teams including Randalstown that I suspect will see the league winners decided in the final games on Saturday the 30th March 2019. The problem is Randalstown have two rearranged games to play against Clogher Valley and Ards. It is looking like the Randalstown v Clogher Valley match may have to be played in the first week of April. Randalstown only have training lights that are not suitable for a league match to be played mid week. Their postponed game with Ards will be played at Hamilton Park on Wednesday the 27th March. Not an ideal situation if the Competitions Management Committee are trying to complete all league games by the 30th March 2019. Academy know they need maximum league points from their remaining league games away to Lurgan and Ballymoney to keep the pressure on Limavady and Clogher Valley in the hope that both teams will drop league points. Will the games between Clogher Valley and Limavady and Randalstown v Clogher Valley tell us who will win the league. The fact we have all these different scenarios is a testament to the competitive nature of this league. Ballymoney, Ards, Lurgan and Larne will be looking strong finishes to their season as they prepare for what appears to be another challenging season for the teams in Div 2 next season. Lisburn in 9th place await their fate in whether they are automatically relegated if an Ulster team is relegated from the AIL and no team is promoted or there position in Div 2 is decided by a playoff match with Monaghan. 

DIV 3 
Donaghadee remain the only undefeated team in Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship rugby this season. With four league games left to play they have a seven point advantage over second place Monaghan who have played one game more. Both the coaches and players at Donaldson Park will want to hold on to this playing record with the team having a day out in the final of the Gordon West Cup against Monaghan on the 6th April 2019 at the Kingspan stadium. Donaghadee travel to 12th place Ophir this weekend with Monaghan hosting Letterkenny. 

NUTTY KRUST U18 FLOODLIT TOURNAMENT: QUARTER FINALS 
City of Derry U 18 v City of Armagh U 18s. Played Wednesday 20.3.19 KO 7.45PM 

SEMI FINALS 
Tuesday 26.3.19: Banbridge U 18 v winners of City of Derry U 18 v City of Armagh U 18 KO 7.45PM 
Wednesday 27.3.19: Enniskillen U 18 v Rainey OB U 18. KO 7.45PM 

WEEKEND RESULTS/TEAM LISTS SATURDAY 16TH MARCH 2019 

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE 
DIV 2A 
Dolphin 6 Highfield 24 

RIVER ROCK TOWNS CUP SEMI FINALS 
Ballyclare 20 City of Armagh seconds 15 
Clogher Valley 17 Enniskillen 21 

McCREA CUP SEMI FINALS 
Queens University seconds 18 Academy 10 
Cooke 20 Grosvenor 39 

ULSTER RUGBY PREMIERSHIP 2ND XV LEAGUE 
Ballymena seconds 19 Omagh seconds 20 
City of Armagh seconds v Banbridge seconds. Postponed. 

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 
DIV 2 
Limavady 34 Ballymoney 10 
Ards v Randalstown. Postponed 

DIV 3 
BHSFP v Ophir. Postponed 
Newry v Donaghadee. Postponed 

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 
DIV 1 
Dromore 26 Enniskillen 13. Played Tuesday 19.3.19 KO 8PM 

With this fixture having to be played before Dromore travel to play Ballyclare on Saturday - Enniskillen were making the long journey three days after being involved in a titanic Cup tie with Clogher Valley at the weekend. Enniskillen Head coach Stevie Welsh was forced to make several changes with six of the starting line - up unavailable from the Clogher match. Enniskillen made a promising start with out half Nick Finlay converting an early try. Dromore were patient and went through the phases with Captain Adam MacGregor scoring a try converted by Adam McDonald. An injury to Nick Finlay disrupted the Enniskillen backline with another catch/drive and maul leading to Dromore hooker Fraser Mulholland scoring his teams second try for Dromore to lead 12 - 3 at halftime. It took another 15 minutes for Dromore to add their third try with another drive and maul creating the opening for Dromore number 8 Ben Heath to score with McDonald adding the points to increase their lead to 19 - 3 . The score line did not reflect how competitive this Enniskillen team were throughout the match. Careless handling errors and needless turnovers were punished by this Dromore team. Enniskillen did score the best try of the game when winger Conor Hoy made a 40 metre break down the touchline. He was able to pass to the supporting Mark O'Shea to touch down for a well deserved try. The visitors like the hosts were looking all the league points from this game to move them out of the danger of 9th place. With 10 minutes remaining Dromore replacement Dylan Cobb was on the end of another Dromore Drive from a lineout to score the all important bonus point for scoring four tries with McDonald again adding the points to increase the Dromore lead to 26 - 8. Enniskillen had not travelled all the way from the West of the province to leave empty handed. They laid siege to the Dromore line with the ball eventually being moved wide to enable Mark O'Shea to skip the Dromore cover to score his second try to end the game and leave Dromore winners by 26 - 13. The win gives Dromore an outside chance of winning the league title when they travel to Ballyclare. Enniskillen know nothing less than a win over McCrea Cup Finalists Grosvenor will guarantee their place in Div 1 next season. They can't rely on other teams for results. This will mean Enniskillen playing three matches in eight days. Sadly a poor reflection on a league schedule that needs over hauled to prevent amateur players having to play three games in eight days. 

