Ulster Senior League
21st September 2013
Ballynahinch 14 Belfast Harlequins 17
(Richard Hart reports from Ballymacarn Park)
A sunny and blustery day greeted the teams turning out at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday for the Ulster Senior League clash between Ballynahinch and Harlequins. The County Down men had won the toss and chose to play with the wind towards the clubhouse.
Both teams were understrength, but had strong packs, bolstered by released Ulster players. Harlequins with Neil McComb and Michael Heaney and Ballynahinch had Paddy McAllister pack down on his return from injury.
Hinch had the run of play from early on and pressured the Belfast men back into their own 22, forcing them to infringe at a ruck and the referee was quick to award a penalty, his first of many. Hinch opted for a scrum rather than taking the easy 3 points in front of the post and with the Hinch scrum dominant, Quin’s scrum crumbled on more than one occasion resulting in a penalty try for Hinch. Ritchie Lobb stepped up to add the extras. (11 mins played, Hinch 7 – Harlequins 0.)
A further period of penalty ridden play saw several scoring opportunities wasted as the handling on both teams became ragged. On 38 minutes, a well worked fowards and back move saw Rodger McBurney turn on his pace and beat several Quins defenders to run in under the posts for Hinch’s second try. Lobb again added the extras to extend Hinch’s lead at the end of the half. (Half-time – Ballynahinch 14 – Harlequins 0.)
The second half saw the Deramore men take the bit between their teeth and turn the tables on the home side, with poor handling from the County Down men keeping Quins in the game. For over 10 minutes, Quin’s kept Hinch pinned in their own 22 and on 57 minutes, the Quins forwards bundled the ball over the Hinch line with Neil McComb claiming the try. Liam Cambridge, the Harlequins outhalf added the conversion. (58 mins played – Ballynahinch 14 – Harlequins 7.)
The Hinch pack remained dominant in the set piece and as a result of their prowess, Quins ended up without any front row replacements left and the referee was forced to opt for uncontested scrums. On 65 mins, Quins used the uncontested srum to their advantage with Michael Heaney making a blindside break on Hinch’s 22, feeding winger Andrew Pollock who went over for the try. Cambridge added the conversion to level the scores. (67 mins Ballynahinch 14 – Harlequins 14.)
The exchange of penalties continued, with Lobb missing a difficult kick on 73 minutes and the scores remained level. A Hinch infringement at the ruck saw a very kickable penalty awarded to the right of the Hinch posts. Cambridge slotted an assured kick to give Quins the lead. (79 Mins played – Ballynahinch 14 – Harlequins 17.)
Hinch suddenly came back to life and for the remaining time left in the match took the game to Quins, running everything and putting the Deramore men under huge pressure in their own 22, but the Belfast men held strong and came out the jubilant victors in what had been a scrappy affair.
Final Score: Ballynahinch 14 Belfast Harlequins 17
Ballynahinch will now have to focus on their preparations for this Saturday’s Ulster Bank All-Ireland Division 1A opening clash with Cork Constitution. A large crowd is expected at Ballymacarn Park for this fixture and the Club would welcome as much support from the local County Down community as possible.
Harlequins: Evan Strong, Harry Howard, Willie Stewart, Mark Kettyle, Andy Pollock, Liam Cambridge, Michael Heaney, Danny Annett, Oli Loughead, Kenny McComb, Neil McComb, Stuart Currie, Paul Greenaway, Mark Logan, Tom Frazer.
Replacements: A Blackburn, J Andress, D Marshall, M Wylie, C Mills.
Ballynahinch: James McBriar, Matthew Arneil, Rodger McBurney, Jordan Gratton, David Nicholson, Ritchie Lobb, Peter Weir, Mike Graham, Dominic Gallagher, Jamie Kirk, Robert Greer, John Madden, Michael Cromie, Johnny Murphy, Paddy McAllister
Replacements: Matthew Nelson, Owen Jarvie, Chris Stevenson, Neil Falloon, David Harris.