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David Whann helps Ballymena edge Ballynahinch in AIL Division 1B opener


David McMaster scores the first try for Harlequins

David McMaster scores the first try for Harlequins

? Mervyn McClelland/Presseye

David McMaster scores the first try for Harlequins

The only two Ulster clubs now left in Division 1B got to have a crack at each other on the AIL's opening weekend and it proved to be a hotly contested derby encounter which ultimately saw home side Ballymena just about prevail over a determined Belfast Harlequins.

In a game which saw six tries scored - three from each side - the Braidmen had second row from David Whann to thank for, unexpectedly, running in a stunning individual try to allow them to win 27-23 as they began their bid to go one better than last season when their promotion push ended in failure.

As for Quins, it was a game which slipped from their grasp but still wasn't the worst opening as they came away with a losing bonus point which could prove to be a reasonable return from a visit to Eaton Park.

With both Ballymena and Quins bolstered by Ulster releases - the Braidmen had Alan O'Connor and Bronson Ross while Quins were able to deploy Lewis Stevenson, Frank Taggart and Sean Reidy - the clash was given an extra edge with the home side's defence notably holding firm, after Whann's second half try, against a last-ditch effort by the Belfast side to snatch the result.

Quins opened the scoring through a Mark Best penalty but quickly found themselves trailing after a great break from full-back Roger McBurney ultimately saw centre Martin Irwin crossing the line.

Richie McMaster converted and then added a penalty which took things to 10-3, but Quins then got things going with a brace of tries from talented winger David McMaster.

Even so, the Braidmen still managed to lead 20-13 at the break thanks to another penalty from their McMaster (Richie, that is) and the out-half then also converted the home side's second touchdown from centre Callum Patterson.

Quins, though, weren't finished and managed to nail their third try of the day when Brendan Monaghan got over and Best's conversion tied the scores at 20-20.

They then edged into the lead thanks to Best's second penalty.

Just when they needed it, though, Ballymena scored again through Whann's eye-catching try which was converted by McMaster and, from here, Ballymena held out for the four points.

Up in Division 1A, Ballynahinch lost 14-10 at newly-promoted Garryowen with their losing bonus point only being secured late in the game after centre Jordan Grattan got over for a try which was then converted by winger Chris Quinn.

Hinch's only other score had come in the first half from a Quinn penalty.

Belfast Telegraph