Wilbur Leacock hoping Malone can gain upper hand in relegation battle

With only two games left in Division 1B the relegation play-off race is going to the wire.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 8:00 am

The sides that finish ninth and tenth will go into a two-legged play-off to determined who is relegated.

Navan are bottom, four points adrift of Malone with Banbridge a place and a point ahead of their Ulster rivals.

Malone and Banbridge face difficult assignments this afternoon against sides in contention for the promotion playoffs.

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Malone coach Wilbur Leacock

Malone host fourth place Naas at Gibson Park. Wilbur Leacock’s side picked up a valuable try bonus point last weekend in the defeat to Old Belvedere, but the coach knows Malone probably need two wins to survive.

“To get something out of the game (Belvo) was key, we started the game pretty well I thought but we just couldn’t convert pressure into points and that is probably the story of our season,” commented Leacock.

“We ended up conceding a try which they hadn’t worked for and you go in at half time 13-3 down.

“Our discipline in a 15-minute period really cost us in the first half, the most disappointing thing was we didn’t take our points in the first half.

“We’re at home again, we need a big performance and hopefully we can get something out of the game to keep us live for the last weekend.”

“Naas are coming into it trying to get into the playoffs as they are fourth at the minute, if they can get a win they will be in the play-offs so both teams need something out of the game.

“We need something to take us out of the bottom two and they need a win to secure a place in the top four.

“If we could get this win this weekend or a win next weekend then definitely were alive, we just have to try and win a game of rugby and it has been a while since we done that.

“We just have to try and take on chances and grind out the win.”

Leacock has been encouraged by some of Malone’s attacking play.

“We have a few injuries, we have conceded points and when you look at it you think that’s the problem, but it is maybe physicality and a few injuries which takes it toll after a while, our forwards are one of the lightest packs in the league,” he said.

“A big positive is we are scoring points and we have had a few try bonuses and that gives us confidence.”

Forwards Teigan Erasmus and Aidan McSwiggan miss the game due to injury but Aaron Sexton and Adam McNamee are available.

Banbridge host third placed Shannon while Navan travel to second placed Highfield.

Armagh coach Chris Parker is using the last two games of the season test the depth of his squad.

The Palace Grounds club are sixth and can’t make the playoffs at either end of the table and travel to Old Belvedere.

“With bumps and bangs to some of the players and with younger guys deserving of a chance in the AIL and not being able to make top four or to be relegated we’re going to use the next couple of weeks to blood boys and see where they are with their development and help them further with that.” stated Parker.

Neil Fallon and Josh McKinley both miss the trip to Dublin.

Ballynhanich travel to Division1A leaders Clontarf.

Meanwhile, Queen’s manager Chris Moore has warned they won’t be resting on their laurels after already securing top spot in Division 2A and guaranteeing home advantage during the play-offs.

However, the students could have a big say on their play-off semi-final opponents as they conclude the regular season with games against the sides that are currently fifth and fourth.

Queen’s welcome Old Crescent to the Dub this afternoon.

“We are going to have to rest a few people anyway that picked up knocks and got injured against Dolphin last week, so there will be a few changes, but they will be mainly injury enforced,” said Moore.

“We’re in a nice a situation and probably the only team in the All Ireland that can rest players for the play-offs, and we are guaranteed a home game, but we are mindful that momentum is a big thing in this game and we want to keep winning.

“We want to go into the playoffs with two wins in our last two matches, not two defeats, we will be going out to get the wins and finish the regular season on a high, but we have a few boys carrying knocks and they won’t be risked.

“It’s ironic if we had been chasing the league Old Crescent at home and Ballymena away would have been two tough fixtures to see it out.

“They will be both gunning to take points off us because it is a real dog fight for fourth place, we’ll still be competitive and we won’t be given up any easy points for those teams.”

Queen’s are hoping to put on a show on and off the pitch against Old Crescent.

“Our last home game is always a good day at the Dub, we get a lot of school leavers coming up and we like to showcase the type of rugby we play, normally we get a nice dry sunny day where we can take the ball to the edge,” said Moore.

“It will be a nice day without the added pressure of having to chase points so we can probably play with less inhibition and just go for it.”

Hooker Alexander Clarke makes his first start after returning from long term injury while flanker Peter Heasley gets the nod at openside.

Graham Curtis moves to the centre and Johnny Hunter returns to the wing.

Ballymena’s grip on fourth place has been reduced to a point after six consecutive defeats,

The Braid men face a tricky trip to Athlone to face third place Buccaneers, Barnhall face UL Boh’s who are safe, Rainey have a home game against Dolphin.

It’s tight at the top of Division 2B with four points separating the top four.

Belfast Harlequins are fourth and host Corinthians at Deramore, the Galway side are point and two places above Neil Doak’s side.

Dungannon are on the road to Silgo.

Bangor have already qualified for the Division 2C promotion playoff, the Co Down are currently third six points of second and could still get a home semi-final, they entertain bottom of the table at Upritchard Park.

After last week’s win over Sunday’s Well, City of Derry are two points clear of the relegation play-off zone but travel to leaders Enniscorthy, Omagh are at Tullamore.