DCSIMG

Malone clinging to survival hopes

Malone's Michael Ferguson in action against Harlequin's Liam McCambridge (15) and Michael Heaney

Malone's Michael Ferguson in action against Harlequin's Liam McCambridge (15) and Michael Heaney

Malone’s Division 1B status is still in their own hands with three games remaining.

After the euphoria of a win against Belfast rivals Harlequins, Jacque Benade’s side slipped to a disappointing defeat at fellow strugglers Blackrock last weekend when they looked poised for a victory after fighting back from 25-5 down to narrow the gap to three points only for the Dubliners to score two late tries.

However, Malone did score four tries to pick up what could prove to be an invaluable bonus point and move 12 points clear of bottom placed Dungannon.

Benade’s men are currently in the second relegation spot level on 24 points with Dublin University and the teams meet at Gibson Park tomorrow in the proverbial eight pointer.

Trinity are eighth as they have a better points difference of 11 over Malone.

The students won by two points when the sides met in Dublin at the end of November but have lost on both their previous visits to Ulster this season going down 21-6 at Dungannon and losing 13-8 against Belfast Harlequins.

Ulster out half James McKinney is available for Malone and will be partnered at half back by John Creighton, the scrum half is expected to shake off the knock which forced his early withdrawal at Blackrock last weekend.

Ulster lock Alan O’Connor still hasn’t recovered from the injury that he picked up in the victory at Deramore and is ruled out so James McAllister continues and Benade must decide whether to put him in the second row or back row.

The coach has the same dilemma with Richard Miller while Michael Ferguson will start in the engine room.

Ulster Raven, Connor Joyce, is likely to start at No8 with captain Neil Alcorn at openside.

Prop Lee McClure has recovered from injury and is in contention for a place in the front row while Ross Kane should keep his place at loose head.

Behind the scrum, centre Nathan Brown has shaken off a knock and returns to the match squad and offers a goal kicking option.

The students will travel to Belfast with renewed confidence after their bonus point win over Quins last weekend.

Belfast Harlequins were looking set for a comfortable mid table finish but four defeats on the bounce has seen Adam Larkin’s side get pulled into the relegation dogfight.

Quins are sixth, four points above the drop zone and will hope to return to winning ways as Shannon visit Deramore.

The Limerick side are a place and three points ahead of Quins.

Larkin’s side have two of their last three games at home but have been dealt a blow with Ulster winger Rory Scholes sidelined after picking up a knock in last weekend’s defeat in Dublin by Trinity.

Lock Neil McComb returns to bolster the pack with loose forward Frank Taggart also available after his Six Nations campaign with Ireland U20’s.

Dungannon’s fate could be sealed at UL Bohemians.

Paddy Johns’ side are rotted to the bottom of the table with just 2 wins and a draw from 14 outings.

They are 12 points behind Malone and a defeat in Limerick coupled with a win for Blackrock and a winner in the game at Gibson Park will see ‘Gannon relegated to Division 2A.

Gannon have four games left all against sides in the top six of the table.

Ulster prop Adam Macklin is available and will be joined in the front row by Ravens Paul Jackson.

Peter Nelson is also released , Bo’s won 29-13 when the sides met at Stevenson Park in November and still have a slim outside chance of promotion.

 

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