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Ballynahinch Promoted As Division 1B Champions

Ballynahinch Promoted As Division 1B Champions

Ballynahinch sealed the Division 1B title and a place in the top flight of the Ulster Bank League for the first time with a 41-8 victory over Buccaneers at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday.

Ballynahinch will be the first Ulster club to compete in Division 1A when the league resumes next autumn, having made certain of promotion with a convincing six tries-to-one defeat of Buccs.

The successful season is a fitting way for the County Down club to pay tribute to their late team-mate Nevin Spence, who tragically died along with his brother Graham and father Noel last September.

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The initials 'NS' are embroidered on the sleeve of the 'Hinch jersey and club captain Chris Stevenson said after the match: “A number of us have been talking all week about this game, and how much it would mean for the club, and how much it would mean to us as a squad to honour Nevin's name and also Graham and Noel.

“A few of us have been talking and Nev has been in our thoughts quite a bit this week, and I am absolutely delighted with the way the boys performed.

“It is just reward for all the hard work which had been put in both on and off the field.”

Ballynahinch opened the scoring with just three minutes gone when full-back Rodger McBurney proved unstoppable as he smashed his way down the right wing to cross in the corner. Adam Craig added the converted.

In the 10th minute a quick tap penalty by Harry McAleese released right winger Craig down his flank where he kicked in to the corner and then won the chase to ground an unconverted try.

Craig made it 15 points in the 18th minute when Buccs strayed offside in front of their posts and he slotted his penalty attempt.

The Athlone side started to control the game for the next 20 minutes, keeping the ball well and they frustrated the home side by starving them of possession.

In the 22nd minute Buccs made the most of a clear overlap in the 'Hinch 22 with full-back Callum Boland cutting through to open their account with a well-taken try which Jack Carty failed to convert.

Buccs continued to dominate from the restart and Carty slotted an easy penalty kick in the 38th minute after 'Hinch failed to release a tackled player, closing the gap to 15-8.

The home side had the final say of the first half with a magnificent break down the left wing by Robin Harte who showed great determination, fending off two tackle attempts and racing clear to score. Craig missed the conversion.

The bonus point try came in the 43rd minute and it was Harte on the end of a great line, cutting the Buccs defence in two as he smashed his way over just to the right of the posts. Blane McIlroy added the extras this time to take Derek Suffern's men 27-8 clear.

Scrum half McIlroy was next to score after second row John Donnan had driven play to within a metre of the Buccs line. He picked up and darted cross-field before spotting a gap to dived over in the 60th minute. He added the extras himself to make it 34-8.

It was fitting that the final try would be a hat-trick score for Harte, which came in the 77th minute.

The ball was quickly moved across the Buccs 22 and with three 'Hinch players available to score in the corner Harte took the pass and dotted down. McIlroy converted to complete the scoring on a famous day for the Down men.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)