Final score: Ards 2ndXV 5 – Ballynahinch 5thXV 15
Ballynahinch 5thXV headed to Hamilton Park to play Ards 2ndXV for their first league encounter of the season. With regular captain Andrew Wilson in Spain, working on his tan it was left to Iain Smith to lead the troops.
It was clear from the intensity of the Ards warm up that this was going to be a tough encounter. Straight from the kick off Hinch found themselves under intense pressure with several missed tackles and numerous penalties allowing Ards to come close to the Hinch line. Great defensive work by the Hinch pack, especially the back row of Truesdale, Hanna and the tireless Rea initially kept Ards at bay. Eventually the relentless pressure told and Ards crossed for an unconverted try.
Following another penalty, Ards were once again back deep in Hinch territory, but a lineout stolen by Smith allowed the men in green to make a rare breakout from their own half. A big carry by Chris Stevenson forced Ards to concede a penalty but unfortunately the strike by John Hyndman drifted wide in difficult conditions. This rare attack sparked the Hinch men into life and after a few more carries by the pack Hyndman showed great pace to touchdown below the posts. Conversion missed, 5-5 at the halftime whistle.
With their tails now up, the Hinch team started the 2nd half with some great attacking play by Hyndman, Orr, and Patterson. Following another bullocking run by Stevenson in midfield, quick hands allowed Chris Orr to break free and score a converted try.
Soon after Hinch were back in the Ards 22 where a penalty was awarded and cleanly struck between the posts by Orr to take the lead to 10 points. Much of the remainder of the half was spent putting in a massive defensive effort.
This was typified by some big hits by Davidson, Carlisle and Foreman and James Scott chopping anything that came his way. This forced several turnovers and prevented Ards from gaining any momentum.
Important kicks at key times by halfbacks Bingham and Boyd relieved pressure and fullback O’Neil was flawless under the high ball in swirling conditions. Even though a shoulder injury to hooker Dunning had brought Tommy Boyd off the bench early, the lineout continued to function as a useful attacking platform.
At scrum time the Hinch 8 were at times under pressure, but young Scott Connolly held his own in the unfamiliar tighthead role and worked tirelessly round the park.
A great away win, but lots to build on as the league continues at home next Saturday against Ballymoney.
Hinch Team: M O’Neil, J Scott, J Hyndman, C Orr, J Patterson, A Boyd, S Bingham; C Stevenson, R Dunning, S Connolly, N Davidson, I Smith(c), W Truesdale, S Hanna, G Rea; Reps: T Boyd, W Carlisle, S Foreman.