Dave Christian previews this weekend's Manx rugby matches (25/01)
Vagabonds host Liverpool University in Lancashire / Cheshire Division 2
Liverpool University students are always a tough gig. They're young fit and fast which is a dangerous combination. Their weak spot, however, is they tend to be a little on the light side and a strong pack can bully them around especially in damp conditions.
Their visit to Vagabonds in Lancs/Cheshire Division 2 this week is a crucial game for both sides. Vagas sit second in the standings, while the Students are fourth. A Vagas win would all but secure a spot in the promotion shoot out next month, however a defeat may cause some jitters for the Ballafletcher faithful.
Vagas will use the bones of last week’s winning side. Luke Purdy, however, returns to front row duties. Rob Keelan looks set to get a back row start after an impressive run last week, and Johnny Beckley comes in at half back to give some competition to Ryan de la Harpe and Phil Plaatjies at nine and ten.
This could be a high scoring game but Vagas should take the points.
Ramsey face Douglas Celts in Manx Cup
Douglas Celts are on something of a roll at the moment. The Manx cup holders have all but secured the Manx Shield this season, they outplayed Southern Nomads last week, and this week they face Ramsey who they already beat 57-17 at Port-e-Chee back in October. Given Ramsey’s results thus far, a Celts double seems the likely outcome.
The Douglas outfit is centred around its front five with Danny Creer, Dave Sherwin and Noel Capewell lining up as a formidable front row. Creer, in particular, is a strong scrummager and can really disrupt opposition ball. Rob Todd is accomplished in many positions but can provide plenty of direction from eight and sitting in just behind him at scrum half is former Ramsey man Josh Carine. Ramsey’s squad by contrast has recently been decimated by injury. Dave Hinks and Eddie Lord have had ankle niggles, John F Watling hamstring, Dan Richmond ankle, Scott Kneale knee and Matty Meechan knee re all likely to be missing. This will no doubt provide opportunities for some of the fringe players to step up but may not on the day be good enough to beat Douglas.
Recent improving results suggest Ramsey are close to turning a corner. A 0-0 second half against the league leaders and a 12-0 first half away at Garstang indicates that the team can defend when it needs to. Scoring is the problem and perhaps home advantage will assist.
One game in Manx Plate
In addition to the Cup game, there's also a game in the Manx Plate scheduled for this week. Emerging Nomads take on Castletown at King Williams College Nomads v Castletown looks to be the an attractive tie. Castletown were down at Ramsey last week but collectively played well. They've only had one Plate outing so far this season and a win here would send them to the top end of the standings. Mike Quayle's Emerging Nomads can be a little up and down but with a full team of players they should be well up for this game.
Vagabonds v Liverpool University @ Ballafletcher ko 2.15pm
Ramsey v Douglas Celts @ Mooragh Park ko 2.15pm
Emerging Nomads v Castletown @ King Williams College ko @ 2.15pm