It has been a good season for Dromore RFC 1st xv winning the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup and remaining in contention for the Div 1 league title until the final day. The team have also guaranteed themselves a place in the AIL Junior Cup next season. 

The clubs second xv are in contention for the Provincial 2 league title along with Carrickfergus seconds, City of Armagh thirds and Ballymoney seconds with the top two teams promoted. The second xv have also made it through to the Final of the Crawford Plate where they will play Enniskillen seconds on the 6.4.19. 

Dromore 3rd xv are competing with City of Armagh 4th xv for the Regional South league title. Dromore 3rd xv are also through to the McCambley Cup Final where they will play Ballymoney 4ths on the 6.4.19. 

Enniskillen 1st xv are through to the River Rock Towns Cup Final where they will play Ballyclare 1st xv on Easter Monday 22nd April 2019. The team were on a seven match unbeaten run until they lost at Dromore on Tuesday night as they fight to keep their place in Div 1 next season. 

Enniskillen second xv are competing with City of Derry second xv and Randalstown second xv for the Provincial 3 league title. They will play Dromore second xv in the Crawford Cup Plate Final on the 6.4.19. 

Enniskillen thirds missed out on the final of the McCambley Cup after losing their semi - final to Ballymoney 4th xv at the weekend. They are favourites to win the Regional Premier league having a eleven point advantage over second place Ballymoney 4ths. 

ALL IRELAND LEAGUE ROUND 16 
DIV 1A 
Dublin University (4) v Cork Constitution (1) 
Garryowen (5) v Clontarf (2) 
Lansdowne (3) v UCD (6) 
Shannon (9) v Terenure College (10) 
UCC (8) v Young Munster (7) 

DIV 1B 
Ballynahinch (2) v Old Belvedere(7) 
Banbridge (6) v Naas (5) 
Malone (4) v City of Armagh (3) 
Old Wesley (10) v Buccaneers (9) 
St Mary's College (8) v Ballymena (10) 

Ballynahinch v Old Belvedere 
Ballynahinch coach Tom Rock: Selection to be finalised on Thursday night. Apart from the players away with Ulster A in USA the squad is in good shape. 

In Round 3 Ballynahinch won 32 - 7 away to Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road on the 20.10.18. 


Banbridge v Naas 
Banbridge Head coach Simon McKinstry will rely on his club players for the difficult fixture at home to Naas this weekend. With Callum Reid, David McCann, Corrie Barrett and Caleb Montgomery travelling with Ulster in the USA - Jonny Stewart, James Hume and Michael Lowry who played in the round 15 win at Ballymena have not been released by Ulster. Jonny Murphy is ineligible having not played the requisite number of matches to play in the remaining four rounds of the AIL. This is a situation the Banbridge coaches have had to deal with in recent seasons. Chris Allen was a late change at Ballymena due to a family bereavement and will return to the squad this week. His replacement Dale Carson was outstanding at Ballymena and will keep his place. Stuart Cromie will return to the front row with doubts over the availability of Jonny Little and Ian Porter with both of their wives expecting this week. Out half Josh Cromie is expected to be available after missing out on recent games with an ankle injury. He will be put through a fitness test this week. Other players who will be added to the squad this week include backs John Porter and Aaron Kennedy. Competition is competitive in the front row with Ross Haughey, Jonny Weir, Andrew Jackson and Scott Cromie all in contention for two places on the bench. 

In the game against Ballymena the home side came out fighting for their lives with all guns blazing. They built up an early lead with Banbridge getting back in the game before half time with a try. The second half the Banbridge team stuck to their guns and played rugby the way this Banbridge team can play. The coaches are hoping for more of the same against Naas. 


