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Ballynahinch And Ballymena Cannot Avoid Drop

Ballynahinch And Ballymena Cannot Avoid Drop

Flanker Michael Graham grabbed a hat-trick of tries in Ballynahinch’s gutsy 35-20 defeat of Ulster rivals Ballymena at Ballymacarn Park.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 10

BALLYNAHINCH 35 BALLYMENA 20, Ballymacarn Park

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Scorers: Ballynahinch: Michael Graham 3, Stuart Morrow, David Nicholson; Cons: Ryan Bambry 2; Pens: Ryan Bambry 2
Ballymena: Tries: Tommy Seymour 2; Cons: Rory Drysdale 2; Pens: Rory Drysdale 2

The result, Ballynahinch’s first win in four AIB League games, was not enough to prevent the County Down side from dropping straight back down to Division 2.

With Buccaneers and Dungannon also winning on the final day, Derek Suffern’s side had no reward for arguably their best display of the season.

Compounding the sense of woe around the ‘Hinch clubhouse, Ballymena’s ninth loss of the campaign also means they have been relegated from Division 1B.

Ulster Ravens winger Tommy Seymour struck for two first half as Ballymena settled well.

But flanker Michael Graham’s impressive haul and efforts from centre Stuart Morrow and winger David Nicholson saw the home side forage clear.

‘Hinch’s New Zealand-born out-half Ryan Bambry kicked two conversions and two penalties to take his tally for the league campaign to 93 points.

Bambry’s opposite number, Rory Drysdale, missed an early penalty effort, before Bambry, with a light breeze behind him, opened the scoring with his first shot at the posts.

‘Hinch were playing towards the clubhouse end but one of their former players, Seymour, struck back for Ballymena when he finished off a flowing 17th minute move in the left corner. Drysdale did well to land the conversion and the hosts were 7-3 in arrears.

The tempo increased as the first half wore on and it took Ballynahinch just two minutes to reply. Morrow, Michael Graham and scrum half David Drake were all involved before winger Nicholson was put through on the left for an unconverted try.

Graham was next to score, taking a fine offload from Bambry before bursting clear and getting the better of Ballymena full-back Peter Budina to go over under the posts. Bambry’s successful conversion made it 15-7.

It was nip and tuck coming up to half-time, however, as Seymour collected his second try, taking full advantage of an overlap on the blindside.

Drysdale added the extras but that kick was cancelled out by Bambry’s 38th-minute penalty, which handed ‘Hinch an 18-14 buffer to take into the second half.

Ballymena showed tremendous grit and determination as they fought back to take a 20-18 lead, courtesy of two Drysdale penalties after 43 and 55 minutes.

But ‘Hinch managed to hit an extra gear in the final quarter, with their superior fitness and offloading game coming to the fore.

Bambry was again the instigator as he put Graham through for his second seven-pointer as the hosts retook the lead, twelve minutes from time.

The bonus point was secured when hard-working centre Morrow grabbed a try, and the fifth and final try went to man-of-the-match Graham who touched down in the 76th minute, following some cohesive play from his pack colleagues.

BALLYNAHINCH: Jonny Cullen; Michael Kirkwood, Stuart Morrow, David Harris, David Nicholson; Ryan Bambry, David Drake; Paddy McAllister, David McGregor, Lewis Johnston, Robert Greer, Jonny Graham, Michael Graham, Willie Faloon, Stuart Lamb (capt).

Replacements: Harry McAleese, Kyle Corrigan, Brian Manus, Matthew Nelson, Chris Stevenson.

BALLYMENA: Peter Budina; Roger McBurney, Steven Castle, Chris Brigl, Tommy Seymour; Rory Drysdale, David O’Hara; James Carson, Ryan Fisher, Simon Shawe, Darrell O’Kane, Bob Young, Andrew Kerr, Ross Hackney, Sam McKinney (capt).

Replacements: Andrew Ferguson, James Taggart, Chris Smith, Paul Smyth, Paul Campbell.

Referee: Colin Stanley (IRFU)