Ballynahinch see off Lansdowne to claim first victory
There was a welcome variation on what had become a familiar theme with struggling Ballynahinch managing to register their first league win in the final round of upper tier games before the New Year.
And no better time for Hinch to see off Lansdowne 25-13 at a weather-battered Ballymacarn Park as the season reached the halfway point.
The result, of course, still keeps the Co Down side at the foot of the Division 1A table where they trail ninth-placed Galwegians by eight points but the psychological advantage for Hinch of having got the monkey off their backs by winning for the first time following eight straight reverses should be considerable.
They face Lansdowne again when the league resumes, on the first weekend in January, with some confidence after tries from Craig Trenier, Jonny Simpson and Paul Rowley, along with Chris Quinn's two penalties and conversions, helped get them the much sought after result - no mean feat considering they managed to have two players binned leaving them having to cope, at one point, with 13 men.
However, there was no change in fortune for Belfast Harlequins who have now lost all nine AIL encounters following their 32-16 home defeat to St Mary's College which brought the side rooted to the bottom of the table together with the side at the top end.
While the weather played its part in making the fare at Deramore little more than an arm-wrestle, there was no avoiding the rather unpalatable fact that Quins' inability to control their spiralling error count did them untold damage in a game which might have yielded more.
As it was they scored tries in either half from Andrew McPhillips and the hard-grafting Matthew Fisher, before the Dubliners claimed their bonus point in pretty much the final play of the game.
"A lot obviously now depends on other results and it's about staying in touch and that's the key," Quins' coach Adam Larkin said. "You can't give up, though, it's still too early," he added with Quins now trailing ninth-placed Dolphin - who have a game in hand - and UL Bohemians, in eighth, by 10 points.
Snapping hard at the heels of St Mary's College, second-placed Ballymena came away from Old Wesley with a hard-earned 21-15 result thanks to two touchdowns from Mattie Rea and a penalty try.