In Round 3 Banbridge won 20 - 16 away to Naas at Forenaughts on the 20.10.18 

Malone v City of Armagh 
Matthew Dalton I am told is the only Ulster player released this week to play AIL club rugby to Malone. For Head coach Paddy Armstrong he will be missing Peter Cooper, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, . Joe Dunleavy, . Graham Curtis, Jack Owens, Stewart Moore and Ben McCaughey. The narrow 15 - 12 defeat at Old Belvedere was not helped by Malone having to use four of their bench replacements in the first 20 minutes with Mark O'Connor, Captain Ross Todd and Ryan Clarke all picking up injuries. Winger Rory Campbell had a reoccurrence of an ankle injury that ruled him out of the matches against Old Belvedere and Buccaneers. Second row Michael Shiels remains unavailable due to work commitments. 

Malone Head coach paddy Armstrong: This is an important game for the Malone team. The players have trained really well this week and are looking forward to the challenge City of Armagh will present. They are a very good side who are well organised and coached. The team won't be finalised until Thursday night after late fitness tests. 

City of Armagh coach Chris Parker: The team have three league games left to play with Ulster derbies coming up against Malone and Ballynahinch before playing Old Wesley in their final Round 18 match. There was disappointment for Head coach Willy Faloon and Chris Parker at the weekend as they watched their second xv let slip a halftime lead against current River Rock Towns Cup holders Ballyclare at the Cloughan to lose 20 - 15. The focus for the coaches and the extended playing squad is the All Ireland League game at Gibson Park against Malone this weekend. The coaches are keen to see the team extend their winning run after wins over St Mary's College and Ballymena. They welcome back Andrew Willis, Daryl Morton, Robert Whitten, Oisin Kiernan and Andrew Smyth who will all come into contention for the matchday 20. Competition is very competitive within the squad with four hookers Jack Treanor, Andrew Smyth, Jonny Morton and Peter Lamb competing for two of the four places available. Another example where the competition is competitive is out half with Jonny Pollock, Chris Cousens and Cormac Fox all in contention. Both Chris Cousens and Jonny Pollock can play in the 12 jersey alongside Captain Chris Colvin. With a full squad available to select from the coaches will have several difficult calls to make this week. The difficulty is making changes to a winning team who performed so well against St Mary's College and Ballymena. 

For City of Armagh it is dealing with the game against Malone on Saturday. The players and coaches are expecting a backlash from a Malone team who have lost their last three AIL matches. Despite Malone missing several of their Ulster players this week Chris Parker is expecting Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong to have his team well prepared for this crucial game. 


In Round 3 City of Armagh defeated Malone 32 - 3 at the Palace Grounds on the 20.10.18. 

St Mary's College v Ballymena. 
Ballymena Head coach Andy Graham: Injuries and unavailability will deny the Ballymena coaches of a number of players for the this difficult away fixture at St Mary's College. Injuries rule out Matthew Norris, Jonny McMullan, Dean Reynolds, Alan Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Mark Foster , David Whann and Jack Fleming with both Jordan Foster and Jonny Rossborough unavailable. Full back Rodger McBurney returns after being unavailable due to injury for several weeks. 

Ballymena team: 1. Nacho Clandero Crespo, 2. Jonny Spence, 3. Chris Cundell, 4. Connor White, 5. Connor Smyth, 6. Jack Bolger, 7. Matthew Dick, 8. Philip Campbell, 9. Glenn Baillie, 10. Timmy Small, 11. Eoin Ritson, 12.Darrell Montgomery, 13. Paddy James, 14. Sam Millar, 15. Rodger McBurney, 16 - 20 from Andrew Ferguson, James Taggart, Josh Bill, Ian Caldwell, Jack Lewis, Ryan Mattison and Dominic Gallagher. 

Andy Graham never questions the commitment of any Ballymena player who represents the 1st xv. Injuries and unavailability have impacted on the squad in 2019 with selection leading to too many changes each week. Errors have crept into the teams game with maybe a lack of experience to support the younger players. When you lose a lot of games confidence then becomes an issue. 
When Ballymena played St Mary's College at Eaton Park they recorded an impressive win. St Mary's like Ballymena have had a mixed season. The key for the team on Saturday is to get an early score to settle the players. It is all about keeping possession of the ball . Ballymena have several exciting young players coming through in wingers Sam Millar and Eoin Ritson who will get their chance this week. The return of Rodger McBurney will add experience to the threequarter line. 



