Corinthians bagged their second try-scoring bonus point of the Ulster Bank League season when beating Belfast Harlequins 26-15 at Corinthian Park.
Pat Cunningham's charges put their derby loss to Galwegians behind them thanks to tries from Conor Murphy, captain Joey Merrigan, Darin Claasen and industrious number 8 Eoghan Masterson, who took his tally for the campaign to three.
This round 7 contest was a real 'must win' game for Corinthians and Harlequins as both sides were loitering at the bottom of Division 1B after only two wins apiece in the opening six rounds.
The visitors attacked from the off, putting pressure on Corinthians but the hosts' back row stayed strong. The Cloonacauneen outfit were unable to break out of their own half as the 'Quins pack drove forward at every opportunity, setting up seven or eight phases in the 22.
Referee Olly Hodges eventually lost his patience and penalised Corinthians. However, 'Quins out-half Mark Best missed the resulting kick for goal.
Some minutes later, the Ulstermen were awarded another opportunity and they decided to take a quick one and caught the home side napping. Harlequins scrum half Josh Fullerton tapped and fed winger Ewan Strang who skated in for a try in the corner. Best was unable to add the conversion.
This was a wake-up call for Corinthians. Young centre David Panter found a terrific touch after great work by the pack. Flanker Marc Kelly provided the lineout possession and Mickey Murphy combined with his half-back partner Conor Murphy who stepped past his opposite number to touch down by the posts. The try scorer converted for a 7-5 lead.
Corinthians continued to up their game as the home support urged them on. Dwayne Corcoran made excellent ground, linking with fellow Under-20 back David McDermott. The winger's inside pass put Merrigan through for a well-executed try which Conor Murphy converted.
Try number three followed in the 35th minute, veteran full-back Claasen fielding a high ball from his opposite number David McMaster and he showed his class by jinking away for a superb solo score. Conor Murphy's conversion made it 21-5 at half-time.
Harlequins came more into the game after the break as their number 8 and captain Danny Annett (pictured below) urged his charges on, with flankers Frankie Taggart and Caleb Montgomery doing the donkey work.
Corinthians may have been thinking of going for a fourth try and the bonus point, but 'Quins had other ideas. They kept the pressure on, driving for the line and the home defence eventually cracked as scrum half Mickey Murphy was yellow carded. It was Taggart who eventually broke through for the touch down which Best converted.
With ten minutes still on the clock, 'Quins went for the jugular as the home pack held their ground. Referee Hodges eventually penalised Corinthians for foul play. However, the visitors had used up most of their energy reserves so elected to go for the posts to get a losing bonus point out of the contest. Best's kick was good for 21-15.
The bonus point was snatched from the Belfast club's grasp, though, as a late maul infringement saw Panter kick for the corner to set up a five-metre lineout. Merrigan connected with Masterson and he broke through the cover for a rousing bonus point score.
Referee: Olly Hodges (IRFU)