Adam Larkin backs his men to show mettle
IT promises to be another weekend of frayed nerves for all of the Ulster clubs spread across both divisions with all four continuing to fight rearguard actions to try and escape their tricky looking situations.
In Division 1B, Belfast Harlequins find themselves only four points away from what is shaping up to be a titanic tussle between Malone and Dublin University (both on 24 points and playing each other on Saturday) to avoid being the side accompanying the likely-to-be-relegated Dungannon out of the division.
Last week's 31-10 defeat at Trinity dragged Quins right back into the relegation mix so tomorrow's home clash with Shannon is one the Deramore side really have to win to put some daylight between themselves and the others.
"Yes, we're right back in the relegation situation again," said Quins' coach Adam Larkin.
"Confidence is a big thing for us but we just have to pull through it. Our destiny is in our own hands and we want to keep it that way," he added though mindful of the fact that, after Saturday, most have only two games left.
Quins should have Ulster second row Neil McComb in their starting side and Ireland-Under 20s squad member Frank Taggart also makes a welcome return to club colours to bolster the back row. However, Rory Scholes is not available due to injury.
Meanwhile, Malone's 37-27 reverse at Blackrock last weekend has seen them drop to ninth place and they must make home advantage count against the students who are also in dire looking straits.
The Gibson Park side are missing Alan O'Connor but have James McKinney and Conor Joyce available for this crunch clash.
Dungannon, 12 points adrift of Malone but with an extra game to play, are at UL Bohemians and with only two wins from their 14 games, life in Division 2A next season looks pretty inevitable.
In Division 1A, Ballynahinch travel to Cork Constitution with what should be pretty much the same side that won so well last time out at home to Young Munster. Finishing in ninth will secure a home play-off to preserve Hinch's status in 1A and with bottom side Garryowen now five points behind, the Co Down club have, for now, put themselves in a decent looking position to escape the automatic drop.
"With only three games to go, last week's win was good timing and there is now a buzz about the place and our focus is intense," Hinch coach Derek Suffern said.