Malone put in a great display but Dolphin get the win
A late intercept try saw Dolphin take an unassailable lead and win their playoff game against a determined Malone team
It was heartbreak for Malone at Irish Independent Park. Despite going behind 13 - 3 after 20 mins the Malone 'Red Sox' showed their resolve to put in a tremendous performance to narrow the Dolphin lead to 13 - 8 after 68 mins. In their pursuit of the winning score with two minutes left, Dolphin intercepted a Malone pass to break away and add seven points to win 20 - 8.
As Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong put it, you need the 'Rub of the Green' to win these knock out matches.
Both teams exchanged early penalties with Barry Keeshan for Dolphin and Mark O'Connor for Malone. Dolphin were to make the decisive breakthrough after 18 mins with number 8 Will Hanley touching down in the left hand corner for Keeshan to add the points and increase his teams lead to 13- 3 after 26 mins with a further penalty.
How would this Malone team respond. Their cause was not helped after 30 mins when referee Joy Neville yellow carded Malone second row James McAllister. Despite a one man advantage Dolphin could not capitalise to leave the halftime score 13 - 3 in favour of the home side.
After spending 14 mins in the sin bin James McAllister returned to the action as the Malone team went in search of the next score to keep the team in the match.
The Malone supporters had to wait until the 68th minute when Captain and number 8 Neil Alcorn powered his way over for a well deserved try to narrow the Dolphin lead to 13 - 8 with 12 mins to go. With Malone pressing on the Dolphin line their was heartbreak for the players as a pass was intercepted to enable Dolphin to break away and score the decisive try with Keeshan adding the points to leave Dolphin flattering winners by 20 - 8.
There will be disappointment that this Malone squad did not make it through to the play off final, with Nenagh Ormond upsetting the odds to win 13 - 9 at Highfield. Dolphin will be favourites to win the play off final at home against Nenagh Ormond next Saturday the 29th April.
With Armagh favourites to join Malone and Queens in Div 2A next season there is a familiar look to this Division with Banbridge being promoted to Div 1B and Greystones joining the teams after winning Div 2B. Once again the standard of the teams has not been diminished in this Division. The task ahead for Malone in their 125th Anniversary season will be a daunting one. Having monitored the leagues it is crucial teams position themselves in the top four before the Xmas break to win the automatic promotion place and make the playoffs.
What was regarded as a season of transition for new Head coach Paddy Armstrong; what we witnessed instead was the early season galvanising of a young playing squad who came up just short in stepping up to Division One rugby. Malone RFC have confirmed their coaching team for next season with Paddy Armstrong continuing as Head coach assisted by Josh Pentland, Chris Henry and Mark Taylor. A terrific effort with the club hoping to strengthen their playing squad for next season.
Well done to the coaches and players, not only have they entertained us with their style of rugby, it is pleasing to see the large numbers of club members and supporters who have been getting behind the team this season. There is a positivity about the club and this is down to the committed band of club administrators and volunteers who are to be thanked for their commitment and dedication throughout the season. The rugby playing season maybe over but the work continues to ensure this progress is built on in preparation for the clubs 125th anniversary season.