Hot Ballynahinch tearaways

Hot Ballynahinch tearaways

10 January 2018

DESPITE the bitterly cold conditions a bumper crowd turned out to watch this Ulster derby between two teams at the opposite ends of the 1B table. 

Ballymena were desperate for a win which would ease the threat of relegation, while Ballynahinch knew that a win was crucial if they wanted to stay in the hunt for promotion to Division 1A. 

The Braidmen were virtually at full strength, bolstered by the inclusion of Calum Patterson, Brett Herron, David Shanahan, John Andrew and Ross Kane from the Ulster squad.

Ballynahinch were boosted by the return of club captain James Simpson and John Donnan at lock forward while Peter Nelson was an able replacement for Jonny McPhillips at outside half. 

Player coach Tom Rock stepped in to deputise for the injured Rory Butler in midfield and Aaron Cairns captained the side from scrum half.

Ballymena played away from the clubhouse with a strong breeze at their back, but failed to use it well as ‘Hinch dominated the first half both in territory and possession. 

The score of 6-3 in their favour after 25 minutes did not reflect how well they had coped with the wind in their faces and how little Ballymena had offered in attack. 

A superbly created try for Richard Reaney took them further ahead. Veteran centre Stuart Morrow smashed his man in midfield, dislodging the ball.

Quick hands found a charging Zack McCall and he put Peter Nelson away up the left touchline. After rounding the full back Nelson passed inside for Reaney to score and stretch the lead to eight points.

The conversion was missed and ‘Hinch coughed up an easy penalty at the scrum, having failed to gather the restart.

Herron slotted the three points to leave his side just five points adrift.

Despite losing influential lock David Whann to the bin for killing the ball, Ballymena finished the half strongly, camping on the ‘Hinch line for the final five minutes, but were spurned by resolute defence from the home side to leave the score 11-6 at the break.

Early in the second half Conal Boomer made a great break and put boot to ball as he tried to tee up a score for the charging McCall, but Patterson did brilliantly to get back and dot the ball down. 

Minutes later McCall got the score his all-round game deserved after another break from Boomer almost put Reaney in. He was stopped short of the line and McCall was on hand to score when the ball was recycled. Reaney converted to make it 18-6.

With the game drifting away from them the Ballymena forwards hammered away at the ‘Hinch defence and after multiple phases they were eventually held up over the line. 

Following a scuffle, the game was restarted with a Ballymena 5m scrum. ‘Hinch defended the attack well and looked to have weathered the storm until a weak tackle from Rock allowed Herron through to score. He converted to take the score to 18-13 and Ballymena were right back in the game.

Cairns ended the game as a contest with a brilliant individual try from 40 metres out. He broke from a ruck and torched the backfield defence to score, despite the best efforts of Ballymena captain and former ‘Hinch man Rodger McBurney. 

Reaney converted for a 25-13 scoreline and added a further penalty to put the game beyond doubt as the home side closed out the match in relative comfort to solidify second place in the table as other results went their way. 

Ballynahinch have seven games to play and the promotion race looks like going to the wire. 

Ballynahinch: Jerry Cronin, Zack McCall, Stuart Orr, James Simpson, John Donnan, Keith Dickson, Josh Donaldson, Conall Boomer, Aaron Cairns, Peter Nelson, Richard Reaney, Tom Rock, Stuart Morrow, David Busby, Conor Kelly. Replacements: Clayton Milligan, Campbell Classons, Chris Gibson, Paddy Wright, Brian Howard.

Ballynahinch 28

Ballymena 13