Ballymena win top-of-the-table clash as 'Quins fall to defeat

Ballymena took the spoils in a hotly-contested Ulster derby at Eaton Park, holding on to beat Ballynahinch 6-3 and leapfrog them at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B.

Ballymena took the spoils in a hotly-contested Ulster derby at Eaton Park, holding on to beat Ballynahinch 6-3 and leapfrog them at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B.

The Braidmen made it five wins out of seven thanks to a brace of first half penalties from winger John Semple.

He split the posts after 12 and 30 minutes at Eaton Park with play largely confined between the 22-metre lines.

Both sides enjoyed sporadic periods of dominance, but top notch defending and poor decision making in attack left the game without a try.

Ballynahinch, who were slipping to their second defeat in three league outings, got off the mark thanks to a 75th minute penalty from New Zealander James Lash.

But John Andrews’ home side held on for a well-merited win which stretches their unbeaten run in the competition to five matches.

At Kilballyowen Park, Belfast Harlequins squandered a last-minute try-scoring opportunity against Bruff when the ball was knocked on in the act of scoring.

Owen McMurray kicked two first half penalties for the visitors who led 6-5 at the interval with the Bruff try being scored by Paul O'Brien.

Bruff missed two easy penalty chances in the closing minutes of the half but they ensured a 10-6 victory thanks to a try by replacement scrum half Andrew Cashman. It followed a break by Paddy Cleary who offloaded at the right moment to enable Cashman become the match winner.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers made an instant return to winning ways when they defeated Dungannon 33-20 in a hugely entertaining game at Dubarry Park, Athlone.

This clash commenced at break-neck speed and Dungannon led inside the first minute after Buccs were penalised direct from the kick-off for not releasing in front of the posts. Jaryd Bennett duly converted but the northerners' lead lasted less than three minutes.

A smart attack by the midlanderswas finished off by John O'Brien for a try at the posts which Jack Carty converted. Daniel Qualter caught the restart and offloaded deftly to man-of-the-match Shane Layden who stunned 'Gannon with a wonderful run for a stunning try on the right. Although Carty's conversion rebounded wide off the near upright, Buccs now led 12-3.

The Tyrone outfit responded to the challenge and Chris Cochrane stretched the home cover with some clever running to get in for an 11th minute try which ex-Bucc Bennett converted to reduce the arrears.

Despite the helter skelter nature of this contest, no further scores were added until the final quarter, although both Callum Threlfall and Kolo Kiripati were yellow carded in separate incidents in the opening half.

Bennett nosed Dungannon back in front with a 62nd minute penalty and Buccs were perhaps thinking they may rue a period of strong pressure before half-time that went unrewarded on the scoreboard.

However, Carty had them back in front with a penalty before quick hands got possession to Brian Tuohy on halfway and there was just no stopping the Connacht winger as he careered to the try-line for a 67th minute try which Carty converted.

Almost immediately a long testing kick by the out-half put pressure on Dungannon and Buccs forced a penalty which Carty slotted over for a 25-13 lead. Six minutes from time, Dungannon bullied their way over for an Ali Birch try to leave the game finely balanced at 25-20.

But Buccs were not to be denied victory and, when Threlfall made his second visit to the sin-bin, they set up a late try for replacement Conor Lavelle that earned the Pirates a bonus point and second place in the standings.

Galwegians' recent turnaround in fortunes continued at Crowley Park where they blitzed UCC for five tries, running out 41-18 winners. Connacht's Matthew Jarvis converted all five and also kicked two penalties, with in-form Barry Lee and captain John Cleary getting amongst the tries.

Over at Belfield, UCD won for the first time in three league outings as they got the better of UL Bohemians 24-20. Almost all of the damage was done in the first half with Ireland underage internationals Andrew Boyle and David Doyle crossing for tries.

The hosts' out-half Niall Earls completed his 14-point tally in the second half, but UL did manage to take a losing bonus point for the trip home - Martin McPhail. Dave Kilcoyne and skipper Ed Kelly were their try scorers.

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