Last weekend saw Castlebar secure one of their key objectives for the season when they booked their place in the promotion/relegation play-off for a place in the top tier of junior rugby for next season. While Castlebar would like to have gained automatic promotion and clinched the title, second place and chance over 80 minutes later in the spring to seal the deal will still do nicely.
Last Sunday in The Green in Ballinrobe, Peter Bracken’s side made no mistakes when the opportunity presented itself as they ran out 19-3 winners over Mayo rivals Ballinrobe. Castlebar’s win came thanks to tries from Aaron Wootton, Simon Staunton, and Ronan Conway, with Conway converting two of the tries one in each half.
Castlebar have only tasted defeat three times in the league this season, and picked up 10 wins from their 13 games, a serious return for any team in any division. They will be glad to have the play-off place wrapped up before they take on division winners Buccaneers in their final league game in Cloondeash in a month’s time. They will face into a play-off against the seventh placed team in the Division 1A.
Castlebar have this weekend off and with the provincial cup coming up in a few weeks they can look forward to having a crack at a decent cup run without the pressure of securing second place on their shoulders. Next up for Castlebar is another Mayo derby when they take on Ballyhaunis in the Heineken Junior Cup at home on Sunday February 1.
Castlebar’s opponents last weekend, Ballinrobe, will be in Junior Cup action this Sunday when they make the short trip to north Galway to take on Tuam in the preliminary round of the competition. The two sides have already met twice this season and their record this season stands at one win each, with Ballinrobe winning 20-13 at home and the north Galway side running out 26-5 winners in their last meeting in Tuam at the start of December.
Staying in Division 1B, Ballyhaunis picked up their sixth win of the season with a 47-15 win over Corrib last Sunday at home to leave them in fourth place in the table with one round of games to go.
Westport go down, while Ballina pick up vital win
Westport’s ambitions of booking a spot in next year’s All Ireland Junior Cup took a bit of a dint last weekend when they went down by 30 points on the road to Galwegians. The victors are currently second bottom in the table but are only seven points behind Westport in the standings, showing the tightness of the pack once you go outside the top two of Connemara and Monivea. Wegians managed to cross the line six times over the 80 minutes and they converted six of those five pointers. All is not lost for Westport, with one game left for them at home to Corinthians in a month’s time, a win there should be enough to seal a spot in the top three. In the meantime they have cup action coming up in a fortnight when they face OLBC in Galway in the first round.
Ballina have come out from the Christmas break with all guns blazing and have put together back to back wins. In the previous round of the league they ran out 20-13 winners over Galwegians at home, and last weekend they hit the road to Galway and came home with a 32-19 win over Corinthians thanks to tries from Michael Murphy, Aidan McNulty, Conor Mason, and Tom Tolan, with Kevin McCarron kicking three conversions and two penalties over the 80 minutes.
Next up for Ballina is a home meeting with Galwegians in the first round of the Heineken Junior Cup.