Belfast Harlequins were the big winners in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this weekend as they ran in seven tries to beat hosts Buccaneers 43-6 at Dubarry Park.
Belfast Harlequins did their hopes of surviving in the league’s second tier no end of good with a polished performance in Athlone, setting the tone with three tries for a 17-6 interval lead.
With fifth-placed Buccaneers safe from relegation and out of the promotion picture, they have little to play for and it showed in the second period as ‘Quins, using a stiff wind very effectively, claimed their bonus point and added three more tries on top of that.
The visitors had a strong Ulster-capped spine to their team with Rory Scholes at full-back, Michael Heaney directing operations at full-back and Neil McComb and Sean Reidy providing plenty of grunt up front. Scholes, Heaney and Reidy got among the tries.
Harlequins remain sixth overall but are now nine points clear of second-from-bottom Malone with three rounds remaining. Malone suffered an agonising late defeat at home to Ballymena, going down 13-10 in front of their Gibson Park faithful.
The Cregagh Red Sox trailed 10-0 at the break before John Creighton, who made the move from scrum half to out-half, notched a try and five points from goal-kicking winger Neil Burns got them back on level terms.
However, there was some last-gasp heartbreak for Malone at the end of this Ulster derby as out-half Ritchie McMaster nailed a drop goal to keep Ballymena in contention for promotion.
Dublin University remain a point ahead of Ballymena in third place following their 19-13 comeback win over Shannon at Coonagh.
The students maintained their challenge for promotion with a three-try salvo in the second half. The first of them was scored by hooker Richard Halpin in the 48th minute and number 8 Tom Ryan and full-back Conor Kearns followed him over the whitewash.
Shannon, who still have some work to do to ensure their Division 1B status, led 6-0 at half-time thanks to two wind-backed penalties from Ronan McKenna. A maul try from tighthead prop Jason Cronin had the hosts 13-7 ahead, but Trinity found an extra gear during the final quarter.
The Friday night action produced wins for the top two sides, leaders Galwegians and chief challengers Garryowen. The Limerick men are now just a single point behind ‘Wegians after their 37-14 dismissal of UL Bohemians at Dooradoyle.
Garryowen gave their prospects of a speedy return to Division 1A a major boost when they scored five tries to heap more survival pressure on their local rivals UL. Tries from Josh Hrstich and James Frawley established an 18-0 half-time advantage.
The hosts continued to look the more clinical side after the break, sealing the bonus point thanks to efforts from captain Dave Sherry and Alex Wootton. UL salvaged some pride with tries from Ian Condell and Tim Rafferty, but in between heavily influential scrum half Jamie Glynn picked up try number five for Conan Doyle’s charges.
A very entertaining Galway city derby went the way of Galwegians as they got the better of bottom side Corinthians, taking a 21-13 verdict at Crowley Park as captain Ja Naughton collected the Glynn Cup.
Corinthians opened well and centre Cian Begley dived over from the base of a ruck for a converted try. However, Galwegians responded with a classy try as Aidan Moynihan’s chip was expertly gathered on the run by centre Rory Parata and he evaded two defenders to run in the levelling seven-pointer.
By the end of the first quarter, the home side were 12-7 to the good. Scrum half Barry Lee sniped over near the right corner following a powerful lineout maul and a series of pick and goes.
Corinthians closed the gap to 12-10 thanks to a penalty from out-half Conor Murphy. But his opposite number Moynihan opened the second period with two quick-fire penalties to edge ‘Wegians eight points clear.
Corinthians hung in there despite losing captain James Buckley to the sin-bin for a high tackle. Connacht squad member Ultan Dillane made his presence felt as the visitors pressed from a number of line breaks, and Murphy slotted a penalty after Galwegians winger Matt Dever saw yellow in the 65th minute.
However, Pat Cunningham’s men could not capitalise on a prolonged bout of pressure and Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade, on as a replacement, duly cleared the danger for ‘Wegians. They made the game safe with a final penalty from Moynihan while Begley was in the sin-bin.