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Holland Seals Away Victory For Cork Con

Holland Seals Away Victory For Cork Con

It was an historic day for Ballynahinch on Saturday when they took to the field to face Cork Constitution in their first ever Ulster Bank League Division 1A match at Ballymacarn Park.

A large crowd turned out at the County Down club and they enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon and a very competitive top flight game.

In perfect conditions for running rugby, Ballynahinch played towards Slieve Croob in the first half, and quickly settled into the contest with strong running from Ulster's Paddy McAllister and Stuart Morrow.

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As pressure on the visitors' line mounted, Cork Constitution infringed and Richie Lobb gave the home side a three-point lead in the sixth minute with a well-struck penalty goal.

'Hinch continued to control play from the restart and out-half Lobb landed a second penalty goal by the quarter hour mark to move the hosts 6-0 clear.

The Munstermen lifted their game from the restart and for the first time put the 'Hinch defence under pressure.

In the 15th minute, Cork Con openside James Ryan raced for line for a certain try but a great tackle by Rodger McBurney turned him around and with Paul Pritchard assisting they prevented the grounding.

Constitution continued to mount pressure and eventually the home side conceded a penalty which was converted by full-back Darragh Lyons to make it 6-3.

The visitors maintained their pressure after the restart and kept 'Hinch pinned in the 22 until they created an opening on the left wing in the 29th minute and second row Joe McSwiney did well to score in the left corner despite the best efforts of David McIlwaine. Lyons duly added the extras.

Lyons missed a penalty in the 33rd minute. 'Hinch fought back into the game, managing to get back into the Cork Con half again.

Lobb missed a long range penalty attempt closing in on half-time and then Lyons converted an easy attempt in the third minute of injury-time to give the visitors a 13-6 interval lead.

Constitution made a perfect start to the second half when Lyons pushed his side a further three points clear when he converted a penalty from the touchline.

The Leesiders gave a master-class on ball presentation and retention. 'Hinch found it very difficult to get any meaningful possession and field position. Lyons missed a penalty attempt in the 58th minute and then 'Hinch struck back.

Good first phase possession released Lobb, McBurney and Morrow on the attack with Aaron Ferris beating Lyons into the left corner to score the first 'Hinch try in Division 1A. Lobb failed to add the extras but the County Down men were back in the contest at 16-11.

Five minutes later the visitors stretched their lead when out-half Johnny Holland converted a penalty goal, but winger McIlwaine replied from the kicking tee for 'Hinch to close the gap back to five points.

Munster prospect Holland was unlucky with a penalty attempt in the 70th minute, his effort hitting the right hand upright.

As the game headed into the final 10 minutes 'Hinch lifted their game as they pressed for victory. Kyle McCall had a charge for the line in the 74th minute but was held up and Constitution infringed in front of their posts. Lobb landed the penalty goal to close the gap to 19-17.

However, from the restart, Cork Con showed their experience at this level as they took control of the game in the final minutes and prevented 'Hinch getting any possession.

Play concentrated deep in the 'Hinch half of the field and in injury-time Holland spotted a gap in the defensive line and dived over to score.

Ballymacarn Park held its breath as Holland attempted to convert to prevent Ballynahinch getting a losing bonus point. Holland's kick at goal drifted wide of the mark and the whistle blew to confirm a five-point winning margin for the visitors.

Cork Con are a quality side and they were impressive especially with their control at the breakdown. For their part, Ballynahinch inch can take plenty of positives from their first outing, their scrum and lineout worked well and at times they showed some of their fine form from last season.

Referee: Kieran Barry (IRFU)