Cliches abound, but Dungannon secure the spoils
Oh yes, this was indeed a game of two very distinct halves; except there was never sufficient doubt surrounding Dungannon’s 27-15 bonus point Ulster derby win at Belfast Harlequins despite the home side’s huge effort in a battling second half performance which at least saw them outscore the visitors 12-7.
“It certainly was a game of two halves,” Dungannon coach Justin Fitzpatrick had to admit afterwards after his side had risen from sixth to fourth in the table.
“But we got what we wanted and the show is back on the road.”
As for Quins’ coach Adam Larkin, there was some solace in his side’s comeback but, ultimately, disappointment at conceding so many early scores and dropping three places in the table to sixth spot.
“We gave them three very soft
tries and trailing seventeen points to a team like Dungannon is always going to be too big,” he said.
“It was more positive in the second half, but as we said after the game ‘you cannot wait that long to start playing’.”
Gannon, coming off the back of three consecutive defeats – two in the AIL and one in the Senior Cup – showed their intent in the opening 40 minutes.
Tries from Stuart McCloskey, Peter Nelson and Chris Cochrane – all from attacks down Quins’ right wing – along with a conversion and penalty from Paddy Jackson meant Gannon looked out of sight with a 20-3 half time lead.
But Quins made some tactical switches – prop Mark McGrath made a big difference in the scrums along with Michael Ferguson and Owen McMurray also bringing greater direction – and it seemed to pay off.
With Neil McComb and Ian Porter also putting in huge shifts, Quins struck back with tries from Alistair Heatlie and a late effort from Ferguson after both McComb and Richard Lutton had been held up over the line earlier in the half.
However, it was never enough to deny Gannon, though Quins did deserve a losing bonus point and their cause could have been helped if referee Mark Patton had wielded a yellow card as Gannon’s penalty concession rate spiralled.
Elsewhere, table-topping Ballynahinch stretched their unbeaten run to four games when they got the better of UCC 31-11 with the home side’s bonus point coming courtesy of a brace from Aaron Ferris along with single scores from Willie Faloon, David Nicholson and James Simpson.
Meanwhile, Ballymena picked up their second successive bonus win when they saw off bottom club Galwegians 32-19 at Eaton Park with tries from Ali Fraser, Stephen Mulholland and Ricky Andrew as well as John Semple who also kicked two penalties and three conversions for a personal haul of 17 points.