Despite a late rally Malone came away wit 2 crucial league points
Despite a late rally Malone came up short in Cork against 2nd place Highfield. The East Belfast side clawed back a 34 - 14 deficit to score two late
Match report compiled by George Millar
Despite a late rally Malone came up short in Cork against 2nd place Highfield. The East Belfast side clawed back a 34 - 14 deficit to score two late converted tries to leave Woodleigh Park with two crucial league points.
An early injury to Ulster Academy full back Jack Owens required Michael Barker to come off the bench to take his place on the wing with Andy Bryan's moving to full back.
Highfield wasted no time in dominating the opening twenty minutes as they built up a 14 - 0 through two converted tries. It was a case of the Malone defence attempting to curtail the onslaught from the Highfield forwards. There was some reprieve for Paddy Armstrong's team as centre Michael Cartmill scored a try with Mark O'Connor converting to reduce the home sides lead to 14 - 7. It looked as if Malone had contained the Cork side to halftime. A misunderstanding over time played resulted in Malone kicking the ball into touch close to their own line. The referee indicated that there was still two minutes to play. Highfield took advantage of this unexpected opportunity to score another converted try to increase their halftime lead to 21 - 7.
The Cork side increased their lead to 24 - 7 early in the second half with a converted penalty to leave the Gibson Park team trailing by three scores. Malone then lost second row Josh Davidson to a yellow card. Highfield used the one man advantage to increase their lead to 29 - 7 with their 4th try and gain the valuable try scoring bonus point.
This Malone side has showed a lot of character on the road this season with Captain Neil Alcorn touching down for his teams 2nd try with O'Connor converting. Highfield wasted no time in adding their 5th try to increase their lead to a commanding 34 - 14.
Would the East Belfast side leave Cork with nothing to show for their efforts. In a pulsating final five minutes further tries from Phil Lucas and Andy Bryan's both converted by Mark O'Connor reduced the Highfield lead to 34 - 28. Unfortunately there was to be no fairytale finish with the Malone having to be satisfied with the losing two league points.
The result leaves Malone in 4th place level on 52 pts points with 3rd place Nenagh Ormond with one match to play. Banbridge remain in 1st place on 60 pts with Highfield in 2nd place on 58 pts.
With the final regular matches to be played on Saturday 15th April.
Banbridge are away to Sunday's Well who will finish in 9th place six points behind 8th place Galway Corinthians.
Highfield are away to Queens Uni who are in 5th place.
Nenagh Ormond are home to relegated Belfast Harlequins.
Malone are home to 7th place Cashel who defeated Nenagh Ormond 13 - 10 on Friday night.
You would expect the top three teams to pick up a maximum five points from their fixtures. Malone are 12 points ahead of 5th place Queens Uni and will probably have to play the team that finishes 9th in Div 1B away from home in the semi final playoff match.
If Banbridge win next Sat they will secure automatic promotion to Div 1B next season with the 2nd place team at home to the 3rd place team in the playoff semi final.
With Dolphin defeating Old Wesley 22 - 10 at Irish Independent Park we have Galwegians dropping down into 10th place on 28 pts. Dolphin are in 9th place on 30 pts. Ballymena are in 8th place on 34 pts with Shannon in 7th place on 35 pts. With five points separating the bottom four teams there will be plenty to play for next Saturday.
Dolphin are away to 2nd place UL Bohs who need points to remain in 2nd place and secure home advantage in the playoffs.
Galwegians are home to 3rd place Naas who are two points behind 2nd place UL Bohs.
Ballymena are home to 7th place Shannon.
I understand the semi finals of the playoffs will take place on the 22nd April with the Final on Saturday the 29th April.
There will be no shortage of excitement in the final All Ireland League matches next Saturday starting with Malone hosting Cashel at Gibson Park. All support welcome.