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Defence pays off for men in black

AIL Division 1/2

By Michael Sadlier

It was a day for the exponents of hard yardage and those that relish the close stuff.

Yet both sides rose above the sodden conditions to produce some decent fare despite Ballymena's seemingly comfortable 19-0 triumph.

Indeed, UCD could rightly feel aggrieved at having a try scoring opportunity denied them by referee Darragh McCormack for a spurious knock-on call, shortly after the interval, when only trailing the Braidmen 8-0 thanks to Seamus Mallon's well-taken 10th minute try which had been added to by a Donovan Raw penalty.

The students had a plethora of other chances too in a second half they largely dominated, but the Braidmen's excellent defending ? with Mallon, Rhys Botha, Chris Henry and the impressive Adrian Saunderson all making significant tackles ? deservedly brought Jacques Benade's squad their second win in as many weeks after a powerful front-foot forward effort in the opening 40 minutes.

"I'm very proud of the boys," a clearly pleased Benade said afterwards, "and we'll take the four points. Confidence comes from winning and we're on track to where we want to be especially considering we only had two points this time last season."

"We didn't play as well in the second half but our defence was excellent," Benade added.

The conditions certainly suited Ballymena ? with Darren Best and Adrian Kirkpatrick prominent in much of their work while scrum-half Craig Woods caused quite a few early problems around the fringes, but the control they exerted in the first half seemed to largely desert them for much of the remainder as they struggled to clear their lines in the face of a surreptitiously tricky breeze.

Still, they held firm and took their chances when they arrived. Two more Raw penalties and an injury-time score for the hard-grafting Ian Caldwell, all added up to a good day out for the Blacks.

Elsewhere, Dungannon sank to their second successive bonus point defeat going down 16-14 to previously winless Greystones at Stevenson Park.

The visitors snatched victory deep into injury time from a converted try after a Thomas Anderson score and three penalties from James Shiells had seemed to be enough for a home win.

In Division Two, Belfast Harlequins sprang back from last week's home defeat at the hands of UCC to take the honours 15-10 at Clonakilty.

Tries from Andy Ward and Shane Stewart saw Quins home and puts them fourth in the table.

Malone again scraped through to a second win on the bounce at lowly Suttonians with a late score from Glenn Moore, which was converted by Kieran Hallett, giving the visitors a valuable 13-10 result from appalling playing conditions.

At Highfield, Ballynahinch had to be content with a losing bonus point after falling short against the Cork side who prevailed 11-10.

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