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Ballynahinch Burst Clear Of Cookies In Second Half

Ballynahinch Burst Clear Of Cookies In Second Half

Ballynahinch, the newly-crowned Ulster Senior Cup champions, continued their very good winter form by scoring 27 unanswered points in the second half of their 30-6 Ulster Bank League defeat of Young Munster.

With a team that had 12 changes to the squad that had previously faced Young Munster in Limerick early last month, it is testament to the strength in depth that Ballynahinch head coach Derek Suffern has been able to build at Ballymacarn Park.

However, there was a great deal of confidence in the visitors' dressing room as Munsters came into this match on the back of a tight one-point win over reigning champions Clontarf.

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The large Young Munster pack took the ball straight back at the 'Hinch defence and they were quickly awarded a first minute penalty for the tackler not releasing. Gearoid Lyons stepped up and pushed his first attempt wide of the posts at the clubhouse end, but the preceding attack set the tone that the Cookies intended to play the game in.

Three minutes later, Young Munster hooker Ger Slattery entered a ruck from the side, allowing 'Hinch's goal-kicking winger Chris Quinn to put three points on the board for his side.

Then, from an initial break by Charlie Butterworth, 'Hinch recycled quickly and moved the ball into space on the left to see the final pass from Quinn to the returning Adam Craig deliberately knocked on by Dan Goggin to stop the try.

Referee Dudley Phillips opted for just a stern telling off at this early stage of the game, much to the large partisan crowd's annoyance. Ballynahinch kicked the resulting penalty to the corner but lost the ball at the lineout and the Limerick men cleared their lines through Lyons.

The Cookies were rewarded with a penalty on the Hinch 22 for captain Harry McAleese not releasing. Lyons split the posts with the 18th minute kick.

This was followed quickly by another penalty against the home side well inside their own half as the forwards were penalised for playing the ball on the ground. Lyons took the three points on offer for a 6-3 lead after 22 minutes.

The Ballynahinch forwards showed a great deal of composure in the set piece and the front row partnership of Jonny Simpson, Jonny Murphy and Kyle McCall caused problems for the visitors' scrum, resulting in a number of penalties for the home side.

However, towards the end of the first half, Young Munster took the game to 'Hinch and pressured through several attacks from strong running centre Kolio Hifo, who was difficult to stop at times.

With 33 minutes on the clock, 'Hinch lock James Simpson was sin-binned for repeated infringements at the ruck. Munsters moved the ball through several sets of hands to Hifo who made the 'Hinch line but was adjudged to have dropped the ball forward before he touched down.

With 'Hinch now playing towards the clubhouse in the second period, their intention to use the light wind to their advantage became clear from the kick-off as they pressured the visitors deep into their own half.

With Simpson returning from the bin, his presence was immediately felt as the County Down outfit pushed the visitors off their own ball at the scrum and the penalty from the resulting collapse saw Quinn equalise at 6-all.

Ballynahinch had the wind in their sails and Young Munster looked at a loss as how to respond, particularly with their set piece being under huge pressure at every scrum.

It took until the 55th minute for the consistent 'Hinch pressure to pay off as an excellent couple of phases of forward play saw sharp scrum half Blane McIlroy ship wide through McAleese to the dancing Steve Macauley, who broke the tackle of Ed O'Keeffe to score the opening try which Quinn converted.

Quinn displayed his impressive place-kicking ability again on the hour mark, firing over a penalty from the halfway line to make it 16-6.

Nonetheless, the Cookies gained the upper hand when 'Hinch flanker Paul Pritchard was sin-binned for a ruck offence in the 63rd minute – only for the resulting Young Munster lineout to be ruled crooked and Suffern's charges cleared the danger.

14-man 'Hinch had to dig deep in defence to maintain their momentum, but the resulting 'body on the line' tackling saw the visitors knocked well back.

Pritchard came back on with seven minutes left and his return saw the work-rate lifted, supported by number 8 Michael Graham (pictured above). Several excellent phases of ball retention and recycling from the pack saw flying winger Ross Adair get in under the posts with Quinn adding the extras for a 23-6 scoreline.

Young Munster were on the back foot for the remainder of the match as buoyant Ballynahinch constantly probed a tired Cookies defence.

From a clever kick from McAleese, 'Hinch managed to recover the ball from the ensuing ruck to see McIlroy pop the ball to a charging Pritchard who broke through the cover tackle of Lyons to score the third try which Quinn also converted to complete his 15-point haul.

Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)