Though clearly delighted that his side had emphatically secured their place in Division 1B for another season by producing their second successive bonus point win in seeing off Corinthians 52-18, at a sun-kissed Gibson Park, coach Jacques Benade was already looking ahead to next season’s task.
With Malone having dangerously flirted with the drop before finishing up in eighth and just outside the relegation zone, just four points ahead of Blackrock College, Benade was keen to emphasise that the club need to avoid a repeat performance next season.
“We need to move on,” the coach said as the celebrations got under way in earnest at Gibson Park.
“At the end of last year we lost about 13 starting players so this was always going to be a very difficult season for us.
“Our main target was to stay up and we knew we needed to build. We have a very young side and a very new side.
“Obviously, we were hoping that we would maybe click a wee bit earlier, and not as late as we did, but it was always going to be hard year for us.
“We hope we can move on from this and not be sitting in this position again,” Benade, who has signed up for another two years, said.
As for Saturday’s game, Benade felt that the gaping scoreline somewhat flattered his charges but he was still fulsome in his praise for their efforts and the six tries which were scored, with four coming in the second half with Corinthians down to 14 men on two occasions during the second 40 minutes.
But it had not just been so easy for the home side in the first half which saw them only lead 15-6 - after tries for Michael Barker and skipper Neil Alcorn - and end the half with Nathan Brown in the bin just as news filtered through that Blackrock were winning well against UL Bohemians.
“Yes, the first 10 minutes of the second half were vital for us. I had just said ‘don’t concede any points’ but they scored a good try,” stated Benade.
“We had gone up really well at 15-3 and then we had two missed scoring opportunities which would have maybe won it for us and allowed us go into the second half much more comfortably.
“But I think there were a lot of nerves out there as well,” he said of the fact that a non-bonus point defeat would have sent Malone down.
“Maybe when they scored early in the second half we knew we had to lift our game,” the coach added.
Certainly replacement Josh Pentland’s place-kicking assisted in steadying the ship to make it 21-13 after 51 minutes and then the excellent Peter Henderson got the first of his attention-grabbing brace with Pentland’s conversion taking Malone to a much more reassuring 28-13.
The bonus point was duly secured when Alcorn’s kick out of his own 22, after Pentland’s last-gasp tackle on the line had seen Corinthians spill the ball, was hacked on by Henderson who won the race to a spectacular touchdown.
The later scores from Alcorn - his second - and the tireless Richard Millar merely added to Malone’s celebrations at producing the result.
Even so, Benade also singled out his side’s defensive grafting in paving the way for the victory.
“Our defence won it for us and we capitalised well on their mistakes and we managed to score from them.
“Things didn’t go our way (this season). We lost games by one or two points so we know we were close and if we can build on that and bring a few new players in then we can do better,” added Benade after a job well done.