Weekend rugby preview
Ramsey host Vagabonds in postponed league clash
The initial meeting between the two was scheduled for 15th December but postponed in the face of some appalling weather.
The two sides were due to play each other in the Shimmin Wilson Manx Cup this weekend in any case and it was sensible to move the league fixture to this date.
Additionally, the two clubs have agreed that the result of this match will stand for the Shimmin Wilson Manx Cup, which is a massive help in terms of fixture congestion later in the season as believe it or not there are just thirteen weeks remaining until the end of April.
Ramsey are clearly in a strong position leaguewise. They lead by eleven points from second place Ellesmere Port, so a league title is firmly in their own hands.
That said, the Ramsey run-in is far from smooth and an earlier slip up at Oldershaw awaits if anyone becomes complacent. Vagas conversely haven’t gone quite as well but have played most of the “big guns” and have a slightly easier looking run-in.
They could yet gain sufficient points to get them nearer to the promotion places and can’t yet be discounted.
Ramsey won the earlier game at Ballafletcher but new coach Ryan De La Harpe had only just appeared on the scene back then and his impact could make a difference this weekend.
The evergreen Johnny Beckley is back into the first team, Steve Logan, if fit, at centre is a nice signing as is hooker MC De Jongh.
Skipper James Clark knits the team together no matter where he plays and Ross Pulman on the flank just oozes class.
They will all however need to be on song to stop the Ramsey machine.
Dan Bonwick has been unstoppable this season at centre and Fintan Cummins at stand off will provide Beckley with a real battle.
Ramsey will miss wing Ethan Benjamin who will be out for a while but Matthew Meechan is likely to be available and his inclusion will provide options in forwards and backs. Mikey Craine is also expected to have recovered from a knock to be fit for the game.
The “double” result means it’s a game that neither side can afford to lose and the prospect may just be the carrot Vagabonds are looking for.
Ramsey, however, must start as favourites on their home turf.
Shimmin Wilson rivals meet in Manx Cup
For the past few seasons there has been no bigger domestic rivalry than that between PDMS Southern Nomads and Douglas Celts.
Nomads were the perennial champions until the Shield was wrested from them by Douglas.
The two meet this Saturday at King Williams College in the Shimmin Wilson Manx Cup for the first time.
They have of course met each other in the Manx Trophy and the Manx Shield this season with Nomads coming out on top four times from four, a fact which will not be lost on the Douglas team.
The Cup however looks to be still wide open with just Vagabonds struggling after their two opening defeats.
Nomads had a rest week last Saturday as did Douglas so both sides will be champing at the bit come kick off.
Rob Keelan and Mark Young are the two men to watch in green.
Between them they’ve racked up 111 points in the various competitions.
That said Nomads pack plenty of punch elsewhere.
Steve McHugh is a big man and formidable on the hoof and the quicker men Andy Lean, Ethan McNaught and George Callister are all familiar with the direction to the try line.
Douglas spread the spoils around a little further mainly due to their big squad size.
Number eight Conor McCaughen leads the way in try scoring but Callum Dentith, Phil Plaatjies and Mike Osborne are all capable operators too.
This should be a pretty tight game and despite their defeat against Ramsey a few weeks back, Nomads must be marginal favourites given their record against the Celts.
Shimmin Wilson Manx Plate wide open
In the junior competition to the Cup, The Manx Plate, the tournament remains wide open for anyone who wants to grab it.
Leaders Western Vikings get a rest week so there’s a chance for someone to close them down.
Vagabonds B travel to Ramsey B as a curtain raiser for the Cup game.
This will also double up as a Manx Shield game so there’s plenty at stake.
Vagas started the season in promising fashion but seem to have since lost their way a little.
Ramsey B by contrast are building nicely and largely attending training too.
If Vagas are able to field a team they’ll be competitive however Ramsey’s youthful enthusiasm may just be too much for them on the day.
Down South, Emerging Nomads make the short hop to Poulsom Park to face Castletown.
Town shopped fifty points at Western Vikings last week but deserved better.
Their second half performance was especially dogged and if they can recreate that against Nomads, it’ll be close.
Nomads skipper Mike Quayle however knows that players will be at a premium this week and it will take all his wiles to eke a competitive team out given the Cup game just across the road.
I’ll start Nomads as favourites given their earlier strength this season but they’ll have to work hard for it.
Lancs/Cheshire Division 3
Ramsey v Vagabonds
Womens NC North West 1
Vagabonds v Preston Grasshoppers
Shimmin Wilson Manx Cup
PDMS Southern Nomads v Douglas Celts
Shimmin Wilson Manx Plate
Ramsey B v Vagabonds B
Castletown v Emerging Nomads