In Round 3 Ballymena defeated St Mary's College 40 - 22 at Eaton Park on the 20.10.18 

DIV 2A 
Blackrock College (9) v Navan RFC (3). Played Friday 22.3.19. KO 8PM 
Nenagh Ormond (8) v UL Bohemians (5). Played Friday 22.3.19. KO 8PM 
Galwegians (10) v Queens University (4) 
Highfield (1) v Cashel RFC (2) 
Old Crescent (6) v Dolphin (7) 

Galwegians v Queens University 

In Round 3 Queens University defeated Galwegians 45 - 10 at the Dub Lane on the 13.10.18 

DIV 2B 
Skerries (8) v Wanderers (6). Played Friday 22.3.19. KO 8PM 
Belfast Harlequins (9) v Dungannon (7) 
Rainey OB (3) v Greystones (2) 
Sligo (4) v MU Barnhall (1) 
Sunday's Well (10) v Galway Corinthians (5) 

Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon 
Belfast 1st xv Manager Neale Wilson: Head coach Nicky Wells is not expecting to make too many changes for this weeks match with Dungannon. Crucial game for both teams. 

Dungannon Head coach Andrew Hughes: He is looking his players to go out with the physicality they have shown in recent games and build on their strong defensive effort. There has also been a noticeable increase in the teams work rate. The last two months the coaches have witnessed the commitment to training from the players with the players getting to know each other and work on their combinations. Being able to bring five seasoned players off the bench has also had an impact. These players are putting in massive shifts with the playing environment so much better at the club. Saturday is a Cup Final for both teams. Dungannon welcome back John Russell and Caolan Mulgrew who missed the win over Sunday's Well. Jordan McIIwaine replaced Caolan Mulgrew against Sunday's Well and grabbed his opportunity to impress. There are a number of difficult decisions to make before the team and replacements are finalised for Saturday. Do the coaches go with a 4/1 or 3/2 combination on the bench. 

In Round 3 Dungannon defeated Belfast Harlequins 16 - 9 at Stevenson Park on the 13.10.18 

Rainey OB v Greystones 
Rainey OB Head coach John Andrews: The coach welcomes back Timmy Barker, Paddy Magowan, Martin Millar, Damien McMurray, Scott Mclean and Andrew Donaghy for this crucial match as Rainey look to retain 3rd place in the playoffs. Charlie Clarke is away with the Ulster A squad in the USA this week. 

In Round 3 Rainey OB lost 42 - 28 to Greystones at Dr Hickey Park on the 13.10.18 

DIV 2C 
Bangor (8) v Midleton (2) 
Bruff (3) v Tullamore (7) 
Malahide (4) v Ballina (1) 
Omagh (5) v Thomond (10) 
Seapoint (9) v City of Derry (6) 


Bangor v Midleton 
Bangor Head coach Michael Ferguson: The playing squad are still struggling with injuries and unavailability at the moment unfortunately. The team will not be finalised until Thursday evening with a number of players to undergo late fitness tests. The players available have been working hard and are digging deep to produce the performances needed to turn around their form and get the result they need this weekend. 

In Round 3 Bangor lost 34 - 8 to Midleton at Towns Park on the 13.10.18 

Omagh v Thomond 
Omagh Head coach Philip Marshall: The coach welcomes back Prop Ricky Hemphill, Out half Scotty Elliott, Winger Matty Eccles and full back Ali Beckett to take their place on the starting 15 with Jonny Sproule and Neil Brown taking their place on the bench. This is a must win game for both teams. 

In Round 3 Omagh defeated Thomond 28 - 13 at Liam Fitzgerald Park on the 13.10.18. 

Seapoint v City of Derry 
City of Derry Director of Rugby Paul O' Kane: Big game for the team this week with the coach hoping to have as near a full strength team for the trip to Seapoint. There will be late fitness tests on Sam Duffy and Simon Logue . It is a real Cup Final for both sides this week with the players expecting another battle this week. . The squad have a belief they can put in another good performance that hopefully gives the team the chance to take points away from home. This match is a huge challenge for the team. 

City of Derry team and replacements: 1. Jimmy Hamilton, 2. David Ferguson, 3. Sam Duffy, 4. Adam Bratton, 5. Gerard Doherty, 6. Conor McMenamin, 7. Chris Lamberton, 8. Stephen Corr, (. Rory MacGinty, 10. Alex McDonnell, 11. Thomas Cole, 12. David Graham, 13. David Lapsley, 14. Simon Logue, 15. Keelan Coyle, 16. Ross Harkin, 17. Ben Pollin, 18. Craig Huey, 19. Tiernan Thorton, 20. James Perry. 

