Ulster's 'big three' - Ballymena, Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon - each won their First Round matches in the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup on Saturday.
FIRST TRUST ULSTER SENIOR CUP: FIRST ROUND: Saturday, December 31
- RESULTS -
BALLYMENA 57 PORTADOWN 3, Eaton Park
BELFAST HARLEQUINS 26 QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY 10, Deramore Park
DUNGANNON 23 INSTONIANS 14, Stevenson Park
All three progressed to the quarter-finals, but Harlequins and Dungannon had a little more trouble than they bargained for against AIB League Division Three sides Queen's University and Instonians respectively.
Queen's, second from bottom in the third tier, fought to the finish at Deramore Park but a late try from former Ireland Under-21 international Paul McKenzie confirmed 'Quins' place in the last eight.
Andy Ward's side held a 5-3 half-time lead in wet conditions. John Nicol stroked over a penalty to put the students in front before 'Quins scrum half Reece Spee exploited a gap in the visitors' defence to score in the right corner. The conversion was missed and Nicol also screwed a penalty chance wide just before the break.
Converted tries from flanker Colin Atkinson and Spee looked to have stemmed the tide but when Queen's flanker Timmy Smith managed to reduce the deficit back to nine points when he bagged a converted try. McKenzie and 'Quins had the final word, however.
At Stevenson Park, Dungannon struggled to fend off Instonians until centre Ethan Allen scored their third try in injury-time.
Inst centre Mark Broome cancelled out an early penalty from home fly-half Gareth Steenson, but at 7-3 in front, that was to be the only time the visitors led in the entire game despite its closeness. Andy Hassard converted Broome's effort but scrum half Jamie Bates wrestled back the advantage for the Tyrone men before half time.
Steenson converted Bates' try for a 10-7 interval lead, and Steenson added two more penalties for a nine-point buffer going into the final quarter. Lock Mark Wilson then plunged over for a second Inst try, which Hassard added the extras to, to jangle 'Gannon's nerves.
Nonetheless, a searing break by winger Ajay Subherwal paved the way for Allen's score which killed off the visitors' challenge.
Holders Ballymena had an easier time of it against Portadown at Eaton Park. They ran in nine tries in total for a 57-3 victory. Jamie McGrugan (3), Dirkie Strydom (2), Shane Stewart, Paddy Wallace, Scott Young and Michael McComish shared out the scores.
Malone, Ards, Ballynahinch, Banbridge and City of Derry - who all received byes in the First Round - will join Ballymena, 'Quins and 'Gannon in the Quarter-finals draw.