It is as you were at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B as pacesetters Old Wesley collected their third bonus point victory, overcoming Belfast Harlequins 33-8 in Saturday’s late afternoon kick-off at Donnybrook.
Belfast Harlequins had the first scoring opportunity with a penalty inside the Old Wesley 22. Surprisingly, they opted to kick to touch but the resulting lineout came to naught.
Wesley responded with strong pressure and were awarded a similar penalty. However, they had no hesitation in opting for a kick at goal which the in-form Barry McLaughlin converted with ease.
McLaughlin struck again from 40 metres out to make it 6-0 to Morgan Lennon's league leaders. Wesley continued to exert pressure, forcing the visitors to concede penalties. The dam eventually burst when scrum half Dave O'Leary, making his return to senior rugby, snuck over from close range for the first try of the game. McLaughlin split the posts again from out wide.
Harlequins eventually got off the mark after 32 minutes with a penalty kick from Mark Best, but a minute later McLaughlin cancelled out with his fourth successful place-kick of the afternoon to give Wesley a comfortable 16-3 half-time lead.
Early in the second half, 'Quins again kicked down the line from a penalty but once more they could not capitalise and draw closer on the scoreboard. The teams were now starting to run the ball and there were chances at both ends. Adam Larkin's charges looked to be in from a break inside the Wesley 22 – only for a solid tackle by O'Leary to save the day for the hosts.
A Harlequins lineout near the halfway was overthrown and Wesley out-half and captain Alan Large showed great reactions to gather it on the bounce, chip through into the 22 and then dribble over the line to complete an excellent individual try. It was a memorable score from Large (pictured below), who actually dislocated his finger in the act of scoring.
Following a series of penalties, 'Quins eventually crossed for a try through Emerging Ireland flanker Frankie Taggart who rumbled over on the end of a maul. The conversion was missed, leaving it 23-8.
With the clock approaching 70 minutes and Old Wesley leading by three scores, the result was in no doubt, while a third try-scoring bonus point in as many weeks seemed a big ask.
However, from a lineout Wesley brought play into the opposition 22 and unlikely winger Iain McGann found himself at the end of a back-line move, showing impressive pace to touch down in the corner.
Now within touching distance of the fourth try, Wesley started throwing the ball around and the tactic paid off. Good build-up play from Bill Ngawini freed up the space for Stephen Boyle to collect a pass inside the 'Quins 22 and gallop over untouched in the last play of the game.
Referee: Mark Patton (IRFU)