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In-Form Cookies Climb Table With Bonus Point Win

In-Form Cookies Climb Table With Bonus Point Win

Two of Division 1A’s form teams chased their third wins on the trot and in the end, Young Munster came out on top as Ballynahinch lost 29-20 at Tom Clifford Park on Saturday afternoon.

John Staunton's men have been reliant on goal-kicking full-back Ben Martin for scores in recent weeks, but they racked up four tries against 'Hinch for a deserved bonus point.

It could be a season-defining result for the Cookies as they are now third in the table, with their latest Ulster Bank League victory seeing them leapfrog over five clubs including defending champions Clontarf.

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Back on home soil after winning at Cork Constitution last week, the Limerick side set a cracking pace and dominated the early exchanges.

A strong scrum – with Munster development prop Martin Kelly making his first start of the campaign – led to Gearoid Lyons booting them in front after the 'Hinch front row went down in front of their posts.

The Young Munster pack, with locks Darren Gallagher and Sean Duggan in fine form, continued to dictate matters as a 23rd-minute rolling maul set up hooker Ger Slattery for the game's opening try, which centre Lyons converted for 10-0.

'Hinch winger Steve Macauley hit back with a well-worked converted try, scoring against his former club. He initially intercepted a loose pass from Kelly and was tackled on halfway, before popping up in the attack a few phases later to impressively evade a couple of tackles and touch down out wide on the right.

However, just four minutes later, the hosts were celebrating again. They used another scrum penalty to go to touch close in and although the maul was stopped on this occasion, the ball was shifted wide for Ed O'Keeffe (pictured below), who played for the Munster Under-20s earlier this season, to finish smartly in the corner.

Winger O'Keeffe's first league try went unconverted as Lyons' kick from the touchline came back off the woodwork.

The nip and tuck nature of the game was evident when Ballynahinch, with their confidence high from wins over Lansdowne and St Mary's, scored eight unanswered points before the break to get back level at 15-all.

The Cookies' defence gave way as elusive full-back Steven Honey muscled past a couple of defenders in the 35th minute and centre Richard Reaney notched a penalty on the stroke of half-time to tie things up.

Notably, Staunton's side recovered well to take control of the third quarter. 'Hinch managed to frustrate the hosts with some excellent defending until the 55th minute when a lovely passing move between out-half Willie Staunton and Lyons saw the former cross for a cracking try just to the left of the posts. Lyons added the extras for 22-15.

Ballynahinch's discipline gave way as a couple of quick-fire sin-binnings – two in a three-minute spell for their Ulster prop Ruaidhri Murphy and experience flanker Michael Graham – aided Young Munster's push for a bonus point score.

Their well-drilled forwards duly obliged with a penalty try following a series of scrums. Lyons converted to stretch the hosts' lead to 14 points.

The County Down outfit battled on and despite losing centre Robin Harte to a 70th minute yellow card, they managed to gain some consolation in injury-time when Graham (pictured above) muscled over in the right corner. Reaney had a difficult conversion to rescue a losing bonus point, but his kick went wide.

In-form Munsters will fancy their chances of maintaining their momentum when they visit struggling St. Mary's College next Saturday, while 'Hinch's next assignment sees them hosting bottom side Dolphin at Ballymacarn Park.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)