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Harlequins edge closer to promotion goal

AIL Divisions 1B and 2

By Michael Sadlier

Events at the top end of Division Two again dominated the weekend’s action with Belfast Harlequins putting themselves in a strong looking position to secure promotion after ending Queen’s University’s interest in a top four place.

Ballymena, though beaten, are still in contention to go up as they slug it out with Quins, Bective and late chargers Corinthians to fill the two remaining automatic promotion places.

Quins, who are now in third with only two points between them and fifth-placed Ballymena, came back from trailing Queen’s 17-3 at Deramore to take the game 31-22, with a very valuable bonus point, and now face Malone on the final weekend of games knowing that a bonus win will secure promotion.

Well-worked tries from David McIlwaine and Matthew Arneill put Queen’s 17-3 up at the break, but Quins fought back with scores from Adam Macklin and Rory Blake-Knox cutting the students’ lead to two points.

Queen’s stayed in front with a James Reekie try but the more powerful Quins then pulled away thanks to tries from Alistair Heatlie and Roger Kirkwood along with two penalties from Niall O’Connor who ended the day kicking 11 points for his side.

Ballymena collected what could be two crucial bonus points from their 29-27 defeat at Corinthians, to slip out of the top four to now occupy the play-off spot for promotion in fifth, but, with a game in hand at Old Wesley on Saturday, they are still in reasonable shape to get up but probably need to win their final two games.

Also in Division Two, already promoted Ballynahinch defeated promotion chasers Bective Rangers 23-17 in Dublin and are now two points behind leaders UCD with one round of games remaining.

UCD, though, remain unbeaten after 14 games after the students simply demolished Malone 61-17 at Belfield.

Meanwhile, in Division 1B, Dungannon’s league campaign ended on a low note at Stevenson Park when they were well beaten by UCC who ran out 32-11 winners.

‘Gannon leaked five tries to the students and though the result extinguished ‘Gannon’s already remote hopes of making third and a play-off place — they finished fifth in the table — they at least still have significant silverware on offer with Saturday’s All-Ireland Cup final with Bruff now firmly on Justin Fitzpatrick’s radar.

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