ALL IRELAND RUGBY: Big win is not enough for Belfast Harlequins to avoid relegation

Belfast Harlequins' Conor Young.
Belfast Harlequins' Conor Young.


Belfast Harlequins dramatically battled back to beat Old Wesley and win only their second game of the campaign but it still wasn’t enough to avoid what had already seemed inevitable relegation from Division 1B

Quins - who have two games remaining - had what seemed an impossible task to overhaul UL Bohemians to avoid automatic relegation and, with the Limerick side winning against Dolphin, Adam Larkin’s squad took the drop despite racking up an impressive and deserved bonus point victory at Deramore in an eight try thriller.

Play-off chasing Old Wesley - who made off with two valuable points - opened the scoring after 14 minutes when second row Josh Hinde burst through to score with Barry McLaughlin converting.

But Quins - who finished the game reduced to 13 men - hit back after 22 minutes when replacement back rower Ben Alexander got over following some good approach work from Mark Kettyle - who still played after his wife had given birth earlier in the day - and Mark Best.

Best converted to tie the scores at 7-7 but the visitors again took the lead just on the half hour when Hinde again scored and McLaughlin converting.

Once more, though, Quins responded and a lovely dink through by Kettyle saw Best pounce on the ball over the line. However, Best failed to convert leaving Quins trailing 14-12.

Wesley then increased their lead to 19-12 right on half-time when Quins coughed up possession and winger Paul Harte made the corner with McLaughlin missing the difficult conversion.

Shortly after the restart, the visitors claimed their bonus point after McLaughlin scored in the corner but was, again, unable to convert. STill at 24-12 in front, Wesley looked comfortable for the win.

But the struggling Deramore side had other ideas and lovely hands from Kettyle resulted in flanker Olly Loughead crossing the line and Best adding a super conversion to reduce Wesley’s lead to 24-19.

The home side then continued their comeback and claimed their own try bonus when Loughead charged down a clearance kick to score his second and bring Quins their own try bonus.

Best slotted another marvellous conversion to nudge Quins into a 26-24 lead and then banged over a long range penalty with 10 minutes remaining.

But Larkin’s men ended up under huge pressure in the closing minutes with first Loughead and then sub hooker Paul Jackson both yellow-carded by female referee Helen O’Reilly.

They held out, though, and claimed the five points which still saw them go down.