Right when they needed it, Belfast Harlequins delivered their first bonus point win of the campaign as the still basement side’s battle to escape relegation received a timely boost at Deramore as they now trail Shannon and Malone by just two points.
Their 38-7 result over UL Bohemians was as resounding as the scoreline suggests with Quins scoring five tries to end a sequence of four straight defeats and Ulster squad member Michael Heaney leading the way with 16 of their final total thanks to a try, conversion and three penalties.
It was also fitting that Quins produced such a convincing performance at the end of a week which had seen former player Fintan Hillyard pass away after illness and the club retired the number 13 shirt as a tribute to him with Mark Best - who had a powerful game despite being sin-binned - wearing number 21.
Quins had led 26-7 at half-time after two tries from stand-out winger David McMaster and a single touchdown from skipper Danny Annett with the bonus point score arriving from Heaney in the second half while the last play of the game saw fellow Ulster player Rory Scholes dot down under the sticks before converting it himself.
The home side even managed to avoid conceding any second half points despite losing Best and then impressive flanker Oliver Loughead to the bin in the 42nd and 72nd minutes.
Afterwards, Quins coach Adam Larkin was clearly relieved at having got the all-important result, only their third win from 10 games, and praised his injury-ravaged squad - Quins have been bedevilled by a mounting list of walking wounded in their backline - for their efforts on what had also been an emotional day for the club.
“It was a good way to kick off the second round of games,” said Larkin after Quins had played the Limerick men for the second time and had a better outcome than was the case back in September.
“And it was nice that the Ulster guys came back and they did a fantastic job and lifted everyone,” the coach added, referring to the released Heaney, Scholes and Neil McComb who each contributed much to the overall effort.
“It’s been a difficult week for the team and they have responded in an ideal way.”
Even though Quins led 26-7 at the break, the coach still felt that his side would have to produce a significant shift in their defensive work if they were going to manage only their third win in 10 AIL games.
“The word at half-time was that defence was going to win this game and we showed that in the second half after we came out,” Larkin said.
“And as I say it was a nice way to start round two and we’ve got Ballymena in a couple of week so it’s a great springboard for that.”
Larkin also praised the efforts of flanker Loughead but also made mention of the way winger Peter Dunlop unselfishly created the second of the home side’s scores for McMaster, which was the pick of the day after a sweeping move.
“There were lots of good performances around the park and he (Loughead) wasn’t the only guy to shine and the backs scored some lovely tries with an unselfish winger passing (Dunlop) to the other winger and that’s nice.”
As for whether Quins can now rescue themselves, Larkin was hopeful.
“Yes, we hope so, but it’s the usual story we can only take it week by week.”