Ballynahinch 20 Blackrock 16
John Dickson reporting from Shaw’s Bridge
BALLYNAHINCH managed to just hang on to claim victory against a resurgent Blackrock College in what was a very disappointing contest at Shaw’s Bridge, with the whistle of referee Kevin Beggs signalling 4 yellow cards against the Hinch, overshadowing the final result.
The County Down men who made the better start and dominated the opening 10 minutes as the side attacked through Thompson, Morrow and Ferris but with the line at their mercy on several occasions the chance to score was missed.
Early scrums went the way of the Hinch 8 with powerful scrummaging by Kyle McCall and Conor Carey putting the Dubliners under big pressure. With the visiting scrum in reverse the Ulster side took full advantage taking the next two scrums against the head in the 16th minute. The breakthrough came in the 18th minute when referee Kevin Beggs awarded a penalty try after Michael Graham was impeded as he picked up as the scrum crossed the Rock line. Michael Lawton converted the extras to give the Hinch a 7-point lead.
As the game entered the second quarter Rock took control and prevented the Hinch from getting their hands on the ball. Hinch infringed at a line lineout in 21st minute, however, fullback Peter Broughan didn’t have the range with the boot, but he was successful with a second penalty attempt in 25th minute when Conor Carey was yellow carded for knocking the ball out of scrum half David Rowan’s hands on the edge of the Hinch 22.
As Rock continued to pressure a second yellow carded was flashed in the 34th minute as Hinch second row Chris Napier was harshly punished. Rock had driven play deep into the Hinch 22 but with their forward support running thin the ball became exposed at the back of a ruck, it sat for an age before Napier came through the middle and picked it up only to have referee Beggs blow, then flash a yellow card despite the fact that the ball was clearly in open play.
Broughan made it 7-6 with his second penalty goal in the 38th minute after the home side were pinged for not releasing the player in a tackle. In the final minute of the first half the Hinch finished much stronger with Aaron Ferris and James Simpson carrying the ball well and eventually winning a penalty, which Lawton converted to take the score at the interval to 10-6.
Hinch made a lively start to the second half and scored their second try in the 49th minute when Chris Napier barged his way over after a period of good continuity play started by a penetrating run by Lawton. Lawton was injured during this attack so Blane McIlroy took over the kicking duties and he added the extras to take the Hinch 17-6 clear.
A third Broughan penalty made it 17-9 in the 57th minute when Hinch once again failed to release the player in the tackle.
In the 64th minute a McIlroy penalty increased the Hinch tally to 20 points as Hinch looked to have done enough to close out the contest but with 2 minutes remaining Gavin Armstrong was yellow carded for entering the ruck from the side and Rock made the most of their extra man sending winger Tom Kevany clear to cross just right of the posts. Broughan added the extras to bring the visitors right back into the contest.
Injury time was nail biting for the home support as the Dubliners besieged the Hinch line in search of a dramatic winning score. In every play Hinch seemed to be conceding penalties, and then a fourth yellow card was shown, this time fullback Rodger McBurney was asked to leave the field.
It was just like the Leinster vs Ulster game at the RDS a few weeks ago with Hinch down to 13 men they dug in and managed to turn the ball over thanks to great work from Kyle McCall and Harry McAleese. Hinch eventually won a penalty and McIlroy checked with the ref that it was the final play before he dispatched the ball into touch in goal, to bring the contest to a close.
Hinch were lucky to survive this one and afterwards coach Derek Suffern said, “We needed four points from that game and we are absolutely delighted to come away with the points this afternoon against a very, very good Blackrock side. At the start of the year they struggled but now they are fifth in the table and on the way up, they are now a lot fitter, and were the most physical side we have played against all year.
“Some of the referee’s interpretation at the breakdown was questionable from where I looked at it. We had four yellow cards and they had zero cards, despite the fact that they have given away some penalties when we were on the front foot in the score zone, so some of that I feel was questionable.
“I was pleased how the boys started the second half, at halftime we spoke about looking after the ball a lot better at the breakdown, and that Chris Napier try was vital for us and at the end it was the difference in us coming away with the four points.
“This weekend will be massive for us, we need just one more win to gain promotion and win the league. It is a home game against Buccs and I am sure the local community and club will get behind us. The boys are a bit battered and bruised here after today, but we will regroup during the week and hit the ground running again on Saturday.”
Ballynahinch 15: Rodger McBurney, 14 Michael Lawton, 13 Stuart Morrow, 12 James Thompson, 11 Aaron Ferris, 10 Harry McAleese, 9 Blane McIlroy, 8 Michael Graham, 7 David McGuigan, 6 Neil Faloon, 5 Chris Napier, 4 James Simpson, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Andrew Harper, 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements : 16 Aaron Cairns, 17 Robin Harte, 18 Jonny Madden, 19 Gavin Armstrong, 20 Stuart Orr.
Blackrock College 15: Peter Broughan, 14 Tom Kevany, 13 Jan Simon Byrne, 12 Michael McKeever, 11 Mark Scott Lennon, 10 David Godfrey, 9 David Rowan, 8 Joe Langbroke, 7 Peter McCague, 6 San Cooke, 5 Michael McCarrol, 4 Des Dillon, 3 Cian Culleton, 2 Ryan Fisher, 1 David Lewis.
Replacemnets : 16 Michael Carroll, 17 James Tate, 18 David Gannon, 19 David Scott Lennon