In Round 3 City of Derry defeated Seapoint 19 - 17 at the Craig Thompson Stadium on the 13.10.18. 

KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 

DIV 1 ROUND 18 
Ballyclare (1) v Dromore (3) 
Carrickfergus (5) v Coleraine (10) 
Cooke (6) v Instonians (20 
Enniskillen (7) v Grosvenor (4) 
Portadown (8) v CIYMS (9) 

Ballyclare v Dromore 

Dromore Head coach Jonny Cullen: He will welcome back Aaron Stewart, Peter Elliott and Mark Hylands into the squad for the match at Ballyclare this week after missing the match against Enniskillen on Tuesday night. The squad are carrying a couple of knocks from the Enniskillen match that could see Dylan Cobb, Andrew Coffey and Andrew Gilmore keep their places after their good performances against Enniskillen. The late fitness tests on Thursday night will be interesting as every player is desperate to get a jersey for the Ballyclare game on Saturday. Scrum half Lee Steenson made a welcome return against Enniskillen and will start against Ballyclare. 

In their first league meeting at Barban Hill on the 29.12.18 Dromore defeated Ballyclare 21 - 8. Dromore had already defeated Ballyclare 48 - 29 at Barban Hill in the second Round of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup on the 29.9.18. 

Carrickfergus v Coleraine 
Carrickfergus Head coach Warren McClean: The coach is awaiting on a few players returning from injury before finalising his selection on Thursday night. He is looking at this fixture as a must win for his players to keep their outside chance of finishing 5th and qualifying for the AIL Junior Cup next season. 

In their first league meeting at Rugby Avenue on the 29.12.18 Coleraine defeated Carrickfergus 18 - 17. 

Cooke v Instonians 
Cooke Head coach Colin Atkinson: The injury list at the club has made the task of the coach frustrating in the run in to the end of season matches. Several players including Andy Hanna, Ian Moxen and Russell Hunter picked up injuries in the home defeat to Grosvenor in the McCrea Cup. Players still ruled out include Matthew Crothers, Andrew Quigley, Callum Robinson, Matty Elliott, Jason Lyons, Captain Kyle Mitchell, Philip Cartmill and Ian Anderson. Selection for the game with Instonians will be finalised on Thursday night. 

Instonians Head coach John Andress: This weekend is all about focusing on the task in hand and that is winning the match against Cooke. We all know the big rivalry between the two clubs. In the last match it was level after 60 mins before Instonians closed out the match. Each season the league is getting tougher with three teams in contention for the league on Saturday. Next season John expects to see Grosvenor up competing for the league. He is very proud of his players and the effort and commitment they have put in this season. They have only lost one league game. Whatever happens this week they will take it on the chin. Hopefully if results go their way the league title will go to Instonians. The players have done well and put up a fight. 

The coach will welcome back Matthew Kilpatrick and James Martin who missed the game at Ballyclare along with Mark Mairs and Johnny Mooney. Full back Andrew Keane remains suspended with Lewis McNamara unavailable. Paddy Bell returned to training this week but he is not ready to play. Instonians have added Bradley McNamara the brother of Lewis McNamara to their squad for this weekend. He provides options for the coaches at 10 and 15. Selection will be finalised on Thursday night with Matthew Kilpatrick expected to partner Captain David Scott in the centre in an otherwise unchanged backline. In the forwards James Martin and Mark Mairs are expected to join Massimo Kiri Kiri in the back row with John Andress, Tom Matthews and Sean Shuttleworth contesting the second row positions. The front row is expected to see Alan Whitten, Cameron Barr, and Conor Gallagher the options in the front row along with John Andress. 

John Andress: This league is very tough. You have to turn up every week and perform to get results. Several of the teams are very physical most notably Dromore. In any rugby club- culture is all important. It is all about motivating a group of players to buy into the same thing so they can maintain the same levels each week. 

In their first meeting at Shawsbridge on the 29.12.18 Instonians defeated Cooke 27 - 24. 

