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Bann stand in way of Rainey's title


By Ronnie Ingram

A victory for Rainey today will give them the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership 1 title in their inaugural season in the division.

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But first they have to defeat Banbridge, the only other team in serious contention.

The Magherafelt team have 15 points, Bann have 11 while Queen's with nine and Malone, eight, are virtually out of the title chase.

The other two teams, Ballynahinch and Ballymena, have lost all three games so their meeting next week could well be a battle to avoid relegation.

A win for Banbridge would bring them right back into the mix and level with Rainey with a final home game against Queen's to come. Rainey, on the other hand, face a difficult trip to Malone for their final game.

The Hatrick Park team, who defeated Ballymena 21-0 last Saturday in AIL 2A, have moved up to second place in the table and will be strengthened for this game, but so will their opponents.

Tommy O'Hagan returns to loose head and Conor Fitzsimons to the centre after being out of action for six weeks with a groin strain.

Marty Conway reverts to the wing and Damien McMurray will be in the centre.

Head coach John Andrews feels it will be tough against a Banbridge side that trounced Armagh 43-18 last Saturday.

"After promotion last season we started Division 1 with the main intention of staying up and now we are in contention for the title with bonus points from all three games," he said.

"We have an excellent squad the spine of which is local, from Magherafelt and Rainey, and coaches Peter Boyle and Damien Campbell have helped lay the foundation for this success after both captained the team in the successful Junior times.

"Banbridge play in a higher AIL Division and have everything to play for but at least we have home advantage."

Fixtures: Division 1: Ballymena v Malone, Queen's v Ballynahinch, Rainey v Banbridge

Division 2: Dungannon v Bangor, Omagh v City of Derry. Belfast Harlequins v City of Armagh, scheduled for Thursday evening, was postponed

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