With the top of the table recently looking as if a congestion charge needed to be introduced, something, sometime, had to give and the weekend’s results have certainly opened things out a bit.
League leaders Belfast Harlequins were the main beneficiaries even if they only lead the way from Ballymena by a point while both Dungannon – who fell away badly to Quins at Stevenson Park – and Ballynahinch suddenly find themselves beginning to lose touch with the upper part of the table.
Quins were hugely impressive in torching Dungannon 44-17 in their Ulster derby clash as the Belfast side scored six tries to notch up their fifth consecutive AIL win to keep them in prime spot in the charge for promotion.
The visitors took an early lead against Justin Fitzpatrick’s weakened squad and never surrendered the advantage with Michael Allen’s try and a conversion and two penalties from Ian Porter giving Quins a 13-3 half-time lead.
From there Quins pushed on with tries from Rory Scholes, Richard Lutton and Neil McComb’s first then getting the bonus point in the bag.
Niall Annett then added a further score while McComb’s second and 14 kicked points from Porter sent Gannon into sixth which now looks to have done huge damage to their promotion hopes.
Ballymena battled back to seal a bonus point 27-22 win at Galwegians to keep them firmly in the chase.
Tries from Caolan Fitzpatrick, Ali Fraser, Roger McBurney and Joel Andrew sealed their late win with Luke Marshall adding two conversions and a penalty.
As for Ballynahinch, their shock 13-12 defeat at bottom club UCC has seen their slump in form continue and though not looking as badly damaged in the promotion stakes as Gannon, they are now in fourth and six points behind Quins.
Tries from Jerry Cronin and Jonny Graham plus a conversion from James Lash saw Hinch make the long journey home with only a losing bonus point.