Ruthless Harlequins hit the heights
Harlequins II 85 PSNI 0: Given that it is the traditional time for the third round of English football's FA Cup, the first weekend in January is synonymous with giant killing exploits, but there was to be no such tale of a triumphant underdog at Deramore Park on Saturday afternoon as a relentless Belfast Harlequins II romped home against the PSNI.
The McCrea Cup tie always seemed a mismatch on paper but few would have suggested quite such a lopsided result before kick-off.
However, as their line was breached seemingly at will, the Kukri Qualifying 3 strugglers could find no way of ceasing their opponents' momentum as the score continued to balloon.
Wingers Mark Glover and Andrew Pollock both grabbed hat-tricks, the latter in only 40 minutes of action, while centre Tess Edwards dotted down on four occasions.
Quins captain Austin Blackburn was fulsome in his praise for the home side after the win, but admitted that the game had ceased to be a contest long before the referee had blown the final whistle.
He commented: "It was a good showing from the guys on the back of a few bad performances. We came out today with the idea of upping our intensity and our aggression which we did in the first 20 minutes and from there we were able to build and start running in the tries.
"There was a lot of space so there was times when we kicked the ball and ended up scoring off plays that we wouldn't have done in tighter games so we started trying to keep the ball in hand, work through the phases, and score that way which we managed to do.
"It can be quite difficult to keep up the intensity in that kind of game, especially when you're scoring off first phase ball so often, but I think we had a good balance between having fun and putting into practice what we're doing every Tuesday and Thursday in training."
On a day when the clubs first XV beat Dungannon 13-3 in AIL 1B, Blackburn added: "It would mean a lot if we could go on a strong cup run. We have a lot of young players at this club so if the first team can stay where we are in the All-Ireland and the IIs go on a cup run it would show people that we are one of Ulster's best clubs."
The opening stages of the match, while hardly even, did not augur horrendously for the PSNI, who disrupted their host's rhythm and managed a rare foray into opposition territory.
A missed penalty attempt from Adam White kept the scores level. However, such parity would seem a distant memory when, with 10 minutes played, Andrew Pollock's first score of the day signalled an opening of the floodgates.
The left wing chipped the ball over the head of PSNI full-back Chris Flemming and had sufficient pace to win the footrace to ball, crossing the line in the corner to open the scoring.
Just 15 minutes later, the game had descended into a rout when tries from Mark Glover, Harry Howard, Tess Edwards and another from Pollock left the score at 29-0 with just 25 minutes gone on the clock.
Quins would hit the 50-point mark by the interval as two scores from Edwards and a further try from Pollock saw both men complete first half hat-tricks.
Pollock did not emerge after the turn, having injured his leg, and was replaced by Peter Foley while Adam Pollock took the place of openside flanker Adam McKee.
The changes did little to alter Harlequins rhythm as Howard added his second shortly after the break following a lengthy run from inside his own half and a quick-fire pair from Glover saw him become the third player of the game to notch a hat-trick.
Edwards scored his fourth shortly after and if any onlookers remained in doubt as to the nature of the game, Austin Blackburn, the home side's hooker, attempted the conversion.
Admirably, despite having no substitutes to call upon, the PSNI held firm for a sustained period as the match drew to a close, although perhaps fittingly, the game ended with a final Harlequins score.