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Scare for Ballynahinch but title defence still on course

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballynahinch edged to a 16-10 victory over Malone, who will feel they missed a golden opportunity to defeat the Ulster Senior League champions.

Malone missed too many kickable penalties and allowed 'Hinch to fight back when they had two players sin binned at the same time.

Conditions were far from ideal and it was a scrappy encounter marred by lots of errors and far too many penalties as well as yellow cards for both sides.

Hinch survived, though, and even at this early stage of the season are firm favourites to retain the title having now accounted for two of their main rivals in Malone and City of Derry.

Malone took a 10 point advantage with a John Creighton penalty and a Mark Gribben try which he also converted before Blane McIlroy reduced the arrears with a penalty and Matthew McKeown touched down for a converted try to level by the interval.

Two missed penalties by Malone in front of the posts allowed Hinch off the hook.

Their latest New Zealand recruit, Richard Lobb, came on and added two penalties.

Malone's David Irwin had to be stretchered off towards the end.

Hosts Queen's needed a late Luke Steele try to beat Ards 8-6.

Mark Banford kicked two penalties for Ards and Ritchie McMaster one for the students.

"We brought in a couple of new guys," said Queen's Director of Rugby Robbie Moore.

"Back row forward Johnny Darling, former Ballyclare High captain, made his debut and impressed as did Mark Banford and Stuart Paul for Ards.

"I felt we had the edge up front but the back lines were fairly even"

Matthew Keane returned from injury for Instonians and made a big impression in their 21-15 defeat of Banbridge at Shaws Bridge.

The former Ulster Under 20 scrum-half kept his pack going forward while Lewis Jones was prominent in the second row as was Paddy Marks at flanker.

Young out-half Gareth Lawlor contributed 16 points.

There was a first win for Dungannon against Belfast Harlequins, 22-12, City of Derry beat Ballymena 15-13 while Rainey are still undefeated after an 18-16 win at home to Armagh.

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