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Four teams battling to be in title contention on final day

By Ronnie Ingram

With four teams tied at the top of the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership Division 1, the title will not be decided on this the penultimate weekend of the competition but some teams will bow out of contention.

Last Saturday, Ballynahinch's unexpected 52-14 defeat at Armagh and Banbridge's 26-15 loss at Ballymena, where they conceded a try bonus point, means that all these teams are vying for the title.

The game of most importance is at Ballymacarn Park where Hinch will be hoping to pick themselves up for the visit of Banbridge.

They will be fielding their All-Ireland team and their Ulster Academy and Development squad players are included.

This means that Craig Trenier, Johnny Murphy, Conor Joyce, John Donnan, Lorcan Dow, Aaron Cairns, Johnny McPhillips and David Busby will all be in action at some stage.

Bann coach Daniel Soper wasn't too disappointed with his team's efforts at Eaton Park.

"I think we were still in Christmas mode for the first eight minutes when we trailed 14-0 but as the game progressed I thought we were the better team," he said. "Our game with Hinch will be a good test in preparation for the AIL. Ben Carson and Ryan Hughes both played well and keep their places despite the return of more senior players.

"Chris Allen misses out due to a shoulder injury but, at half-back, Josh Cromie returns after 10 weeks out and Aaron Kennedy from four weeks on the sidelines. Unfortunately Andrew McGrath and Ian Porter remain injured."

Elsewhere Armagh entertain City of Derry and old rivals Dungannon and Ballymena clash at Stevenson Park in Division 1.

Division 2 champions Malone are at home to Queen's.

Meanwhile, the Danske Bank Schools' Cup gets under way in earnest today with seven Second Round matches up for decision.

It is a red letter day for Dromore High School who make their first appearance in the competition having dominated High Schools' rugby for many years.

Danske Bank Schools' Cup: Belfast High v Limavady Grammar, Banbridge Academy v Dromore High, Foyle College v Regent House, Portadown College v Wellington College, Larne Grammar v Dalriada, Lurgan College v Strabane Academy, Friends' v Antrim Grammar.

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