Harlequins signal intent

 

All-Ireland League Round-up: Officially, Andy Ward is still Ulster captain; he does not officially take over as director of rugby at Belfast Harlequins until the summer. In fact though - given Andre Bester's departure to Rotherham - the Kiwi can hardly leave his new club rudderless, especially when they are contenders to win their first AIB League title.

Saturday's 22-17 victory over UCD, which killed off the students' aspirations of making the top four, all but guaranteed a second successive semi-final. It took two opportunist tries from John Anderson to kill off the home side but their forwards frustrated UCD's momentum when the students were chasing the game in the second half.

Also, in Ian Humphreys, they have a player who is maturing into a quality outhalf. Humphreys has developed a kicking game to go with his natural ability to run a backline. Just before the break, he attacked the short side, chipped the cover and collected to touch down. You never would have guessed he had just returned from Irish Sevens duty in Hong Kong. His conversion made it 10-3 and despite tries from Stephen Grissing and Brian O'Riordan, UCD never looked capable of clawing back the deficit.

The result puts Harlequins third, hot on the heels of Garryowen - who ended Cork Constitution's season with a 28-5 drubbing at Dooradoyle, inspired by Gerry Hurley - and a home semi-final spot on April 30th.

Still, with two rounds remaining Shannon are hot favourites to retain their crown. Clontarf, the other likely semi-finalists, attempted to challenge this notion in Limerick on Saturday but second-half tries from Stephen Keogh and Brian Tuohy, and the boot of Dave Delaney, ensured a 26-17 victory.

Ballymena still have a slim chance of making the play-offs after they blitzed Galwegians 40-13, three of their five tries coming from Scott Young.

County Carlow moved off the bottom, at the expense of the idle Lansdowne, by beating Blackrock 32-27 at Oak Park. Richie Murphy's 22-point haul meant Blackrock's first four-try display of the season proved fruitless.

Dungannon and Dublin University played out a 22-all draw at Stevenson Park, with Ajay Subherwal's two tries condemning the students to a fourth draw of the season.