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Adair hat-trick is boost for Hinch's title hopes

 

Treble joy: Ross Adair scored a hat-trick for Hinch
Treble joy: Ross Adair scored a hat-trick for Hinch

By Michael Sadlier

With two regulation games to go, things are, at last, beginning to open up a little bit at the top now that leaders Old Wesley and Ballynahinch have put five between them and nearest chasers Malone and Naas.

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Hinch's fourth straight triumph, when beating Old ­Belvedere 34-27 at Ballymacarn Park, kept them level with ­Wesley though the Dubliners have a much superior points ­differential.

Coach Brian McLaughlin's side, missing a host of Ulster attached players due to the Cara Cup trip to Boston, only managed to put some daylight between themselves and the visitors in the second half.

Indeed, it was then that Hinch's in-form former Ulster squad player Ross Adair completed his hat-trick after crossing twice in the opening half.

Jerry Cronin, another former Ulster player, surged over for the bonus try which Richard Reaney converted, as he did all of Adair's touchdowns.

At Gibson Park, Malone also made light of having lost access to a sizeable number of Ulster releases by beating City of Armagh 16-7.

Their Ulster derby win not only halted a three-game losing run for coach Paddy Armstrong's squad but also meant that they moved up one spot to nudge Armagh aside from being third.

Malone led 11-0 after the opening half thanks to a Ryan Clarke try and two Mark O'Connor penalties.

O'Connor then scored a try to put the home side 16-0 up before Armagh responded by working Tim McNeice over the line though the visitors were unable to take a losing point as they slipped to fifth, one point behind Naas.

Banbridge, also missing Ulster releases, also fell after Naas turned them over 42-21 at Rifle Park, the Co Down side now relocating to eighth and in real danger of being overhauled by Buccaneers who they meet next.

Ballymena, though, are already relegated from 1B after being torn asunder 74-15 at St Mary's College who ran in 11 tries against the battered Braidmen.

1B: Hinch 34 Belvo 27, Bann 21 Naas 42, Malone 16 Armagh 7, St Mary's 74 Ballymena 15

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