A TRY deep in extra time gave Ballynahinch victory in a nail biting Towns’ Cup final at Kingspan Stadium on Easter Monday.
‘Hinch were trailing 13-10 when winger Chris Orr touched down in the corner and Chris Quinn’s difficult touchline conversion ensured the cup was on its way to Ballymacarn Park.
The victory meant Ballynahinch became the first club to win the Senior Cup, Junior Cup and Towns Cup in the same season — a season made all the better by the Ballynahinch ladies’ team winning the inaugural Ladies’ Junior Cup.
A sunny if breezy afternoon welcomed the travelling fans from Ballynahinch and Enniskillen at the Kingspan.
Ballynahinch had the luxury of home advantage — and changing room. This competition had seen Ballynahinch cut its teeth as a club over the years and continues to hold a deep meaning for ‘Hinch members.
Playing towards the Memorial end in the first half, ‘Hinch make excellent start and showed from the off that they intended to run with the ball in hand, with excellent breaks from Chris Orr and Aaron Ferris, backed up by big carries from flanker Brian Howard.
It was a cagey first half and the only score came via a seventh minute penalty from ‘Hinch full back Patrick Wright.
The match’s first real try-scoring opportunity came after 25 minutes when Wright burst through and passed to Orr, only for his opposite man Robert Balacoune, one of Enniskillen’s stand-out players, to track back and bundle him into touch.
Balacoune made a further try-saving tackle just two minutes later, this time on James McBriar, to thwart another threatening ‘Hinch attack initiated by a Graham McKitterick break from good hands by scrum half Jonny Murdock.
Further attacks came from the redoubtable centre Callum McLaughlin, who ran good lines off out half James McBriar.
Enniskillen’s best chance of the half came when full back Ashley Finlay made an outside break and found replacement Ricky Lee in support.
However, the move broke down a couple of phases later and ‘Hinch, who had clearly dominated the half, cleared the danger.
The second half was a much livelier affair. The Fermanagh men enjoyed a strong start after the interval and were rewarded with a penalty from the boot of Adam Lendrum to level the scores.
Enniskillen gained confidence from this score leveller and they recorded the opening try of the game on 55 minutes when an offload from Finlay sent Balacoune clear to dot down. Lendrum made no mistake with the conversion to push his team 10-3 ahead.
As ‘Skins continued to raise their game, Ben Pentland was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Finlay.
‘Hinch responded well and with only 14 men, raised their game to a new level.
Connor Phillips forced his way over over the try line after several big phases of play involving Gareth Gill, Stuart Orr and Andrew Weir, all marshalled by Chris Gibson, on at scrum Half. When Quinn converted the try, the sides were tied at 10-10.
Ballynahinch pushed for a late score in normal time but another fine tackle by Balacoune denied them again at the death as Paddy Wright was tackled into touch after good work by David Harris and the charging Callum McLaughlin.
The sides were still level at 10-10 at full time. Twenty minutes of extra time lay ahead, with the cup to be shared if they were still level on the final blow.
Enniskillen started extra time brightly and attacked into the ‘Hinch half. They were gifted an easy three points when Aaron Ferris was harshly penalised by referee David Horner for not releasing at the tackle and Lendrum coolly slotted over the penalty from over 40 metres out.
The County Fermanagh side were also dominating the scrum and causing the Hinch tight eight huge problems.
Ballynahinch hit back with a great spell of possession and reverted to solid and reliable phased play, working hard through all eight forwards as they inched their way up the pitch.
Enniskillen presented a solid defensive wall that consistently frustrated the Hinch attack. The rolling phases of play finally got to within inches of the Enniskillen try line, but the defensive effort held firm for the sustained period of pressure.
Chris Quinn saw a penalty attempt come back off the post, but after another period of huge effort from the ‘Hinch pack Gibson finally moved the ball to the left through McBriar’s hands to McLaughlin, before Orr clinched the title with a final solo effort to dot down in the corner.
Quinn added the gloss with a conversion and Ballynahinch had secured the Towns’ Cup to add to the club silverware haul so far this season.
Ballynahinch (15-1): Patrick Wright, Aaron Ferris, Callum McLaughlin, David Harris, Chris Orr, James McBriar, Jonny Murdock, Graham McKitterick, Keith Dickson, Brian Howard, Andy Simpson, Kenny Morton, Andrew Weir, Ben Pentland, Ben Cullen. Replacements: Stuart Orr, Conor Phillips, Gareth Gill, Chris Quinn, Chris Gibson.