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Malone II keep a firm grip on the McCrea crown

Malone II 21 Cooke 10

By Michael Sadlier

Tries either side of half-time ensured Malone II retained the McCrea Cup after they contested the final for the third year running against Belfast rivals Cooke yesterday at what was a wet, windy and bitterly cold Kingspan Stadium.

Hooker Connor Kelly and flanker Johnny Ogilby crossed for their scores in the 38th and 42nd minutes when Cooke were reduced to 14 men due to Jonathan Backus' yellow card.

And coach Davy Heron's men took the game beyond Cooke's reach with Neil Alcorn's 65th-minute touchdown, their other points coming from out-half Bruce Duff, who kicked all three conversions.

Cooke, who kept battling, scored a late consolation try from centre Kyle Mitchell with Malone at this point reduced to 13 men.

After early penalty misses from Duff and Cooke out-half Alan Gourley, it was the Shaw's Bridge side who got the first points when the latter slotted over a 22nd-minute penalty.

Duff then had a chance to tie the scores on 25 minutes but was again off target.

The Gibson Park side took the lead on 38 minutes but only after they had butchered a lineout near Cooke's line with a crooked throw which was then immediately followed by Cooke - opting for the lineout as their scrum was struggling - over-throwing and losing the ball.

After several phases and a strong drive by Alcorn, hooker Kelly drove over and this time Duff converted to give Malone a 7-3 interval lead.

The new half opened with flanker Ogilby scoring two minutes in after Ryan Spence hacked through after Cooke failed to deal with a kick.

Duff converted to give Malone a 14-3 lead just before Backus returned to bring Cooke back up to full strength again.

Flanker Alcorn then powered over after 64 minutes in the aftermath of another scrum penalty won by the Cup holders.

Malone's 19-3 lead became 21-3 following Duff's third conversion.

Cooke managed to work Mitchell over for a converted try but couldn't score any more points even with Malone reduced to 13 men after two sin-binnings.

Malone II: G Millar, J Knox, R Spence, D Irvine, J McMurry, B Duff, C Jeffrey; R Greenwood (capt), C Kelly, P Eadie, T Dillon, L Barlow, J Ogilby, N Alcorn, M Porter Subs: T Dullage, G Crawford, A McKechnie, D-J Maxwell, J Betts

Cooke: Alex Gourley (capt), C Cregan, J Backus, K Mitchell, A Nelson, A Gourley, R Flavelle; J McClune, D McErlean, R Hunter, J Walsh, J Lyons, M Elliott, C Robinson, A Dodd Subs: R Collins, O Kelly, J Harper, I Anderson, A Hanna

Referee: L Evans

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