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Hinch Battle In First All Ireland League Match Against Cork Con
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All Ireland Ulster Bank Division 1A

John Dickson Reports From Ballymacarn Park

Ballynahinch RFC   17    Cork  Constitution   24

It was a historic day for the County Down Club at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday (30 September) when they took to the field to face Cork Constitution in the first Ulster Bank League Division 1A game of the season.

Hinch captain Andrew Morrow leads his team on to the field against Cork Con.

Hinch captain Andrew Morrow leads his team on to the field against Cork Con.

A large crowd turned out and they enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon and a very competitive game.

In perfect conditions for running rugby Hinch played towards Slieve Croob in the first half, and quickly settled into the contest with strong running form Paddy McAllister and Stuart Morrow.

As pressure on the visitors line mounted Con infringed and Richie Lobb gave the home side a 3-point lead in the 6th minute with a well struck penalty goal. Hinch continued to control play from the restart and Lobb landed a second penalty goal in the 13th minute taking Hinch 6-0 clear.

The Munster side lifted their game from the restart and for the first time put the Hinch defence under pressure. In the 15th minute Con openside James Ryan raced for line for a certain try but a great tackle by Rodger McBurney turned him around and with Paul Pritchard assisting they prevented the grounding.

Con continued to mount pressure and eventually the home side conceded a penalty which was converted by fullback Daryl Lyons to make it 6-3.

Hinch try scorer Aaron Ferris in action against Cork Con.

Hinch try scorer Aaron Ferris in action against Cork Con.

The visitors maintained their pressure after the restart and kept the Hinch pinned in the 22 until they created an opening on the left wing in the 29th minute and second row Shane O’Connor did well to score in the left corner despite the efforts of David McIlwaine. Lyons added the extras to make it 6-10.

Lyons missed a penalty in the 33rd minute then Hinch fought back into the game and managed to get back into the Con half again. Lobb missed a long-range penalty attempt in the 40th minute then Lyons converted an easy attempt in the 3rd minute of injury time to give the visitors a 6-13 halftime lead.

Con made a perfect start to the second half when Lyons pushed his side a further 3 points clear when he converted a penalty from the touchline with just 2 minutes of the second half played.

The Munster side gave a master class on ball presentation and retention. Hinch found it very difficult to get any meaningful possession and field position. Lyons missed a penalty attempt in the 58th minute then the Hinch struck back.

Richie Lobb No 10 makes a break supported by Beill Fallon.

Richie Lobb No 10 makes a break supported by Neill Fallon.

In the 60th minute good first phase possession released Lobb, McBurney and Morrow on the attack with Aaron Ferris beating Con fullback Daryl Lyons into the left corner to score the first Hinch try in Division 1A. Lobb failed to add the extras but the Hinch had fought their way back into the contest 11-16 with 20 minutes remaining.

Five minutes later the visitors stretched their lead by another 3 points when out half Johnny Holland converted a penalty goal to make the score 11-19, then two minutes later David McIlwaine converted a penalty for Hinch to close the gap to 5 points 14-19.

Holland was unlucky with a penalty attempt in the 70th minute his effort hitting the right hand upright.

As the game headed into the final 10 minutes Hinch lifted their game as they pressed for victory. Kyle McCall had a charge for the line in the 74th minute but was held out and Con infringed in front of their posts. Lobb landed the penalty goal to take the score to 17-19.

From the restart the Munster side showed their experience at this level as they took control of the game in the final minutes and prevented the Ulster men getting any possession. Play concentrated deep in the Hinch half of the field and in the 3rd minute of injury time out half Johnny Holland spotted a gap in the home defensive line, and dived over to score.

Ballymacarn Park held it’s breath as Holland attempted to convert to prevent the County Down men getting a losing bonus point. Holland’s kick a goal drifted wide of the mark and the whistle blew to leave the final score 19-24 to the Cork men.

Cork Con deserved their victory; they are a quality side and were impressive especially with their control at the breakdown. Hinch can take plenty of positives from their opening game, their scrum and lineout worked well and at times they showed some of their form from last season. They were also within 3 points of victory with 5 minutes remaining and they fully deserved their losing bonus point.

Next week will be another big test as the team travel to Limerick to play Young Munster.

Ballynahinch: 15 Rodger McBurney, 14 David McIlwaine, 13 Stuart Morrow, 12 Robin Harte, 11 Aaron Ferris, 10 Richie Lobb, 9 Aaron Cairns, 8 Neil Faloon, 7 Paul Pritchard, 6 Josh Donaldson, 5 Michael Graham, 4 Jonny Madden, 3 Michael Cromie, 2 Jonny Murphy, 1 Paddy McAllister.

Replacements: 16 James McBriar, 17 Matthew Arneill, 18 Jordan McMullan, 19 Kyle McCall, 20 Andrew Harper.

Cork Constitution: 15 Daryl Lyons, 14 Ron Jermyn, 13 Luke Duffy, 12 Niall Kennelly, 11 Cathal Quinn, 10 Johnny Holland, 9 Gerard Hurley, 8 Willie Ryan, 7 James Ryan, 6 Graham Lawlor, 5 Joe McSwiney, 4 Shane O’Connor,  3 Ger Sweeney, Andrew O’Discroll 1 Brian Cagney.

Replacements: 16 Cian O’Donnell, 17 James Rochford, 18 Cathal O’Flaherty, 19 Luke Cahill, 20 Chris Quinn.