Ballynahinch are just 80 minutes away from staying up in Ulster Bank League Division 1A after powering past Buccaneers 41-19 in today’s relegation/promotion play-off.
A superior second half display saw Ballynahinch book their place in next Saturday’s relegation/promotion play-off final where they will have home advantage against Dublin University, the runners-up in Division 1B.
Returning to Ballymacarn Park following last week’s memorable 59-5 demolition job of Garryowen, the Co. Down outfit leaked two early tries to Buccaneers winger Eoghan O’Reilly.
In between, Ballynahinch scrum half Aaron Cairns nipped over for his sixth try of the campaign, and a 10-point surge approaching half-time had the hosts leading 17-14. Full-back Justin Rea landed a penalty and converted out-half Sam Windsor’s smartly-executed chip-and-collect score to give Derek Suffern’s side a slender advantage.
Buccs fell further behind when Rea tagged on another penalty and converted flanker Conor Joyce’s try which came when the Pirates were down to 14 men.
A sharp break from Windsor helped to set up former Ireland Under-20 international David Busby’s try and after the pacey O’Reilly completed his hat-trick for the midlanders, hooker Jonny Murphy bagged ‘Hinch’s fifth converted try of the day.
Meanwhile, Dublin University will make the trip north to take on Ballynahinch next weekend after running out 25-20 winners over Ballymena at College Park.
Trinity out-half Jack McDermott has emerged as the top points scorer across the league’s top two tiers in 2015/16, and he took his tally to 190 points with four important kicks this afternoon.
He kicked the opening points from an early scrum penalty to set the students on their way to a 15-10 interval lead, with full-back Conor Kearns squeezing over in the corner for their opening try.
Although winger Max McFarland profited for an overlap for a well-taken second score, resilient Ballymena quickly hit back with a converted effort from Ulster hooker John Andrew.
An Andrew Magrath penalty cut the gap to five points and into the second period, influential lock Connor Smyth forced his way over to tie things up at 15-all.
However, Ballymena lost their discipline at a crucial stage with two sin-binnings in quick succession, as a McDermott penalty put Trinity back in front.
Second row Raef Tyrrell then muscled his way over for the hosts’ third touchdown before he too saw yellow, and a quick tap allowed Clive Ross to cross for the Braidmen from close range.
It was end-to-end stuff in a gripping conclusion, but Tony Smeeth’s young side showed impressive composure to hold on and advance to a winner-takes-all clash with ‘Hinch.