Weekend rugby preview
Fifth v fourth in North One West
Northwich are the visitors to Port-e-Chee this week in what should be an epic battle. Both sides are on the fringes of the promotion places and defeat for either could leave them facing an uphill task. Northwich won home and away last season and Douglas will want to put that right.
The squad, after suffering a few dents in the last month, looks like its close to full strength again. Harry Raven and Paul Leivers both had a run out with the Celts last Saturday and appear to be in good shape. Mike Dunnett also returns at hooker after a few weeks off. This all augurs well for Douglas who will need to be at their best for this game. Kick off at Port-e-Chee is 2.15pm.
New Brighton make Mooragh debut
Ramsey face New Brighton on Saturday in Lancs/Cheshire Division 1 with the Merseysiders making their first appearance at the Mooragh since they were established in 1875, which was before the Mooragh was actually opened in 1887. New Brighton are accustomed to playing a little higher in the structure and their crowning moment was probably in 1969 when they faced the Springboks who were on tour at the time.
While the past may be rich, the present isn’t quite so well off for New Brighton. Ramsey sit bottom in eighth place, while New Brighton aren’t too far above them in sixth. They haven’t won on the road yet this season and they look like they may finish in the bottom half of the table after phase one of the competition. They’re already beyond catching leaders Orrell despite having six games remaining. That all said, Ramsey are in a similar if not worse position. Ramsey’s away defeat at New Brighton was one of their two wins this season and it was by quite a big margin too.
There are no reported injury worries for Ramsey following last week’s defeat by Birchfield. Number eight John F Watling continues to struggle with his hamstring problems however Nathan and Dave Hinks return, plus Eddie Lord and Conor Goodall have overcome their lhergy and are back. Scott Kneale's knee knock keeps him out again so Dan Bonwick gets another run at ten. Out wide, Connor Casey is unavailable and he's replaced by Stevie Kneale. Hoylake, Garstang and Birchfield were all winnable games and this side definitely have it in them, could it be New Brighton???
Vagabonds travel to Ruskin Park
Its impossibly tight at the top of Lancs/Cheshire 2 with any one of four in the running. Vagas are one of those four and they’ll know that every point is a prisoner and they need to keep ticking off bonus point wins. Ruskin Park are bottom but have won twice this season and are only bottom by virtue of a ten point deduction following a rule infringement. Their two wins were against Liverpool University and Old Bedians and these are results which will cause concern at Ballafletcher.
Vagas look likely to field a largely unchanged side from the one which beat Mossley Hill last week, however Tom Gascoyne may well return to add some extra zip to the back row. New boy Phil Plaatjies is set to continue at ten after a solid debut last week following his transfer from Douglas. This is a great opportunity for Vagas with second place Port Sunlight meeting third place Oswestry, a win away this week could see them go clear at the top.
Vagas Ladies face Leigh
Vagas are up to second in Womens NC 1 North West after a resounding victory against Southport last Saturday and a win against Leigh this week will see them go top, if only for 24 hours as the other sides play on Sunday. Gail Smalley leads the team this week in the absence of Corrina Daly and with half backs Rachel Beckley and Lauren Ellison injured, Sophia Birchall and Jo McCabe will again fill in at nine and ten. Good news for Vagas is that last week’s nine try centre pairing of Isla Curphey and Jules Harrison will once again link up and hopefully provide some more five pointers. Vagas won 38-36 away at Leigh earlier in the season.
Castletown face Ramsey B in Manx Shield
There could be a tight battle at Poulsom Park when these two meet in the Shield. Castletown made some early good ground but have lost their last two while Ramsey have struggled since September but look very threatening in patches. As yet of course the two haven’t met so the game is something of an unknown quantity.
We know that the Town back line featuring Kunal Patel Jim Emmett and Tom Bielich is full of tricks and pace, but up front experienced front rowers Mike Condra and Peter Martin are putting in the hard graft and winning ball. Together it’s a good combination. Ramsey look at their best when Nathan Thompson lines up at centre and he plays off Nico Gantous at ten who had pace and vision. Ramsey however aren’t always guaranteed to have them available but of they are this should be a cracker.
Elsewhere in the Shield it’s the Nomads derby at King Williams with Emerging playing Southern. It’s a foregone conclusion that Southern will win but the coaching team will be using this game as a possibles v probables ahead of their Cheshire Plate trip to Port Sunlight in a couple of weeks. The final game sees old firm rivals Douglas Celts take on Vagabonds Hornets in what should be a win for the Celts.
Fixtures 7 December
North One West
Douglas v Northwich @ Port-e-Chee ko tbc
Ramsey v New Brighton @ Mooragh Park ko 1.30pm
Ruskin Park v Vagabonds @ Ruskin Park
Womens NC 1 North West
Vagabonds v Leigh @ Ballafletcher ko 1.00pm
Manx Shield all ko @ 2.15pm
Castletown v Ramsey B @ Poulsom Park
PDMS Southern Nomads v Emerging Nomads @ King Williams College
Vagabonds Hornets v Douglas Celts @ Ballafletcher