The way things panned out, it was difficult to believe that it was Malone who were the side who came into this Ulster derby with concerns about relegation issues while the Belfast Harlequins’ squad had still held notions of chasing down an automatic promotion slot.
But, this was Malone’s day. The visitors stole the show at a well-attended Deramore to obliterate Quins 22-5 for their second AIL win on the bounce which should prove sufficient to stabilise what had promised to be a nerve-fraying end to the Gibson Park side’s campaign.
Malone scored three tries with winger Michael Barker bagging a first half brace of scores alongside a late effort from the impressive flanker Mark Hill, but yet there was an element of frustration as they failed to take a winning bonus point when it was clearly on offer.
Josh Pentland managed to land a great touchline conversion from Barker’s 15th minute try as well as kicking a penalty and the extras from Hill’s muscular touchdown to take the game beyond Quins.
As for the home side, skipper Neil McComb and fellow second row Gareth Rourke kept battling but Quins surrendered a frightening number of turnovers before falling to their second successive AIL defeat.
They did score an extraordinary try from Ulster squad member McComb, who gathered the restart from Barker’s first try before smashing through all in his path to score in the left corner, but their error count was just too high.
Meanwhile, in Division 1B both Ballynahinch and Dungannon find themselves now rooted to the foot of the table, and facing a desperate rearguard action with two games remaining, which could yet see the Ulster sides being relegated, after both lost by the identical scorelines of 22-17 to relegation battling Buccaneers and table toppers Old Belvedere respectively.
Both Ulster sides also had to fight back for their losing bonus points with ‘Hinch eating into previously bottom side Buccs’ 19-0 lead with tries from Michael Kirkwood, Michael Graham and Aaron Ferris and a solitary conversion from Harry McAleese while ‘Gannon had trailed 22-0 prior to Paul Magee and Derek Hall crossing for valuable scores and James Shiells adding two conversions and a late drop goal.
Elsewhere, Ballymena — who have yet to play both ‘Hinch and ‘Gannon — still need to guarantee their safety after a losing bonus from a 17-16 home defeat to Galwegians.