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Malone Overcome ‘Quins In Belfast Derby

Malone Overcome ‘Quins In Belfast Derby

Malone won this hard-fought battle of the Belfast sides to jump over Harlequins into fifth place in Ulster Bank League Division 1B.

This local tussle certainly lived up to the pre-match expectations with the huge crowd present at Gibson Park treated to a cracking contest that took a number of twists.

The game's conclusion was edge of the seat stuff as a late try from winger Michael Barker and a superb touchline conversion from Mark Gribben helped Malone take the spoils.

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Belfast Harlequins were comprehensive 36-6 winners when the sides met at Deramore Park in December, and they were looking to build on last weekend's victory over Bruff.

Malone, who were beaten by Buccaneers in the previous round, had the first sniff of a try. Niall Shannon got his boot to a loose ball but 'Quins rescued the situation as Shannon's back row colleague Neil Alcorn threatened.

Jacques Benade's men did manage to take a seventh minute lead, out-half Josh Pentland kicking them ahead with a well-struck penalty.

Pentland and his opposite number Michael Heaney swapped penalties after 22 and 27 minutes and the sin-binning of Harlequins lock Michael Ferguson on the half hour allowed Pentland split the posts with his third successful penalty.

However, 'Quins hit back closing in on half-time as lock Paul Rea took advantage of an overlap to break through for the game's first try. Heaney was unable to convert, leaving Malone 9-8 ahead at the break.

The Ulster player was back on target shortly after the resumption, slotting a penalty and Heaney soon repeated the trick to punish Malone for a scrum offence.

'Quins kept hold of their momentum in the third quarter with Heaney kicking them into an eight-point lead – 17-9 – after Malone winger Chris Leathem picked up a yellow card just shy of the hour mark.

Five minutes later though, the home side responded with a fine try from the influential Alcorn. A spell of patient build-up was rewarded when play was shifted out to the left and the number 8 made it over in the corner.

Pentland's afternoon was ended prematurely due to injury, but centre Gribben took on the place-kicking duties with aplomb and added the extras from out wide.

That good work was undone just four minutes later as Harlequins built through the phases and worked an overlap on the left where winger Robbie Creighton finished off an unconverted try for 22-16.

With 13 minutes remaining, 'Quins had a kickable penalty reversed for stamping and they lost scrum half Michael Kirkwood to the sin-bin.

The visitors soon had a chance to put the game beyond the reach of the Cregagh Red Sox, but a Heaney penalty attempt from distance missed the target.

Back came Malone, replacement Shane Kelly and Gribben making the initial incisions in midfield before Barker was released for a crucial 79th minute try. Incredibly, Gribben swung over the conversion from wide out to edge Benade's side in front.

The inside centre made certain of the result with a penalty in added time as Malone stunned their local rivals with a power-packed finish.

Referee: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)