Classy Malone set up crucial title showdown with Bangor
The mouth-watering showdown in Junior 2 is on Saturday when joint leaders Malone III and Bangor II meet at Upritchard Park in what should be an exciting encounter.
The reverse fixture ended in a 6-6 draw earlier in the season but then Bangor unexpectedly lost to Ballynahinch IV 32-5 so victory is essential for them having played that extra game.
The undefeated Malone marched on with a 20-10 success over Ballymoney III on Saturday but only began to dominate in the final 10 minutes in atrocious conditions.
It was 10-3 at the interval after Lee Barlow ran in two tries for the visitors and Russell Irwin kicked a penalty for Ballymoney.
With the weather deteriorating, the home team battled on and after a number of phases scrum-half Irwin nipped over and added the conversion to level.
Determined Malone then took up a position close to the home line and the relentless pressure led to an Andrew Bailie try.
When a home pass went astray, Gareth Miller hacked through and touched down to the right of the posts but the conversion was missed.
Ballymoney manager Sam McAllister said: "I was very pleased with the efforts of our young team, made up of mainly under-20s.
"They kept us in the contest right to the end with Joel Heggarty, our hooker, being the man of the match.
"He worked extremely hard in the loose while Andy McNeugher had an exceptional game on the wing and managed to prevent a first-half try when he held up the Malone winger.
"I would especially like to mention the efforts of our young back row forwards Nathaniel McCollum and David McKeeman, who were always at the heart of the battle.
"We have strengthened our defence since they defeated us 46-29 earlier in the season and it showed," he concluded.
Malone captain Davis Heron, who elected to travel to Toulon and watch Ulster floundering in the European Champions Cup, was naturally very happy to hear that his team is still undefeated.
"It appears it was closely fought and neither team gave up despite the freezing cold. Lee Barlow was again our man of the match," he added.