Weekend rugby preview
Douglas travel to Birkenhead Park
Douglas have a massive game this weekend against Birkenhead Park.
The two sides lie third and fourth respectively in North One West with Douglas’ superior points difference giving them the nod.
Both sides are six points behind second placed Blackburn and with Blackburn at home against Stockport this weekend, the loser of the Douglas game could find themselves eleven points adrift of the promotion places.
Douglas won the home leg 27-5 and will fancy their chances away from home. Player coach Carl Murray is however injured and he’ll be a big loss.
The pack however is pretty much unchanged from last week so some continuity in the forwards will assist.
This game should be very close and will be difficult for Douglas.
Ramsey aim to build lead
Ramsey are twenty points clear at the top of Lancs/Cheshire Division 3 but have an opportunity this weekend to make it twenty five when they visit Prenton.
Over the years, Prenton Dell Road has been a tricky place to win.
The pitch is soft and muddy while Prenton are a tough outfit.
This season however Prenton are struggling a little.
They gave Ramsey maximum points in the Isle of Man leg when they couldn’t field a side and their league record shows just three wins, however all were at home.
A quick glance at their results shows a big win against Mossley Hill in November and good results against Old Bedians and Ruskin Park who are no slouches.
The game appears eminently winnable for Ramsey but not perhaps as clear cut as Parkonians last Saturday.
Mark Oldfield and Ethan Benjamin look to be long term casualties for Ramsey however the reds should welcome back scrum half Scott Kneale.
Adam Dunlop and Matt Livesey could also be fit to return to front row duties and with Eddie Lord and Anthony Fergusson back to their destructive best in the second row, there could be a real selectors headache at the Mooragh this week.
Ramsey’s nearest rivals Ellesmere Port have a tricky fixture this weekend away at Liverpool University and the students there are easily capable of pulling out a big result.
Ellesmere only won by two points in the earlier leg and a defeat for Ellesmere here would put Ramsey in an almost unassailable position.
Prenton however must be beaten first and skipper Henry Swithinbank will have been reminding all his players of that during the week’s training sessions.
Leading sides in action in Shimmin Wilson Manx Shield
First and second placed sides, Southern Nomads and Douglas Celts both take to the field this weekend.
Nomads face Emerging Nomads in a double header at King Williams College while Douglas take a short trip up the road to Ballafletcher where they face Vagabonds B.
Probably the pick to the two games is at Ballafletcher.
Douglas Celts need maximum points to keep in touch with Southern Nomads at the top of the table and they need someone else to do them a favour too.
Douglas won the earlier game 46-5 and will want a similar margin.
They lost out twice to Nomads in the Shield already and must win all their remaining games and hope for an unlikely Nomads blip.
Conor McCaughan leads the Douglas score charts in Shimmin Wilson Competitions this season with flair from the backs being provided by Phil Plaatjies.
The paid have fifteen tries between them.
For Vagas however the situation is less rosy.
They had a great Manx Bowl and indeed have qualified for the final.
They’ve since gone off the boil and have struggled to find personnel some weeks. On paper, Douglas should take the points.
At King Williams College the two Nomads teams meat in a “six pointer”.
Their earlier meeting was postponed and they elected to place all the points on this match.
I suspect however that’s somewhat academic as Southern Nomads should win this one easily as they march onwards to yet another Manx Shield title.
North One West
Birkenhead Park v Douglas
Prenton v Ramsey
Shimmin Wilson Manx Shield
Southern Nomads v Emerging Nomads
Vagabonds B v Douglas Celts