A cold afternoon at Deramore, brought together Belfast Harlequins and the Perennials in with both teams delivering a highly entertaining match, in front of enthusiastic spectators.
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Injuries and unavailability reduced the playing numbers on both sides, giving several players the opportunity to play the full 4 quarters – something Denis Fusco will relish when he recovers, along with Mark Goldsbrough who had just finished a 70 mile cycle ride.
Ricky McIlmoyle nearly kicked off for the Perennials, with the ball just about crossing the half way line, so back for the scrum. Quins then scored with only 3 minutes on the clock and things were looking ominous for the Perennials, however as the Perennials settled down, Davy Wilson finished off a break which he had started in his own 22, to level the score.
In the second quarter the Perennials played some great team rugby. Tries from Maurice Field, Graham Kitchen and another from Davy Wilson, opened up a 4 tries to 1 lead, at the end of the second quarter.
Quins pulled a try back at the start of the third quarter, but a further try from Davy Wilson to complete his hat-trick and a great run by Neil Murphy down the right wing with a slip pass to Kevin Simpson to score under the posts, extended the Perennials lead to 6 tries to 3 at the end of the third session..
Quins scored twice in the final quarter to reduce the deficit, however tries from Ricky McIlmoyle and a second from Kevin Simpson, left the final score 8 tries to 4.
This day however, was all about the return of Terry McCracken to the rugby world. Our President Philip Parker welcomed Terry, his wife and children to the game and presented them with the gift of a family holiday break. Terry made a very moving speech, both emotional and humorous, and thanked the staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital, his family, the rugby fraternity and the Perennials for all the support and good wishes he had been given. Both captains, Stewart Porter and Martin Malseed continued the theme, that the day was all about Terry.
Many thanks to referee Tim Lowry who also had a great game; just as well. as he was being assessed by the chairman of the Ulster Referees and fellow Perennial, David Armstrong.
Finally, thanks to Harlequins for hosting the match and to Bernie McGrath for dishing up a first class meal.