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Campbell leads the way as Malone return to table's summit



Experience: Chris Henry is working with Malone

Experience: Chris Henry is working with Malone

Experience: Chris Henry is working with Malone

It was a pleasing way to return from the break as Malone's bonus point victory put them back at the head of the table after defeating Naas at Gibson Park.

Indeed, the home side's five-try, 36-20 win was also of significance as it ensured that Naas were dumped off top spot and into second as the teams exchanged places with coach Paddy Armstrong's squad now setting the pace but a mere point ahead of last Saturday's opponents.

Malone's fifth victory from six rounds has also had another spin-off as a gap has begun to appear between themselves and the bulk of the chasing field with third-placed Banbridge - who are on 16 points along with City of Armagh, Ballynahinch and St Mary's College - now six behind.

Malone, with Chris Henry, who is assisting with the forwards, looking on, played some great attacking rugby in the first half and had their try bonus in the bag before half an hour had been played.

Left winger Nathan Brown was on the end of their first from some crisp passing across the backline and then right winger Ben McCaughey won a chase for Malone's second after a clever break and chip from impressive Ulster Academy centre Stewart Moore.

Full back Rory Campbell nailed number three after 20 minutes and then prop Peter Cooper intercepted a pass and sprinted in for the bonus point.

At 26-8, Malone looked set fair for a huge score but, as things turned out, the home side only managed one more converted try and a penalty which all came in the second half.

Indeed, the securing of the bonus point so early in the game seemed to impact on Malone's intensity and accuracy.

A key moment came at the end of the first half when some last-ditch defending from Callum Smith and Campbell prevented Naas getting what looked to be nailed-on second try and their efforts allowed Malone lead 26-8 at the break.

Campbell scored his second on 55 minutes and his conversion - he ended the day scoring 18 points - put Malone 33-8 in front.

But, again, Naas came back into the game and scored two tries to cut the home side's lead to 33-20 which offered them the tantalising possibility of taking two losing bonus points to stay top

However, Smith's 74th minute penalty ended the affair to ensure that Malone had their five points and Naas got nothing from the clash.

Elsewhere, a gripping Ulster derby at Ballymacarn Park was won by Ballynahinch as they held on to triumph 13-12 over Banbridge.

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Hinch led 10-7 at the end of the first half with Ulster release Peter Nelson kicking a penalty and conversion of Rhys O'Donnell's try to edge them ahead.

Ulster squad member Johnny McPhillips then slotted a penalty to take Hinch to 13-7 before Bann made a late comeback though Andrew Morrison's 78th minute try went unconverted and Brian McLaughlin's men held on for the four points to stay in fifth.

City of Armagh remained in fourth spot as they were 15-9 winners over Old Belvedere at the Palace Grounds.

Bottom side Ballymena lost again, going down 27-16 at Old Wesley.

The Braidmen are now looking ever more detached and are eight points off the safety zone occupied by Old Belvedere.

Meanwhile, Ballyahinch seconds will meet Dromore in the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup final on January 2.

Cup holders Hinch defeated Grosvenor 30-26 at Gibson Park while Dromore won at home seeing off Malone 2nds 15-7 in their semi-final.

1B: Hinch 13 Bann 12, Armagh 15 Belvo 9, Malone 36 Naas 20, Wesley 27 Ballymena 16.

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