Ballynahinch's big win provides hope of great escape
A truly bleak weekend on the Ulster club scene was, mercifully, given some illumination by Ballynahinch's 36-3 drubbing of Young Munster in Division 1A which arrived with perfect timing as the Co Down side have managed to put some vital space between themselves and bottom club Garryowen.
Hinch even grabbed a bonus point win – they ended up scoring five tries – which is of huge value as, with just three games to go, Derek Suffern's squad are seeking to hold on in ninth place and earn a play-off for top flight survival.
Though they could yet escape their predicament by overhauling eighth-placed Dolphin, Hinch's realistic focus is to ensure they don't end up bottom and automatic relegation.
Their cause may be helped by their next two games being away at Cork Constitution and then a hugely significant home tie with UCD neither of whom, like Young Munster last weekend, have anything to play for.
And with the final weekend of games seeing Hinch at title-chasing Clontarf, and Garryowen hosting current leaders Old Belvedere, the Co Down club's hope would be that, by that stage, all will be sorted.
David McIlwaine scored two tries for Hinch while Rodger McBurney also bagged a brace with James McBriar having to be content with one try as the Co Down side ran riot at home.
In Division 1B, things are looking rather alarming for Malone who are right back in a relegation dogfight after a combination of their 37-27 defeat at Blackrock College and Dublin University's victory over Belfast Harlequins saw the Gibson Park side slip to ninth in the table.
At least Malone's try bonus means they are there only on points differential from Trinity but, with three games to play, it is shaping up to be a nerve-fraying time for Jacques Benade and his squad who host the Dublin students in Saturday's absolutely must-win encounter.
As for last weekend's game, Malone admirably came back from 25-5 to only trail by 25-22 but a yellow card for Conor Joyce did severe damage to them.
Belfast Harlequins also lost – 31-10 at Trinity – and the Deramore side, though sixth, are only four points off Malone. Doomed-looking Dungannon fell 38-10 to Buccaneers at Stevenson Park.