Students fight off spirited Ballymena comeback
Ballymena III fought right to the end in their defeat by Queen's III 29-25 in Section Three, but the loss of their captain Matthew Banks after 30 minutes with a shoulder injury was a big handicap.
The students have now moved into second place with 11 points, four behind leaders Rainey III with two games in hand. Rainey had an unexpectedly convincing win over Ballyclare III, 92-15.
Rainey and Queen's still have to play twice as their first meeting at Magherafelt was abandoned after visiting forward Anthony Caravaggi sustained a suspected neck injury when a scrum collapsed. Thankfully, he is now fully fit again.
Omagh III are in third on 10 points with three games in hand over Rainey but have already lost to them 40-15.
At Upper Malone, the teams were level at the interval 10-10 after the students ran in two tries. A sweeping back move led to winger Jonny Carmichael scoring and then Peter Cashel broke through.
The ball was moved across the backs before Cashel went in for the second unconverted try. A Ballymena driving maul resulted in Davy Laughlin crashing over for Rory Drysdale to convert and add a penalty.
"We exploited the extra space and stretched our opponents in the second-half," commented Queen's coach Simon Fitzgerald.
"A piercing 50 metre run by out-half Robbie Stewart set up our next try when he evaded a couple of defenders to go under the posts for Andy Richards to convert."
The scrum-half, who had taken over the kicking duties, was in the right place at the right time when he crossed for the next after a superb break by Eoin Baxter which was also goaled. Queen's final try came after pressure around the line when Craig Burton picked up and crashed over.
Ballymena managed two tries.
Following a constructive run by Stephen Johnston, flanker Kevin Doherty scored and then centre Gareth Bell added the third. Drysdale was on target with a conversion and a penalty.
Captain Burns was pleased with the way Ballymena performed: "Considering we were down to 14 players we scored two tries is an indication of our commitment and to finish within four points is commendable"
Rainey reversed an earlier 20-14 defeat when they accumulated 14 tries against Ballyclare, 11 of which were goaled by Kenny Irvine.