Hooker Dylan Donnellan scored the only try as Clontarf came from behind to beat Ballynahinch 13-3 in a serious arm wrestle at Ballymacarn Park.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, October 9
BALLYNAHINCH 3 CLONTARF 13, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Pen: Greg Hutley
Clontarf: Try: Dylan Donnellan; Con: David Hawkshaw; Pens: David Hawkshaw 2
HT: Ballynahinch 3 Clontarf 0
A fired-up Ballynahinch led 3-0 at the interval, defences were on top as Greg Hutley’s 19th-minute penalty got the home side on the board in unseasonal sunshine.
Leinster’s David Hawkshaw, who started again at out-half, kicked Clontarf level before Donnellan got in under Ben Cullen’s challenge to score a crucial 54th-minute try, his second in as many league matches.
There were chances at both ends but a late Hawkshaw penalty sealed the result for the north Dubliners, and also took a losing bonus point away from Adam Craig’s ‘Hinch.
The County Down outfit were aiming to improve their discipline and tidy up their lineout from last week, with the presence of Ulster Academy back rower Reuben Crothers in the starting XV a big boost.
Craig also gave debuts to South African newcomers Tagen Strydom and Shane Ball in the back-line, while Harry Simpson got his first taste of All-Ireland League action off the bench.
‘Tarf controlled possession and territory and swamped the home 22 for the opening 15 minutes. An early yellow card for a cynical bit of breakdown work by Oli Loughead invited more pressure on ‘Hinch.
Heroic defence, led by the outstanding Kyle McCall, kept the visitors out, and in their first foray into opposition territory, ‘Hinch took the lead.
Former Ireland Sevens international Aaron Cairns had a promising run up the right after returning number 8 Irvine’s good work off the back of a scrum.
Good carries from tighthead McCall and Hutley brought ‘Hinch up to the edge of the Clontarf 22, before a penalty award allowed the out-half to open the scoring, midway through the first half.
A combination of their own handling errors, and ‘Hinch’s impressive scramble defence and rock solid set piece, prevented Andy Wood’s side from responding.
‘Tarf did spend a good deal of a scrappy first half on the attack, and while their patience was tested, they came good in the second half as they gradually pulled clear of the Ulstermen.
The third quarter was a profitable one for Matt D’Arcy and his team-mates, with Hawkshaw’s right boot bringing them level in the 47th minute.
Fionn Gilbert’s well-won lineout had set up a muscular drive that took ‘Tarf into the ‘Hinch 22, and when play switched back into midfield, Loughead was pinged for hands on the ground in his attempts to win a turnover.
Hawkshaw right-footed the close range penalty through the posts, and with Leinster’s Vakh Abdaladze, Brian Deeny and Martin Moloney all featuring up front, the visitors’ pack enjoyed some strong spells.
From the restart after Hawkshaw’s leveller, Ballynahinch forced ‘Tarf to defend deep but a gap on the narrow side allowed busy winger Jordan Mulvaney to make a terrific 40-metre break.
Strydom shipped a head injury when stopping the hard-carrying Tony Ryan in his tracks, and Craig’s charges were forced to regroup having also lost lock James Simpson.
One such bout of pressure led to the game’s only try, although a determined ‘Hinch felt that their opponents had been guilty of sealing off at a previous ruck.
Instead, ‘Tarf earned a penalty advantage and Donnellan threw a dummy pass before driving low for the try-line. Hawkshaw drilled the conversion over from the left.
Now 10-3 behind, Ballynahinch deserved something out of the game but, during the closing quarter, ‘Tarf continued to dominate the ball and it became a quest for the hosts to hold onto a losing bonus point.
Crucially, ‘Hinch’s discipline slipped again at a crucial stage. A late chance presented itself and Hawkshaw obliged, taking his league haul to 22 points after two rounds.
BALLYNAHINCH: Paddy Wright; Shane Ball, Ryan Wilson, Tagen Strydom, Aaron Cairns; Greg Hutley, Chris Gibson; Ben Cullen, Zack McCall (capt), Kyle McCall, Thomas Donnan, John Donnan, Reuben Crothers, Oli Loughead, Callum Irvine.
Replacements: Tom Stewart, Harry Simpson, Bradley Luney, James Simpson, Conor McAuley, Jack Milligan.
CLONTARF: Conor Kearns; Seni Reilly Ashiru, Michael Courtney, Matt D’Arcy (capt), Jordan Mulvaney; David Hawkshaw, Angus Lloyd; Darragh Bolger, Dylan Donnellan, Vakh Abdaladze, Fionn Gilbert, Cormac Daly, Brian Deeny, Martin Moloney, Tony Ryan.
Replacements: Aidan O’Kane, Ben Griffin, Adrian D’Arcy, Andrew Feeney, Aitzol Arenzana-King, Max Kearney.