Donaghadee 3’s 3 : Ballynahinch 6’s 32
Hugh Thoroughbred reports from Donaldson Park
Ballynahinch Sixes ran out on this dark, absurdly warm first Saturday in 2013, keen to shake off the Christmas Goose and return to the fray, after what seemed to have been an interminable spell of cancellations since their impressive Cup win at Letterkenny.
At the off Donaghadee had an air of confidence and togetherness about them after a protracted warm up session that put one in mind of an orchestrated Chinese Workers Party pre-prandial loosener. Early exchanges suggested a tightly fought contest to come, with Dee’s youthful backline ominously keen to run ball and their considerably heavier and taller pack threatening at the breakdown. Hinch however have a calm about them these days based on a string of successes against the odds and were unphased by the Dee men.
The Ballynahinch pack showed ferocious tenacity in the loose, solidity in the scrum and a lineout that went largely unchallenged. Despite a glar hole of a pitch with conditions underfoot scarily similar to a cremated bowl of sticky toffee pudding, the Hinch pack were able to keep up good momentum and early territorial dominance against wind and slope was rewarded with a penalty by Carson. Donaghadee levelled with a kick of their own but only after protracted confusion over who was captain on the day and who would have the kicking duties, behaviour indicative of a group of players getting to know one another.
The game continued at a high pace with both sides keen to fling the ball about but defences held firm and play was restricted for long periods in the mid-third. However Hinch finally cracked it when Ritchie Spiers unexpectedly wriggled out of a ruck and linked up with Ray McCavery who was able to ship the ball to Mark Magowan who ran an excellent line back against play, to leave the Dee defence open-mouthed and flat footed. An excellent score that buoyed the Ballymacarn men.
Results often hinge on key moments and just when the home side looked to get back in the game shortly after the Hinch opener they made a total hames of a quick penalty. Instead of tap and go with space in front of them they dithered, eventually taking the wrong option sending the ball out wide to their right winger, who whilst fumbling the ball was unceremoniously bundled into touch leaving a golden opportunity spurned. Dee’s frustration grew and their moral visibly dropped.
The second half could not have started better for the men in green. Carson’s kick off was collected at full tilt by a flat out Michael Evans. The pack blattered their way up the left hand touch line, freed ball saw Spiers link with Carson who then made a critical incisive break beyond the gain line. From the ensuing breakdown rapid ball to McCavery who popped to Wilson saw the outside centre go in for his fifth try of the campaign. Carson converted.
Hinch’s dander was up and there followed the try of the season when their pack drove a maul all the way from the Dee ten metre line to the try line with second half substitute Richy Neill emerging triumphant at the bottom of the pile, try given. All three Ballynahinch subs made a big impact. Chambers tackled aggressively and showed acceleration and strength with ball in hand and Brendan Warn fielded high ball with aplomb.
Carson continued to rule the roost with a deft drop goal followed by two impressive corner kicks that Thurgate chased down taking out the defence close to their own line. On the second occasion the Dee three-quarter fumbled the ball and a supporting Wilson grub kicked towards the uprights. As he and the covering defender fled towards a bobbling ball a third party cynically shoulder charged Wilson taking him out of the contest. No option but penalty try. Wilson was lucky not to suffer a whiplash injury. Despite this loss of discipline Donaghadee at no point gave up and had it not been for robust Hinch defending they would have gone in for a consolation try.
So the show goes on. This was a hugely impressive performance by Ballynahinch particularly after a three week lay off. They performed at a highly combative level for a longer period than in any game this season and scored three superb tries. Team performances are of course made up of individual performances and Carson must get a special mention but for fear of sounding like a broken record the Archie Farquharson Man of the Match award went to William Truesdale whose line out work was exemplary with not just clinical ball from the lift but also text book peeling and securing. He also took the ball manfully into contact, bust his gut in every ruck and maul and even successfully filled the breach at scrum half from a very precarious line out close to the Hinch line.
Team: McCavery (sub Chambers), Thurgate, Wilson B, Shields, Jordan, Carson D, Spiers, Cairnduff, Carson Darryl, McCarroll, Wilson A. (sub Warn), Trusedale, Magowan (sub Neill), Turner, Evans.