Malone claim bonus point victory at home against Cashel
Malone claim bonus point victory at home against Cashel winning by 45-15
Report compiled by George Millar
In near perfect playing conditions the well attended game at Gibson Park did not disappoint the watching spectators.
Malone went on to dominate the opening 15 minutes with the early efforts of the home backs and forwards repelled by a well organised Cashel defence. Several handling errors in good attacking positions denied the home side early scores. In one of the first visits by Cashel into the home twenty two Malone centre Michael Cartmill was penalised for a deliberate knock on by referee Helen O'Reilly and sent to sin bin. What appeared to be a straight forward penalty was pushed wide by Cashel scrum half McGlinchey. Despite being a player down the Malone team denied their visitors any opportunities with the hard working second row pairing of Josh Davidson and James McAllister being very effective in the tackle area.
Cashel continued to impress with their number 8 K Murphy carrying deep into the Malone cover. A series of penalties resulted in McGlinchey giving his team a 3 - 0 lead against the run of play after 25 minutes.
The Malone response was immediate with Phil Lucas and Mark McCrea creating openings. Good hands by McCrea put fullback Andy Bryan's through for a well executed try converted by Mark O'Connor to give the East Belfast side a 7 - 3 lead.
Cashel came back and it took an excellent turnover by Josh Davidson at the breakdown to allow the home team to clear their lines. With the halftime whistle approaching Malone were to score two quick tries in quick succession. The first came with Lucas, Davidson and hooker Dan Kerr putting winger Mark O'Connor away. Once again an excellent pass put Andy Bryan's in for his second try with O'Connor again adding the points. With Cartmill restored in the centre he was able to make a decisive break supported by Alcorn, Cave and Fitzpatrick to allow out half Callum Smith to stretch his legs and touch down for his teams third try with O'Connor again adding the points to leave Malone leading 21 - 3 at halftime.
Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong made a number of changes with Connor Spence replacing Shane Kelly at scrum half, Gary Crawford replacing prop Philip Eadie and Michael Barker replacing Mark O'Connor. Cashel were not giving up and exerted the early pressure with back row J Ryan touching down to reduce the Malone lead to 21 - 8. We did not have to wait long on the next try from the home side. Again it was the powerful running of centre Mark McCrea who was able to shrug off two would be tacklers to score his teams fourth try and the bonus point with Callum Smith unable to convert. Both teams continued to ring the changes with Max Porter coming on in the back row and Lee Barlow replacing Dane Fitzpatrick in the front row.
One key feature of the Malone play was the influence their 18 year old out half Callum Smith was having on the game. His probing runs and distribution were creating considerable difficulties for the visitors defence. The 5th Malone try came after some terrific handling involving Cartmill, Barker, Cave and Lewis to put second row James McAllister in for a well deserved try converted by Smith.
The never say die attitude of the Cashel team kept the Malone team on their guard. Eventually the County Tipperary team got over for their second try after a handling error by Malone with McGlinchey adding the points to reduce the Malone lead to 31 - 15.
As with previous Cashel scores Malone bounced straight back. Prop Lee Barlow carried deep to create the space for full back Andy Bryan's to complete his hat-trick of tries with Smith converting to increase the Malone lead to 38 - 15.
Cashel continued to press but once they conceded possession to the Malone back division there was only one out come. Again a passage of play involving Smith, Cartmill and Bryan's opened up the Cashel cover. Winger Nathan Brown some how held a pass to touch down for his teams 7th try converted from the touchline by Smith to increase his teams lead to 45 - 15. Once again Cashel came back strongly to attack the Malone line only for a knock on to end a pulsating second half and leave Malone deserving winners.
What can you say about this Malone squad they suffered defeats at Banbridge and Highfield only to keep coming back and securing 4th place and a semi final playoff against Dolphin.
It is difficult to pick out a man of the match. From the front five of Dane Fitzpatrick. Dan Kerr, Phil Eadie, James McAllister and Josh Davidson to the back row of Dave Cave, Phil Lucas and Captain Neil Alcorn through to half backs Shane Kelly and Callum Smith and the ever impressive centre pairing of Mark McCrea and Michael Cartmill along with a threequarters of Nathan Brown, Mark O'Connor and full back Any Bryan's not to forget replacements Lee Barlow, Gary Crawford, Max Porter, Connor Spence and Michael Barker who all played their part in the teams final home win at Gibson Park this season.
On this occasion I would have to give it to Andy Bryan's. He is a much improved player this season and fully deserved his three tries.
A lot of credit has to go to the coaching team of Paddy Armstrong, Josh Pentland, Mark McCrea and Mark Taylor who have turned around the fortunes of the 1st xv since they were relegated from Div 1B in 2014/15. This was to be a season of rebuilding that has seen the playing squad progress to the playoffs.
Dolphin will be a difficult opponents having defeated two of the top four teams in Div 1B Old Wesley and UL Bohs in their last two UBL matches. Having looked certain to be relegated Dolphin have won 5/6 of their last UBL games with their only defeat coming against Div 1 B league champions Buccaneers. Ballymena were defeated 18 -16 at Irish Independent Park by Dolphin three weeks ago.
At the time of going to press the match with Dolphin at Irish Independent Park has been arranged for Sunday 23rd April with a 2PM kick off followed by the Sunday's Well playoff match with Old Crescent kicking off at 4PM.
I now understand that there is a possibility that the Dolphin v Malone will be switched to Sat 22nd April with kick off time to be confirmed.
Supporters looking to attend the match should keep in contact with the club through the club's website/Facebook page. I understand match arrangements will be confirmed in the next 24 hours.
For all Malone Supporters make sure you get along to support the seconds against Cooke in their McCrea Cup Final at the Kingspan stadium on Easter Monday kick off 12.30PM.