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Ruthless Malone give their title hopes a real boost

 

By Ronnie Ingram

Malone took full advantage of Ballynahinch captain John Donnan's yellow card eight minutes from time to bag eight points and clinch a 23-22 victory at Gibson Park.

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The Belfast side are now second and two points in arrears of leaders Rainey in Division One, but holders Hinch are now virtually out of contention with only one point.

Hinch took a 10-point lead when Sean O'Hagan kicked a penalty and converted an Aaron Ferris try, but the home side - who lost three key players through injury during that period - stormed back to take a 15-10 advantage at the interval.

Nathan Brown sprinted through to land a try for Callum Smith to convert, and Conor Spence levelled with a penalty. Malone were in confident mood and Spence broke through to touch down.

Smith was yellow-carded in the 54th minute. Hinch opted for a scrum and after several phases James Simpson crashed over.

Five minutes later, they were 22-15 ahead when O'Hagan added the points to a try from hooker Zac McCall. But then it was the turn of Malone to face 14 players and Rory Campbell ran in a 74th-minute try and three minutes later he kicked a penalty to squeeze out the victory.

Meanwhile, Rainey had a scare before overcoming Queen's.

Rainey were 22 points ahead but a few replacements disrupted their momentum and the students came back with three tries to reduce the margin to three points before a late Jason Bloomfield clinched a 27-19 win.

In the other top-flight game, Banbridge had a 41-7 success against Ballymena.

Rainey now have 10 points, Malone eight, Banbridge six, Queen's four and Ballymena and Ballynahinch one each.

In Division Two, City of Armagh and Belfast Harlequins are still undefeated. The former are on 10 points, Quins nine, Bangor and Omagh six and City of Derry and Dungannon on two.

Division Two results: Bangor 25 City of Derry 23, City of Armagh 40 Omagh 31, Dungannon 35 Belfast Harlequins 36.

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