Enniskillen v Grosvenor 
Enniskillen Head coach Stevie Welsh: Despite the disappointment of coming away from Barban Hill with no league points on Tuesday night the coach is expecting his players to raise their game to secure a win at home to 4th place Grosvenor on Saturday to keep their place in Div 1. Injury has ruled out - Adam Lendrum with the coach hoping to welcome back Ashley Finlay, John Arnold, Jack Rutledge, David Buchanan and Ryan Cathcart who missed the game at Dromore. Prop Gareth Beatty who missed the win over Clogher Valley in the Towns Cup is another player who will come into contention for a starting place. Out half Nick Finlay picked up an injury at Dromore and will undergo a late fitness test. The policy for the Enniskillen Head coach has been to give opportunities to the younger players coming through this season such as Enniskillen Royal Grammar School winger Alex Parke who made his debut for the 1st xv at Dromore. Two other young players making an impact are second row Jamie Kelly and winger Conor Hoy. With all three club teams doing well in 2019 - competition for places has increased the numbers training as the club look to build on the progress they are making this season. 

Grosvenor Head coach Robert Ford: The coaches are planning to rotate their squad this week after a very physical battle with Cooke in the semi final of the McCrea Cup last Saturday. It will give the coaches a chance to look at the options available ahead of the McCrea Cup Final on Easter Monday 22nd April 2019. The following players are expected to be rested including Pearce Jamison, Willie Rea, Andrew Kelly, Sam Purdon, Connor McKee and Peter Dawson. Players expected to replace them include Mark Cartmill, Matthew Cahoon, Ben Davies, Jeff Mealiff and Daniel Bowden. The only change expected in the backs is that Ben Coard will come in to get a start. Grosvenor had a very tough game against Enniskillen at home with the coach expecting the game on Saturday to be the same. 

Grosvenor have a rearranged league game with Cooke at Gibson Park on Thursday the 28th March 2019 with a 7.30PM. 

In their first meeting at Gibson Park on 17.11. 18 Grosvenor defeated Enniskillen 29 - 20. 

Portadown v CIYMS 
Portadown Head coach Stuart Lamb: He is considering a couple of changes with the possibility of the coach starting with Craig Woods coming on to the bench - otherwise selection with be similar to team that played against Enniskillen. 

CIYMS Head coach Gareth Fry: He is expecting a nervy, tight game on Saturday. Portadown is never an easy place to get a result. They are like us with having a mixed bag of results. Six weeks ago we set a target to keep staying up in the league in our own hands. We have done this albeit in grinding out a few results. Unfortunately the coach is missing some crucial players including Captain Mark McConkey and influential second row Paddy Aiken. The young players who have come in have had a steep learning curve and are improving all the time. 


In their first league meeting at Belmont on the 17.11.18 Portadown defeated CIYMS 28 - 23. 


KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 

DIV 1. REARRANGED LEAGUE GAMES 
Grosvenor v Cooke. Played Thursday 28.3.19. KO 7.30PM 

ULSTER PREMIERSHIP 2ND XV LEAGUE 
City of Armagh seconds v Omagh seconds 
Malone seconds v Ballynahinch seconds 

DIV 2 
Ards v Ballymoney 
Limavady v Larne 
Lisburn v Randalstown 
Lurgan v Academy 

Ards v Ballymoney 

In their first meeting at Kilraughts Road on 1.9.18 Ballymoney won 26 - 5 against Ards. 

Limavady v Larne 
Limavady Head coach Graeme Eastwood: He is not expecting to make too many changes. Bryn Davies, Daniel Irvine and Jamie 'Mo' Millar are all available for the match with Larne and will come into contention for selection. This is the last home game of the season for Limavady at the John Hunter Memorial Fields with everyone looking forward to the match. 

In their first meeting at the Glynn on the 15.9.18 Limavady won 55 - 6 against Larne. 

Lisburn v Randalstown 

In their first meeting at Nelisbrook on the 15.9.18 Randalstown won 8 - 0 against Lisburn 

Lurgan v Academy 

Academy Head coach Gareth Lynn: The coach is contemplating changes with selection to be finalised on Thursday night. 

In their first meeting at Roughfort on the 15.9.18 Academy won 30 - 13 against Lurgan 

DIV 2 REARRANGED LEAGUE GAMES 
Ards v Randalstown. TBC 
Randalstown v Clogher Valley. Played Tuesday 26.3.19. KO 7.30PM 

DIV 3 
BHSFP v Holywood 
Letterkenny v Monaghan 
Newry v PSNI 
Ophir v Donaghadee 
Strabane v Cavan 
Virginia v Civil Service 

What a weekend of club rugby coming up in the Province. Please make the effort to support your local Community Rugby Club. In my travels around the clubs I have noticed the increasing numbers of spectators coming out to support their local rugby teams. 
Enjoy 
George Millar