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Malone make all the running

By Michael Sadlier

It was one of those largely fruitful weekends with four of the five Ulster clubs all securing wins.

League leaders Malone kept their run going by seeing off visitors Bruff 46-3 to make it three maximum point wins from three outings.

With Ulster’s Niall O’Connor and Robbie Diack having quite an impact, the Gibson Park faithful were treated to six tries with winger Michael Barker scoring a hat-trick while fellow winger Chris Leathem got two and Diack one.

O’Connor converted five of the scores and added two penalties.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season than this,” said coach Jacques Benade.

“The boys are playing with smiles on their faces and the backs are getting good ball,” he added.

Belfast Harlequins were made to dig very deep indeed to secure a crucial first win after prevailing 27-19 over winless Blackrock College at Deramore.

Quins really had to do this one the hard way as they saw three players sent to the bin in the second half and even had to manage for several minutes with only 13 men on the field after full back Rory Scholes joined the already binned centre Mark Best.

But Blackrock strangely opted to kick for goal, when awarded a penalty under Quins’ posts in the 70th minute, with the home side hugely vulnerable after having just been reduced to 13 players.

Though the Dubliners now only trailed 20-19, after Brian Keogh’s kick, the game suddenly swung back Quins’ way thanks to the huge efforts put in by the now 14-man side with Michael Heaney — who actually then turned down a kickable penalty — Sean O’Connell and Adam Macklin leading the charge.

Indeed, it was Macklin who smashed over to secure the win for Quins in the 79th minute though, even with Scholes then returning from his card, they still finished minus one player as hooker Tom Fraser was also binned.

Quins always held the lead and excellent tries from Best and prominent out half Stuart Olding helped them into an early 14-0 lead before Blackrock came back.

Heaney, who had earlier converted Quins’ two scores, then nailed a vital penalty and Adam Larkin’s men led 17-13 at the break when an ankle injury saw Olding join already departed Mark Kettyle to further disrupt Quins.

The Quins scrum half added another penalty early in the second half before the craziness of the yellow cards, Blackrock’s kick at goal and Quins’ ultimately fruitful decision to put a penalty shot into the corner all came at the finish.

“The guys dug really deep and we got to see some qualities that we haven’t seen so far this season,” a clearly relieved Larkin said.

Elsewhere, Ballynahinch halted UCD’s charge with a 24-13 win at Belfield thanks to tries from Chris Napier and Chris Quinn along with a penalty try and nine points from the boot of Quinn.

Dungannon grabbed their first win with a 26-12 bonus point result at Buccaneers on Saturday night which saw Jaryd Bennett, Steve Sinnamon, Glen Sinnamon and Ali Birch cross the line.

Ballymena, though, are still propping up the table without a win after being beaten 25-11 at Dublin University.

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