Queen's University, the most successful club in the history of the Ulster Senior Cup, last night ended a barren run stretching back to 1981 by lifting the trophy for the 22nd time.
Malone can have no complaints, victory having gone to the more cohesive and creative side, albeit that it was only in the final 25 minutes that they underlined their superiority by scoring the tries their play had merited,
It was no epic, alas. To warrant the adjective great, a game has to a closely-contested battle between two well matched sides. This one was not.
Malone, for all their admirable fight and character, were no match for the students who outplayed them throughout and would have had victory sewn up earlier but for some lax handling.
The Queen’s line-out reigned supreme and their scrum was never in any trouble, and their forwards must have found it hugely frustrating to see passes thrown forward or knocked on by their colleagues in the back line.
Conditions suggested a running final, something which will have appealed to Queen’s whose desire and ability to put the ball through hands coupled with the speed of their back line had seen them go into the final having scored 89 tries in the season.
Malone suffered an early setback when, after only two minutes, fly-half Josh Pentland took a blow which left him prostrate and worryingly motionless and it came as no surprise when he bowed out after only 15 minutes with Johnny Amos deputising.
By that stage Malone trailed |3-0, Queen’s outside half James McKinney having kicked a fifth minute penalty to chalk up the first of his 19 points.
Remarkably, given the extent to which they controlled proceedings, Queen’s had to wait a further half-hour before doubling their lead when McKinney struck again off the tee.
He and half-back colleague Ian Porter repeatedly tested Malone’s defence with excellent box kicking. Full-back David McIlwaine was another whose incursions and incisions regularly had the Malone line in a panic.
And in captain, Mark Robinson, Queen’s had a player who served up a man of the match performance.
Finally, with Malone tiring, Queen’s got into a try-scoring rhythm and in the final 22 minutes they touched down four times, though the first of the quartet, by left wing Matthew Arneill, was controversial with Malone unconvinced as to its legality.
There was no disputing the magnificence of McKinney’s conversion from the touchline and with that, Malone’s resistance crumbled.
Loose head Paul Karayiannis helped himself to a try four minutes later, courtesy of a great long pass by Porter to find the prop who ran a perfect line, following which McIlwaine rounded off a fine night’s work with Queen’s third touchdown.
With his appetite whetted, Karayiannis played a key part in creating the final score by McKinney who converted all four tries.
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY: D McIlwaine; S Campbell, M Pyper, J Shiels, M Arneill; J McKinney, I Porter; P Karayiannis, M Boyd, M Sampson; M Ferguson, A Linton; P McGowan, M Robinson (captain), C O’Neill. Replacements: G Megaw, T Patton, G Hooks, M Hooks,C Quinn.
MALONE: T Horner; D Irvine, J Anderson (captain), J Burgess, M Barker; J Pentland, M Wilson; J Carey, S Bailie, D Halliday; D Cobain, M Boyd; M Hill, J Chapman, G Moore. Replacements: J Porter, D Maxwell, S Dougall, P Coulter, J Amos.
Referee: Michael Black.