THE four big names in Manx rugby all lock horns this Saturday in the semi-finals of the BSM Manx Cup.
The ‘Old Firm’ of Douglas and Vagabonds have been kept apart in the draw and face quite different challenges.
Holders Vagabonds have a home tie against newly crowned Shimmin Wilson Manx Shield champions Southern Nomads, while last year’s runners up Douglas face a difficult trip to Ramsey for round three of their meetings this season.
It would clearly be disrespectful to Nomads to suggest Vagabonds will have an easy game, but they do perhaps have the slightly easier semi.
Nomads have retained the Shield, but their form has been far from convincing and they slipped up against Ramsey B who at the time were lurking at the foot of the table.
The mid-summer defections of Jimmy Cubbon, Ross McCulloch and James Hammal have denied Nomads three of their better players. The Port Erin side still have match winners in the shape of Andy Lean and Harry Brereton, but just haven’t quite had as much bite as in previous seasons.
Those three Nomads defectors of course all went to Vagabonds and Hammal in particular is looking forward to this game.
His direct style will surely make him a target for his former team mates and add a little spice to the game.
That said, Vagas have a side oozing with league experience. Their pack was competitive against the league leaders last weekend and the backline, if presented with enough ball, will pose a threat to Nomads from anywhere on the pitch.
The only question mark for Vagas is prop Rob Martin who has been battling the winter vomiting virus, but is expected to be fit to play. Expect a Vagas win.
The other semi is much less clear cut. Ramsey and Douglas have already met twice this season in South Lancashire and Cheshire Division Two. Ramsey won the first one and the second, just two weeks ago, finished all square. Both sides rested a few players from league action last week and both should be fighting fit.
Douglas have something of a find in Guy Wood. The young KWC skipper was in sensational form last Saturday for Douglas B and is surely one of the first names on the first team sheet this Saturday.
His work rate on and off the ball was phenomenal and Ramsey will have to pay close attention if they want to keep him shackled.
Douglas look likely to welcome back new signing Tim Mitchell plus Mike Hebden and Simon Heggs. Ryan Maddox also looks fit again after injury and could well play a part.
Ramsey, however, continue to have some injury and selection problems. Shaun Wyllie’s work commitments have deprived them of their first choice scrum-half for a few weeks now. His appearance would certainly be a bonus but as yet is not confirmed.
Peter Verrall continues to miss out with his broken hand so Ben Harding will deputise at hooker. In the back row, skipper Will Keenan could miss out with a leg injury but with Martin Dias and Dan Bonwick both lurking on the fringes, a quality back rower isn’t too far away.
Impossible to predict which way this one might go, but I think Douglas’ flair might just sneak it for them on the day.
BSM Manx Cup semi-finals ko @ 2.30pm
Ramsey v Douglas @ Mooragh Park
Vagabonds v Southern Nomads
@ Glencrutchery Road.