Division 1B’s bottom side Belfast Harlequins revived their fortunes with a runaway 38-7 victory over UL Bohemians at Deramore Park, with Ulster duo Michael Heaney and Rory Scholes both touching down.
Harlequins put an end to their four-match losing streak, scoring five tries in all as they paid a fitting tribute to former player Fintan Hillyard who sadly passed away last Tuesday following a brave battle with cancer.
A minute's silence was held in Hillyard's honour, and Adam Larkin's men burst out of the traps to produce a dominant first half display against what was a tired-looking and depleted UL Bohemians team.
The margin of victory was all the more impressive given that influential centre Mark Best, wearing number 21 as Hillyard's number 13 jersey was retired for the game, and busy flanker Oliver Loughead were sin-binned in the 49th and 72nd minutes respectively.
The hosts hit the front in the 10th minute thanks to a penalty from scrum half Michael Heaney and by the end of the opening quarter 'Quins had crossed the whitewash for the first time. Captain Danny Annett was the scorer, getting on the end of a lineout maul, and Heaney failed to convert from a difficult position out wide.
UL quickly responded with a converted effort from flanker Ian Condell, however injuries to Mossy Lawler and Condell's back row colleague Jack Codyre left the visitors under pressure for the remainder of the half.
'Quins put them on the back foot and punished them with a run of scores between the 28th and 40th minutes. Heaney knocked over a penalty and then good approach work from Best and Rory Scholes led to Peter Dunlop playing in fellow winger David McMaster (pictured below) for a seven-pointer.
Loughead increased his influence by forcing a penalty at the breakdown, which Heaney turned into a further three points, and then just before the break Bohs lost possession and a hack through was chased down by McMaster who nudged it on himself to touch down past the try-line.
The try went unconverted at 26-7 and UL were more competitive in the second period. However, they were under constant pressure at scrum time and from one close-in set piece in the 64th minute, Heaney sniped over for the bonus point score which he failed to convert from a tight angle.
Despite losing Loughead to a yellow card, Harlequins managed to add a fifth and final try late on when full-back Scholes slipped through to score by the posts and he added the conversion for good measure.
It was a heavy beating for Bohs who were unable to convert a decent share of possession into points during the closing 40 minutes. UL's seventh loss of the campaign leaves them in seventh place, just three points above 'Quins with Shannon (ninth) and Malone (eighth) both a point behind Colm Tucker's charges.
Larkin, who has had to cope with his own fair share of injuries, was very pleased with his side's all-round performance as Ulster representatives Heaney, who scored 16 points, Scholes and Neil McComb all played key roles.
The 'Quins head coach told the Newsletter: “It was a good way to kick off the second round of (league) games, and it was nice that the Ulster guys came back and they did a fantastic job and lifted everyone.
“It's been a difficult week for the team and they have responded in an ideal way. The word at half-time was that defence was going to win this game and we showed that in the second half after we came out.
“As I said, it was a nice way to start round two (of the league phase). We've got Ballymena in a couple of weeks so it's a great springboard for that.”
Referee: Karol Collins (IRFU)