Heartache in Junior Cup

Heartache in Junior Cup

9 January 2019

A RARE calm evening at Kingspan greeted the teams last Wednesday for this local derby to decide the destination of the Junior Cup.

Ballynahinch were at full strength as they aimed for a third consecutive and tenth overall title, while their neighbours were seeking a first title since their only success in 1939.

Dromore had the better of the early stages as the ‘Hinch line-out misfired, but turned down a kick for goal to go for a catch-and-drive from five metres out only for Matt McKelvey to steal the ball.

Further Dromore pressure was broken by an excellent break from hooker Clayton Milligan, which eventually led to a ‘Hinch penalty after a high tackle on centre Paddy Wright. Skipper Matthew Norton knocked over the kick to give his team the lead.

Dromore missed a long range penalty moments later and continued to pile on the pressure only for veteran Aaron Ferris to execute a perfect choke tackle to earn a turnover.

‘Hinch continued to be careless in possession and Dromore threatened to score after an Aaron Stewart break, but knocked the ball on.

However, they scored an unconverted try from a tremendous driving maul to take the lead on 20 minutes.

The Ballynahinch line-out continued to have problems and they wasted several attacking opportunities by turning over possession. However, a strong scrum lead to an Eamon McAnulty half break and when winger Johnny McCoubrey was tackled from an offside position Norton added another three points to retake the lead.

Tom Martin went clean through from the restart, but a superb clearance from David Lyttle took Dromore back to halfway where they stole another line-out and surged forward to earn another penalty, but scrum half Lee Steenson continued to have problems off the tee and left it badly short.

Another ‘Hinch mistake — this time a charged down box kick — gave Dromore another crack at the ‘Hinch line before half time and despite blowing a line-out they turned ‘Hinch over in midfield and after a series of drives spread it wide. 

Ferris read it well, but his attempted intercept was knocked on and the referee took the view that it was deliberate and prevented a certain try, running under the posts to 

award Dromore a penalty try and carding the winger on the half time whistle with Dromore leading 12-6.

Early Dromore pressure came to nothing after the restart and a stunning 40-metre break from prop Kelvin Hamilton earned 14-man ‘Hinch some much-needed time in Dromore territory.

However, Dromore exploited the extra man from a scrum and made excellent yards to offer their forwards another chance to batter the line. Number 8 Ben Heath eventually went over and Steenson converted to give his team what looked like an unassailable 19-6 lead.

An excellent Norton touch-finder gave Ballynahinch a five-metre line-out, but again Dromore stole possession and were able to clear.

‘Hinch then produced their best spell of the match to score an excellent team try. Backs and forwards interlinked to eventually send substitute winger Ronan Patterson over in the corner.

Norton’s conversion bounced back off the bar, but Hinch now had their tails up as the big Dromore forwards started to tire.

Another multi-phase move ended with Ferris being tackled just short. The Dromore lineout continued to creak and Clayton Milligan led another ‘Hinch charge, but a relieving turnover allowed Dromore to reset after ten minutes of solid Hinch pressure.

Ferris then made a blockbusting break from his own 22 and after linking with Milligan was brought down just short of the Dromore line.

An infringement at the ruck led to a Dromore yellow card and an easy Norton penalty. ‘Hinch looked like favourites at just five points behind.

Overplaying from the kick-off turned the tables straight away and Steenson slotted a penalty to make it a two score game again at 22-14.

A massive Dromore scrum ignited their support and their forwards retook control of the game.

To their credit, back came ‘Hinch and Ferris scored from a crossfield kick as the game moved into injury time.

Norton missed the conversion, but there was still time for another ‘Hinch break with excellent hands from Hamilton sending winger Johnny McCoubrey up the line.

Successive infringements allowed more ‘Hinch pressure, but Dromore eventually turned over possession and kicked the ball out to claim a first Junior Cup for eighty years.

Ballynahinch will regret their line-out troubles as they made much better use of what little possession they had and when they upped the tempo in the second half Dromore visibly creaked.

However, the best team undoubtedly won and it was a great advert for junior rugby.

Ballynahinch II 19

Dromore 22