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'Gannon stay in the big time and Inst move up

By Michael Sadlier

So everything worked out in the end. Dungannon did what was required to stay in Division One for another season in a six-try romp at Ballymena while, in Dublin, Instonians also turned on the style to claim the Division Three championship and bring silverware back to Shaw's Bridge.

With so much pressure on Dungannon at Eaton Park, there had always been the possibility the Tyrone side would have succumbed to the occasion but, instead, they hit the Eaton Park turf running for their must win encounter and also had the game's most influential player in Richard McCarter who bagged 18 points - from two tries, two penalties and a conversion - as 'Gannon stretched clear to secure a 38-7 bonus point win.

Ballymena, playing only for pride ahead of Friday night's First Trust Senior Cup final with Belfast Harlequins, trailed 18-0 at the interval and got on the scoreboard through a penalty try converted by Craig Woods but any danger of 'Gannon losing their way was cancelled out by tries from Derek Hall, John McGuckin and second tries from Andrew Hughes and McCarter.

"We got a big performance when we needed it most, but it's something we've been working on for the last three weeks," said an understandably relieved Dungannon coach John Andrews.

"The conditions suited us down to the ground and, in fairness, we enjoyed the bounce of the ball early on and that settled us."

Assistant coach Niall Malone won the man of the match as Instonians lifted the Division Three trophy at Donnybrook after seeing off league-topping side Bruff 32-23.

Owen McMurray ended the day scoring 17 points - from a try, three conversions and two penalties - with Inst's three other tries coming from Malone, Josh Devitt and Kenny Morton.

"It would have been terrible to have ended (the season) with a defeat. We played really good attacking rugby and now we go towards next season with a settled squad and a real feel-good factor."

Division One play-offs (May 3): Cork Constitution v Clontarf, Shannon v Garryowen.

Relegated: Lansdowne and Greystones

Division Two final: Young Munster 8 UCC 18

Division Three final: Bruff 23 Instonians 32

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