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RE/MAX Leinster League Weekend Preview Week 9

Division 3

After the results from last weekend this league is now Rathdrum's to lose. The pre-season favourites had a comfortable win over an under-strength Birr team, who will now be focusing all their energies on the Provincial Towns Seconds Cup. Ten points over the next two games will all but ensure Rathdrum's promotion back to Division Two; the first of those five should come on Sunday, as Rathdrum make the trip down the coast to Wexford. Wexford have conceded just under an average of 30 points a game and Rathdrum should comfortably reach that margin on Sunday.

Second placed Clane face a tougher proposition, with a trip to North County Dublin to face Balbriggan who aren't out of the promotion race yet but one would expect Clane's experienced pack to lay the foundation leading to Clane consolidating their promotion spot.

This weekend also sees two big games for Athy and Arklow.  Athy struggled against Clane's forwards last week and face another tough forward battle this week against Clondalkin.  Athy also have problems at outside-half but they should squeeze a victory in a very tight game. Arklow also face into what will probably be another very tight game as they entertain Gorey in  local derby.  Home advantage should just about edge it for the Wicklow men.

In the remaining two games North Kildare and Swords should propel themselves back into the promotion race.

Division 2

Newbridge picked up their first bonus point of the season against a depleted Portarlington and once again it was their forwards that laid the platform with number eight Johnny Downey and second row and Captain Rory McCann picking up three tries between them.  They should possibly pick up another bonus point on Sunday against New Ross leaving them only needing one win from their last two games to be assured of promotion.

On the trail of Newbridge are Tullow and Enniscorthy, both of whom have easier run ins than Newbridge so the title chase might still be very much up in the air. Tullow should be too strong for Roscrea while Enniscorthy should take the points against Mullingar.

Newbridge, Tullow and Enniscorthy will fill the top three spots, just the order that needs to be decided. A disappointing Longford should move clear of the relegation zone with a home win over Railway while home wins for Coolmine and Portarlington should keep their faint promotion hopes alive.

Division 1

The biggest domestic rugby crowd of the weekend outside of AIL Division 1 will no doubt be down in Navan as two of Leinster's Junior King Pins go toe-toe in what is essentially an elimination decider. Last year's third placed team and reigning Towns Cup holders Navan host last year's runners up and reigning All-Ireland Junior Cup holders Seapoint. Two exciting teams to watch both of whom play an expansive game; this game is definitely one for the neutral. However the weather forecast for the weekend is not good and this could dictate matters. Navan since the Christmas break are definitely more battle hardened than Seapoint.  They have had two tough away games in Armagh and Westmanstown, Seapoint two strolls in the park at home to Kinsale and Boyne. For that reason alone Navan will probably edge a very tight game leaving themselves in a two horse race for the title with Cill Dara.

Although Cill Dara's place in that two horse race is by no means guaranteed as they entertain in form Tullamore down in Beechpark. Cill Dara under their new coaches have transformed their playing style from forward orientated to a blend of backs and forwards interchanging and it has reaped plenty of rewards including 23 tries.  Beechpark has become a fortress and Tullamore have shown in losses to Seapoint and Navan at home that they don't have the necessary class to bridge the gap between them and the top three. Cill Dara to win but there will be a few scares along the way.

With no definite relegation it's very hard to get excited about the remaining games, especially with the last team in the Division having to play off against third place in Division Two where you'd have to fancy the Division One side. Favourite for this last place is Ashbourne, whose template for last season success has not transferred to the higher division.  The high profile signings of Eddie Halvey and Adrian Clarke have been poor judgement calls totalling just one and a half games between them. Ashbourne this week face a trip to an inconsistent Portlaoise side, a side very much dependent on the boot of Jamie Kavanagh. Both these sides are similar in style and it could turn into a kicking duel between Woods and Kavanagh. Very hard to call but maybe Ashbourne's luck will change and they can return up the N7 a happy team. In the other games expect home wins for Dundalk and the Guards with Monkstown to heap more misery on Boyne.

by Daniel Quinn, © 2008-01-17