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Malone fight back but have to accept a draw after 12-try feast

All-Ireland League


Ballymena’s Stuart Donald tackles Rainey’s Connor Smyth at Eaton Park. Credit: Stephen Davison

Ballymena’s Stuart Donald tackles Rainey’s Connor Smyth at Eaton Park. Credit: Stephen Davison

Ballymena’s Stuart Donald tackles Rainey’s Connor Smyth at Eaton Park. Credit: Stephen Davison

Malone probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after an extraordinary encounter with St Mary’s.

Malone trailed 7-28 at the interval, led 42-35 with two minutes left and had to settle for a 42-42 draw and a share of the six points in Dublin.

Also in 1B Banbridge recorded their first win at home to Old Belvedere (18-13) while in 1A Ballynahinch finished the first half of the season with a ninth defeat this time going down 24-10 to second placed Lansdowne.

Malone coach Wilbert Leacock was thrilled with his team’s performance making full use of the wind in the second-half to overcome that 21-point deficit.

“We were not unduly worried at half-time as we knew we had the strength and determination to fight back” he explained.

Early on the Belfast side were seven points down but levelled when hooker Clayton Milligan gathered from a set move and linked with Andy Bryans who in turn sent Nathan Brown under the posts for Callum Smith to goal.

Seven minutes into the second period and winger Aaron Sexton ran in the first of his three tries, the second following three minutes later.

St Mary’s were awarded a penalty try to make it 35-21 but Malone retorted with scores from Gareth Millar, Bryans and Sexton to take that 42-35 advantage.

The home team then scored the 12th try of the encounter to level. Leacock felt that they needed something special before the Christmas break so to come away from the third-placed team with three points was a bonus.

It was only a matter of time before Banbridge recorded a victory so their confidence has now been fully restored as they look forward to the return fixture against Old Belvedere on January 15.

They were seven points in arrears after 10 minutes but came back to be 8-10 behind at halftime after Andrew Morrison crossed for a try and Adam Doherty kicked a penalty.

After the restart a brilliant try followed from Conor Field after Doherty broke away around halfway and linked with the winger who dashed in.

City of Armagh gained a warranted losing bonus point but moved down two places to sixth following their 16-19 defeat at the hands of second-placed Old Wesley.

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In 1A, Ballynahinch led with a Gregg Hutley penalty and were on level terms with Lansdowne after 50 minutes 10-10 but two tries in the final four minutes gave the Dublin side a flattering 24-10 win to deprive Hinch of a bonus point. Hutley also had a try and conversion.

2A leaders Queen’s following their 32-15 win over Buccaneers are nine points clear of Ballymena who were 14-10 victors over Rainey.

There were a couple of surprise results in the AIL as the last two undefeated teams were beaten. 1B leaders Highfield lost at Shannon 6-0 while 2B’s Greystones came unstuck at Wanderers 30-17 which will be welcome news at joint second-placed Quins.

Ulster results, Division 1A: Ballynahinch 10 Lansdowne 24.

Division 1B: St Mary’s 42 Malone 42, Banbridge 18 Old Belvedere 13, City of Armagh 16 Old Wesley 19.

Division 2A: Queen’s 32 Buccaneers 15, Ballymena 14 Rainey 10.

Division 2B: Dungannon 6 Belfast Harlequins 26.

Division 2C: Bangor 27 Skerries 15, City of Derry 20 Omagh Accies 0.

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