Down recorded their highest ever win over derby rivals Saintfield at Malone Park last weekend.

The home side did all the damage in the first half, leading 5-1 at the interval when the game was effectively over as a contest. But Saintfield had only themselves to blame for the deficit given the number of clear-cut chances they created in the opening 12 minutes.

The visitors had three early opportunities to score and squandered every one of them through very poor finishing. Before Down had scored the first of their eight goals, Saintfield could and probably should have been ahead.

The fact Down won so comprehensively in the end was as a result of their clinical finishing with Mark Elliott and Chris Taylor both grabbing hat-tricks and Aaron Ferris weighing in with a brace.

Both sides were not at full strength, although Down were able to hand first starts of the season to both Ferris and Sinclair White, with the latter making a big impression in the middle of the park alongside Gavin Ringland.

Taylor fired wide in the third minute after good work by White, but the clearest chance of the opening period fell to Saintfield's Gavin Kirkpatrick whose effort was saved by Jeremy McCready. When the ball broke to Mark Tate, his shot blasted against the sideboard.

Down took the lead in the sixth minute with a scintillating finish from Ferris whose pace caused problems for the Saintfield back four all afternoon. He collected a free from Taylor and ghosting into the circle he drilled the ball into the corner of the net from the acutest of angles.

Within a minute Saintfield should have been level. Greg Burns made ground down the right and his crossed picked out Gavin Kirkpatrick but his weak shot was easily dealt with by McCready. Two minutes later, Philip Cheevers, who was again very impressive for the home side, cleared the danger with a little help from James Ferguson.

Davy Hobbs moved forward with menace in the 10th minute and slipped the ball to Craig Harkness but as he was about to move inside the Down penalty area, Cheevers swooped to clear. A minute later Harkness found himself unmarked in the penalty area, but his weak shot was kicked clear by McCready.

Down were pegged back in their own half at this stage and Saintfield's Gavin Kirkpatrick has yet another chance to score, but his shot from point-blank range was again saved by McCready.

The misses proved costly as Down went 2-0 ahead in the 13th minute with Taylor teeing up Elliott who gave Saints 'keeper Alastair Patterson no chance with a crisp finish.

Within seconds of scoring Ferris made his way goalwards, but was robbed of possession by Conor Ferguson. Down's Cliff Lennon then got his head down to bomb forward but was well tackled by Harkness. White, who looked as though he had never been away, drilled a superb ball across the Saintfield penalty area in the 14th minute but none of his team mates could get on the end of it.

Ringland then cleared from Tate in the 16th minute, but within 60 seconds the Saintfield striker did find the back of the net with a crisp shot into the corner of the net.

Down were awarded a short corner in the 20th minute when Ringland's goal-bound shot struck Nigel Jackson on the foot and from the resultant set piece, Taylor made it 3-1 with a crisp finish. Two minutes later Down led 4-1 with Elliott again proving why he is one of the most feared strikers in the league with a great finish.

Saintfield were shell-shocked at this stage but they continued to fight as only they know how and Jackson was left holding his head in his hands in the 24th minute when his goal-bound short corner shot struck the base of the post and rebounded harmlessly to safety.

Jackson then gave away possession at the other end to Elliott with the Down man slipping the ball to Ferris whose shot on the reverse flew inches wide. Two minutes later the home side made it 5-1 with an outstanding goal.

Ringland's aerial ball from deep inside his own half picked out Taylor who drove forward and when he looked up he picked out Elliott at the back post with a precision pass and the Down man tapped home. Ferris then almost made it 6-1 minutes later, but Burns robbed him of possession.

On the stroke of half-time Conor Ferguson had a great opportunity to make it 5-2 but his shot was well saved by McCready who was proving an immovable barrier as far as the visitors were concerned.

Three minutes into the second period and Down scored again to lead 6-1. Elliott caught Hobbs napping, nipping the ball off his stick to send Ferris clear and his shot gave the cruelly exposed Patterson no chance.

Jackson's drag flick effort in the 40th minute was palmed away by McCready and then James Erskine had to be alert to clear from Mark Tate.

Jackson had to be alert to keep out Elliott in the 53rd minute while three minutes later Hobbs picked out the unmarked Gavin Kirkpatrick at the back post but it wasn’t his day as his shot, not for the first time, was saved by McCready.

Ferris and White combined to set up Elliott with 10 minutes to go, with the striker keeping his cool to complete his hat-trick and make it 7-1.

But there was more to come and with six minutes to go Taylor swept the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick after great work by his strike partner Elliott.