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Victory vital to Braid's promotion

By Michael Sadlier

With just three games scheduled it looks as if today will see some season-defining encounters and none more so than in Division 1B where Ballymena host Garryowen.

Both sides are chasing promotion and this is a must-win tie for the Braidmen, who are in fourth place, seven points behind their second-placed visitors.

"It's simple, if we don't win we are not getting promoted," said Ballymena coach Andy Graham.

"Even if we do win it is still going to be very tough, but a win gives us a chance and we know we need a big performance."

Out-half Ritchie McMaster, whose late drop goal defeated Malone last week, hooks up again with Dave Shanahan, while prop Michael Lagan is back from Ireland under-20s.

Another huge game awaits Ballynahinch in Division 1A as they focus on strengthening their play-off hopes at Old Belvedere.

Hinch, currently in fourth, need to register their first away win of the season if they are to keep heading in the right direction, in what looks to be a tight finish to make the semi-finals.

"We had a really good result against UCD last week, but we've now got to back it up," said Hinch coach Derek Suffern.

The Co Down side have centre Stuart Morrow back for this one while, up front, should flanker Paul Pritchard not have shaken off a calf strain then either Charlie Butterworth or David McGuigan will be in.

Back in 1B, Belfast Harlequins should secure their place for next season if they overcome basement side Corinthians. Quins are hoping to have Michael Heaney, Neil McComb and Sean Reidy released to them from Ulster.

There is less optimism to be had for Malone's predicament as they entertain league leaders Galwegians. The Gibson Park side are just one off the bottom and look to be in deep trouble as the battle to avoid relegation enters a critical stage.

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