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Malone land promotion as Armagh and Omagh surge into play-off spots

 

By Michael Sadlier

As expected Malone took ownership of the 2A title and will be in next season's 1B after ­swatting Nenagh aside 43-19 at Gibson Park.

Michael Cartmill scored twice, one in each half, as Malone crossed for six tries to cap a great season for coach Paddy Armstrong's squad.

It wasn't entirely straightforward for Malone, though, as Nenagh - who ended up holding on to fourth - put up a battle and it was only in the second half that the home side pulled clear with Ross Todd, Nathan Brown and Jack McMurty also crossing while Jack Owens had scored in the first half.

As it happened, Malone could have afforded to lose this game and still claimed the title as Highfield tumbled at Blackrock in a shock result but Armstrong's men got the job done in the preferred way.

There were also some unexpectedly positive outcomes on the last day of regulation games with City of Armagh's 24-14 bonus point win at Greystones seeing them leap from fifth to third and earn a play-off at Highfield.

Armagh's maximum point haul was delivered after tries from Andrew Willis, Tommy Campbell and Neil and Robbie Faloon.

And while Armagh are in with a chance of joining Malone, just a season after coming through the play-off route to make it into 2A, there was another hugely notable outcome for Omagh.

Coach Phil Marshall's side ended up finishing second in 2C, from just their first campaign back in the AIL, with the 19-14 home victory over Bruff - Ryan Mitchell's try sealing a tight game which had already seen Adam Longwell cross and Scott Elliott kick three penalties - securing the Accies the right to host their semi-final play-off with Thomond.

In 2B, Rainey Old Boys lost 28-8 at champions Old Crescent but the Magherafelt side were always in the frame to take second and they now host Barnhall in the play-offs.

Rainey, with an eye already on the play-offs, took an altered line-up to Limerick where Michael McCusker's try and Scott McLean's penalty were their only contribution to the scoreboard.

At the other end of the table, ninth-placed Belfast Harlequins head to their relegation play-off after racking up a third win on the spin, this time at Navan where two tries from Paul Kerr helped them to a 20-15 result.

Quins now host Malahide as the Deramore side bid to stay in 2B and avoid the ignominy of a third relegation in as many seasons.

Elsewhere, other Ulster clubs were just seeing out the season. Queen's University signed off in sixth in 2A after beating Corinthians 38-28.

In 2B, Dungannon lost 32-17 at Skerries for a disappointing eighth place finish while already relegated City of Derry ended their truly miserable year losing 39-20 at home to Wanderers.

In 2C, Bangor, who had harboured ambitions for play-off rugby, could only look on with a combination of admiration and envy at Omagh's achievements.

The north Down club lost 42-12 at Tullamore which saw them drop a place to seventh.

2A: Malone 43 Nenagh 19, Greystones 14 Armagh 24, QUB 38 Corinthians 28

Champions Malone. Play-offs Highfield v Armagh, Bohs v Nenagh.

Relegation/promotion play-off Greystones v Navan. Relgated Corinthians

2B: Derry 20 Wanderers 39, Navan 15 Quins 20, Crescent 28 Rainey 8, Skerries 32 Gannon 17

Champions Crescent. Play-offs Rainey v Barnhall, Greystones v Navan.

Relegation/promotion play-off: Quins v Malahide. Relegated Derry

2C: Omagh 19 Bruff 14, Tullamore 42 Bangor 12

Champions Sligo. Play-offs Omagh v Thomond, Quins v Malahide

Relegated Bective

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