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Jonathan Keightley impressed with Malone's spirit after McCambley Cup win

By Jonathan Bradley

Malone V won their first outright McCambley Cup title at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday afternoon following a 29-3 triumph over Ballymoney IV.

While the scoreline was harsh on the defeated north Antrim side, who had their moments and could have crossed the whitewash on more than one occasion, Malone deserved the victory.

Fielding a younger side, the Cregagh Road outfit's superior fitness told throughout and a willingness to run the ball from deep inside their own territory was rewarded with five tries.

Speaking after hoisting the trophy aloft, captain Jonathan Keightley praised the work ethic of a squad that also put together an undefeated league campaign.

"The boys are from all different countries and all different communities but they all come together," he said. "This competition was the carrot we dangled in front of them all year. When the pitches were flooded, when we had to move training, when we had to work, this was the carrot.

"None of this would have been possible without our coaching staff of Alan Mullan and Alistair Stewart.

"This is the third time we've played Ballymoney this year and it's always been tight in the first 20 minutes. Eventually our fitness and gameplan took hold. Ballymoney were worthy finalists but we were able to see it out."

Malone began the game on the front foot and there were only five minutes on the clock when their early superiority brought the game's first score.

A clearing kick found winger Oisin Campbell and the Belfast side's backline moved the ball quickly to James Conway.

The centre skipped past the last line of defence and touched down, although Andrew McCarter's conversion attempt was wayward.

Ballymoney responded when Malone were caught with hands in the ruck and James Cleland confidently knocked over the kick.

The centre was now the game's dominant figure and, while Malone held the lead, it did not seem as if it would last.

Adrian White made a promising break from deep while a clever set move from a scrum almost saw John Richmond and Aaron Rammage combine to go over.

Improbably, Malone held out and they should have extended their lead when Dominic Jassen made the most of some poor tackling to advance into the 22 but his offload to McCarter didn't go to hand.

As half-time approached, the Red Sox doubled their tally when a solid scrum allowed number nine Jamie Scott to dart through and score.

McCarter could not add the extras and Malone led by seven at the turn.

The opening 10 minutes of the second half were a tight affair but, with just under half an hour remaining, Malone put themselves in a commanding position with a third try of the day and they seemed comfortable.

With reshuffles in the backline, Ballymoney lost some of their defensive shape and Aaron Culbert was able to burst from deep and weave his way over.

The tough sideline conversion just didn't come in enough but Malone's lead was now a more commanding 12 points.

When substitute Ben Siri finished off a fine backline move for another try five minutes later followed by McCarter's conversion moving the score to 22-3, the game seemed over as a contest.

Ballymoney deserved a score of their own, but the pace of Malone number 8 Jonathan Siri had been a danger all afternoon and he ran home from inside his own half with only a handful of minutes remaining for the game's last score.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph