With just two games to go Pegasus have one hand on the Hockey League trophy after maintaining their six-point advantage over Loreto at the top of the table on Saturday.
The Belfast side beat Cork Harlequins 3-0 at Queens to edge ever closer to the title. And Greg Thompson’s side will expect to seal that title in their next game when they play bottom club Muckross at home on Saturday week.
Their defeat by Pegasus a fortnight ago, followed by draws with Belfast Harlequins and UCD, all but scuppered Loreto’s hopes of pipping their rivals to the crown, but they did at least return to winning ways on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Old Alexandra.
First-quarter goals from internationals Sarah Torrans and Nicci Daly sent them on their way, Sarah Clarke's late penalty corner strike securing the win after Emma Russell had narrowed Loreto's advantage.
Pegasus, meanwhile, eased to victory over Cork Harlequins, Lucy McKee and Ruth Maguire putting them 2-0 up by half-time before Alex Speers fired home from a penalty corner on the hour mark. A Lorna Bateman save from a penalty stroke prevented the margin of victory from being even more comfortable.
Defending Hockey League champions UCD lost further ground on the top two when they were beaten by Pembroke Wanderers, Gillian Pinder’s penalty stroke deciding the game after UCD’s Abbie Russell had cancelled out the early lead Hayley O’Donnell gave the home side.
That win keeps Pembroke in the hunt for a top-four finish, with only Pegasus and Loreto so far mathematically certain of qualification for the Champions Trophy.
The next two spots are now between UCD (on 30 points with three games to play), Cork Harlequins (27 points with two games left) and Pembroke (23 points with four games to go), Cork having picked up a win from their second game of the weekend when they beat Ards 4-1 up north on Sunday.
Champions Trophy qualification is out of reach for Belfast Harlequins, Railway Union and Old Alexandra, while Ards and Muckross continue to battle it out to avoid automatic relegation – Ards, still four points ahead of Muckross (having played one game more), remain the favourites to go in to a play-off.
Hockey League - Saturday: Pembroke Wanderers 2 (H O'Donnell, G Pinder pen), UCD 1 (A Russell); Loreto 3 (S Torrans, N Daly, S Clarke), Old Alexandra 1 ( E Russell); Pegasus 3 (L McKee, R Maguire, A Speers), Cork Harlequins 0; Ards 2 (B McEwen, F Kidd), Belfast Harlequins 3 (L Geddes, J Watt, G Frazer); Railway Union 2 (K Lloyd, H de Burgh White), Muckross 1 (S Cannon). Sunday: Ards 1 (F Brown), Cork Harlequins 4 (C Sargent, A O'Grady, Y O'Byrne, N Barry).