The Ballynahinch senior squad added the Ulster Senior Cup to the club’s crowded trophy cabinet on Friday night as they powered to a 19-0 victory over Ballymena at Ravenhill.
FIRST TRUST ULSTER SENIOR CUP FINAL: Friday, May 1
BALLYNAHINCH 19 BALLYMENA 0, Ravenhill
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Try: Nevin Spence; Con: Ryan Bambry; Pens: Ryan Bambry 3; Drop: Ryan Bambry
New Zealand out-half Ryan Bambry turned in a man-of-the-match performance as he kicked three penalties, converted centre Nevin Spence’s try and added a late drop goal as Ballynahinch won the Ulster Senior Cup for the first time.
Simpy put, this has been the season of seasons for a trophy-hungry ‘Hinch.
The County Down side have won both the Ulster Senior League and Ulster Senior Cup for the first time in their history, become the first Ulster club to win the AIB Cup and achieved their long-stated aim of promotion to Division One of the AIB League.
Intriguingly, Ballynahinch will be in action against Ballymena in Division One Section B next term and judging by their string of recent wins over top flight sides, Derek Suffern’s men will serious contenders.
And of course, their 2008/09 campaign is not yet over. They entertain Lansdowne in a rescheduled AIB League Division Two semi-final on Monday, with the winners to face UCC in the Dooradoyle decider next Saturday.
Banishing memories of their 2002 and 2004 Ulster Senior Cup final defeats to Dungannon (32-3) and Ballymena (11-3) respectively, ‘Hinch were full value for this latest win.
Ballymena, who had Ulster out-half Ian Humphreys in their line-up, were looking to end their season on a high but they struggled to threaten the ‘Hinch try-line.
Their goal-kicking scrum half Craig Woods missed an early penalty attempt and he was also off target, midway through the first half, after Ballynahinch centre David Harris was sin-binned for dissent.
The numbers were evened up on 21 minutes when Ballymena number 8 Sam McKinney saw yellow for disputing a refereeing decision.
Scoring chances were at a premium for the remainder of the half. It was tense and defence-dominated rugby, with neither pack budging, and Humphreys was narrowly wide with a late drop goal shot.
‘Hinch stepped it up a gear on the restart and 13 minutes in, a high ball from full-back Jonny Cullen caused trouble for Ballymena and they were pinged for hands in the ruck.
Bambry converted the resulting penalty to chalk up the game’s first points and another ruck infringement from the Braidmen allowed the Kiwi extend his side’s lead to 6-0.
The ‘Hinch number 10 missed a penalty effort on the hour mark and he then watched another kick bounce back off an upright after Ballymena had their AIB Club international prop Simon Shawe sin-binned for not rolling away in the tackle.
Bambry’s accuracy improved in the final quarter as he knocked over his third penalty and then, with just nine minutes to go, the speedy Spence, who played recently for the Ireland Under-20 Development side, darted through for a decisive try.
It came against the run of play as Ian Caldwell failed to gather a loose pass from Humphreys and ‘Hinch hoovered it up before they unleashed their backs with Spence leading the charge to the corner.
Bambry brilliantly raised the flags with an angled conversion and he topped off another impressive showing from the Ballymacarn Park residents by dropping a goal with the last kick of the game.
Afterwards, ‘Hinch’s Ulster-capped stand-in captain Willie Faloon gleefully accepted the Ulster Senior Cup trophy from Ulster Branch President John Boyd.