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Ballynahinch Finish Strongly To Earn Derby Victory

Ballynahinch Finish Strongly To Earn Derby Victory

Ballynahinch had to come from behind on three separate occasions as they outfought their Ulster rivals Dungannon in a tense Division 1B duel at Stevenson Park.

A try from back rower Ali Birch and two penalties from returning Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson had Dungannon 11-8 in front at the break, despite the sin-binnings of winger Conor Gaston and hooker Adam Duhig.

'Hinch winger Aaron Ferris had got free to dot down approaching half-time and the visitors managed to muscle their way back in front courtesy of a converted try from prop Paddy McAllister.

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This action-packed derby continued to ebb and flow and it was suddenly Dungannon's turn to find an extra gear. The Tyrone men added an unconverted try from winger Chris Cochrane and another Jackson penalty to move 21-15 ahead.

But the County Down outfit held plenty in reserve for the closing 30 minutes, during which full-back David Nicholson grabbed a seven-pointer and Kiwi out-half James Lash fired over the clinching penalty.

'Hinch's third win on the trot has kept them at the top of the Division 1B table, with Dungannon sliding down to sixth place overall.

In front of a large crowd, Dungannon took an early lead after the 'Hinch scrum collapsed five metres from their line. Ulster out-half Jackson fired over the three points.

Lively scrum half Aaron Cairns inspired 'Hinch's response. His crisp passing unleashed Nicholson and Robin Harte out wide, the latter being hauled down by Gaston's last-ditch challenge. The Dungannon back prevented the quick release of the ball and was duly yellow carded.

Lash sent the penalty through the posts but 'Gannon restored their slim advantage courtesy of a simple kick from Jackson after a good break from Paul McKenzie.

This was a real nip and tuck affair and when Duhig was sin-binned in the 26th minute for a ruck offence, 'Hinch went for the jugular. Chris Napier won a close-in lineout, Cairns got the backs moving and Ferris fended off Gaston's challenge to score in the corner.

The try was unconverted and the Tyrone men managed to wrestle back the lead on the stroke of half-time. Their forwards surged towards the 'Hinch line and Birch attacked the blindside to cross for the hosts' first try of the night.

Dungannon pushed 14-8 clear when Jackson drilled a penalty over, early in the second half. The next score was crucial and 'Hinch underlined their intentions with a smashing seven-pointer from Ulster front rower McAllister.

He crashed his way through a series of tackles in the Dunganon 22 and dotted down by the posts for Lash to convert and edge his side ahead at 15-14.

A missed penalty from Jackson followed, however the pressure was still on 'Hinch after Nicholson fumbled the ball and gave 'Gannon a chance to attack from a scrum. They moved the ball left from the set piece, creating the space for Cochrane to nab his converted try.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, 'Hinch replied with a terrific effort from Nicholson. Kyle McCall, Stuart Morrow and James Thompson made great strides in the build-up, then Nicholson jinked past a couple of Dungannon players and made the line despite the presence of three defenders.

Lash's conversion gave 'Hinch a one-point lead – 22-21 – and it was the visitors who were in control in the closing stages. Ferris went close to scoring his second try before Lash thumped over the match-winning penalty from halfway.

Referee: Alan Rogan (IRFU)