Down were always going to be up against it when they faced Harlequins last Friday night, but they more than gave a good account of themselves.

They held out for 30 minutes, but once the Belfast side got its nose in front, it was always going to be a case of how many they would score. In the end, they hit five, but Down should have scored late on when Mark Elliott was in a great possession to score.

The home side was missing the influential Aaron Minnis from the heart of defence, but Down played well, keeping their opponents at bay  until five minutes before the interval when Chris Elder opened the scoring for the visitors after a free hit.

Before that, Down had weathered the storm, with the defence overworked at times, but dealing with everything that was being thrown at it.

In fact, the locals did pressurise the visitors but the final ball often let them down and they didnÕt pose any real threat in front of goal; something which they are going to have to work on over the remainder of the season.

Having gone just one goal in arrears at the break, Down were hopeful of keeping things tight in the second half, but after just five minutes Andy Smyth put Harlequins 2-0 ahead.

Cruelly for Down, Smyth's shot flew into the net past goalkeeper, Mark Johnson, courtesy of a rather wicked deflection off Sinclair White's stick.

The Belfast side, tipped to make a concerted bid for promotion this year, went 3-0 ahead when Chris Murphy scored and when Davy Simpson made it 4-0 there was simply no way back for Down.

Down's Chris Lennon and Paul Tate carved out a glorious chance for Elliott, but with the goal at his mercy, he pushed his shot past the wrong side of the post.

With five minutes to go Harlequins scored their fifth goal to send out a message to their title rivals that they mean business this season. The goal was scored by Robin Giggs who was allowed too much time in the penalty area and he had no trouble picking his sport past Johnston after Gary Tate lost possession.

Defeat for Down, but these are the games they have to learn from and while no one expected them to win, they can take many positives from the game, most notably the return from injury of Paul Tate and another outstanding performance from Alasdair Duff.

This Saturday they face Cliftonville in the Irish Senior Cup followed by an away trip to Queen's the following Saturday, then it's South Antrim at home, another must-win game.