Belfast Harlequins bounced back from their recent relegation from Division One to clinch the First Trust-sponsored Ulster Senior League title on Saturday with a 19-14 win over Dungannon at Deramore Park.
2006/07 FIRST TRUST ULSTER SENIOR LEAGUE: Saturday, April 28
Belfast Harlequins 19 Dungannon 14, Deramore Park
Scorers: Belfast Harlequins: Tries: Robbie Boyd, Andy Ward; Pens: Keith Pyper 3
Dungannon: Tries: Chris Knipe, Mark Scott; Cons: Mark Scott 2
Harlequins deservedly took the title with their eleventh win in eleven Ulster Senior League games. They had many heroes on the field on Saturday, but one man who did much to bring the silverware back to Deramore was back rower Chris McCarey, who missed the Dungannon game.
McCarey touched down 15 times in ‘Quins’ run of ten Ulster Senior League wins between August and December.
In the league decider, helped by the inclusion of five senior players – captain Colin Atkinson, Jonny Lowe, Andy Ward, Keith Pyper and Gareth Rourke, ‘Quins took an early advantage against the Tyrone men.
Little quarter was given in a tense opening half but penalties after 11 and 40 minutes from inside centre Pyper gave the wind-backed hosts a 6-0 interval lead.
Pyper added his third, five minutes after the resumption, but then Dungannon got themselves on the scoreboard. They kicked a penalty to touch, after ‘Quins had illegally halted a drive, and from the resulting lineout, Jeremy Davidson’s men worked hooker Chris Knipe in for a try.
Mark Scott converted and although the Dungannon backs were coming more and more into the game, ‘Quins struck back when they moved the ball out wide on the hour mark, through Pyper, and replacement Robbie Boyd, who came on for out-half Rory Blake-Knox, glided in for an unconverted score.
‘Gannon managed to level the tie at 14-14, just minutes later, when Richard McCarter and Robin Morrow laid the foundations for Scott to touch down and make it a seven-pointer.
‘Quins then had a decisive spell of dominance. Full-back Jonny Lowe went on a jinking run, which was only halted by an excellent tackle from Scott.
On 68 minutes, that clinching try came for ‘Quins when player-coach Andy Ward, who was sprung from the bench for injured flanker Stephen Minnis, was mauled over after a penalty was kicked to touch.
Intriguingly, Dungannon will have an immediate chance to avenge this defeat as both teams clash in Friday’s First Trust Ulster Senior Cup at Ravenhill.