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Braid aiming to rediscover that winning feeling

By Michael Sadlier

Back-to-back home defeats in Division 1B have left Ballymena's hopes of a top two finish in need of some revival as the Braidmen hit the road to visit struggling Blackrock.

Coach Andy Graham's squad - now sitting in third, three back from Dublin University and eight off leaders St Mary's who beat them in the last round of games - head to Stradbrook knowing that they must produce a winning result to steel themselves for the regulation season run-in.

Graham is without prop Andy Warwick who is involved with Ulster while Clive Ross and David Shanahan might be required at the Kingspan too.

"It is a big ask now for St Mary's to lose twice and we'd need to be winning every game," said Graham of the Braidmen's chances of topping the table with five to play.

"But you still have the play-offs. If you can't get first place you try to get second, though I don't think it makes a difference to us whether we play home or away (in a play-off)."

With a mere one win in 13 games, time is running out for Belfast Harlequins in their increasingly challenging quest to avoid making an automatic exit from Division 1B.

The bottom-placed Deramore side are currently 11 points behind UL Bohemians, who are one place better off in ninth, and must try to overhaul the Limerick outfit in the five games remaining to then give themselves a shot at survival through a play-off.

Quins hit the road this week to take on Dolphin - who are in eighth but are 16 points ahead -and must go all-out to get four points while hoping that Bohs get no further ahead.

Quins coach Adam Larkin said: "There's a lot of pressure on us now at Dolphin. While there is a mathematical chance we've got to cling on to it but we are in a very precarious position.

"The morale is actually very good in the squad and we'll go down there and do the best we can."

Quins welcome back back-rower Frank Taggart who has been released by Ulster after being sidelined with an ankle injury while Paul Jackson, Conor Young, Conal Boomer and Mark Best are also on club duty.

Meanwhile, Ballynahinch face an arduous looking trip to third-placed Young Munster with points badly needed to escape their current predicament of being bottom of 1A.

Their cause certainly wasn't helped by their 36-3 home tanking at the hands of Cork Constitution last time out.

Belfast Telegraph

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