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Lansdowne Triumph Thanks To First Half Efforts

Lansdowne Triumph Thanks To First Half Efforts

This Division 1A duel was a strange game to say the least. Lansdowne looked a classy outfit in the first half and playing with the conditions they opened up a healthy 21-point gap by half-time.

However, you just have to admire the never-say-die attitude of Derek Suffern's Ballynahinch side as they battled back in the second half to claim a losing bonus point, with a superb last minute touchline conversion from Richie Lobb.

'Hinch won the toss and elected to play towards Slieve Croob, into the driving wind and rain during the first 40 minutes, and it was not long until the visitors, coached by Mike Ruddock, had the home defence under early pressure.

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Lansdowne full-back Scott Deasy opened the scoring in the third minute when he converted a penalty goal after the County Down outfit had failed to release the tackled player.

The Dubliners used the elements well with half-backs Paddy O'Driscoll and Tom Kiersey kicking to the corners with some accuracy. Hinch failed to deal with this tactic in any meaningful way, often poorly kicking possession away or losing the slippery ball in close contact.

Indeed, it was from a poor clearance kick in the eighth minute that Lansdowne counter attacked, sending in-form winger Cian Aherne wide where he made the most of the space on the outside to race clear and score an unconverted try in the right corner.

Eight points adrift, 'Hinch found it impossible to gain any decent field position and Lansdowne continued to control territory.

Ruddock's men increased their tally by another six points with two penalty goals from Deasy in the 19th and 36th minutes.

Approaching the interval, Lansdowne flanker Charlie Butterworth broke clear off the side of a ruck in the 'Hinch 22, he headed in-field and made the most of three very poor tackles from the home defence to power his way over for a well-taken try. Deasy added the extras for a 21-0 scoreline at half-time.

Playing with the wind, Ballynahinch started to keep the visitors pinned deep in their half of the pitch. They had their first chance to score in the 53rd minute when a kick through and chase from Neil Faloon almost created a score, quick thinking from Lansdowne's Deasy sparing his side's blushes.

In the 56th minute 'Hinch forced a penalty on halfway which they kicked to touch near the Dubliners' 22. The lineout was secured by Kenny Morton, allowing the home pack to set up a driving maul which they controlled with great skill to take Paul Pritchard over for a try. The extras were added by replacement Lobb.

From the restart, Suffern's charges continued to pressurisee the title holders but the wet and windy conditions started to ease and it improved the quality of the game.

'Hinch needed to play their rugby deep in the Lansdowne half but their opposition managed to relieve the danger with long periods of controlled ball retention.

As the game drifted into the final 10 minutes 'Hinch started to get the upper hand and managed to mount sustained pressure in the visitors 22.

It was advantage Ballynahinch in the 78th minute when Lansdowne replacement Tadhg Beirne was yellow carded for persistent infringing at the breakdown.

Now with an extra man, and the home crowd firmly behind them, 'Hinch continued to apply pressure as the game moved into injury-time.

Quick ball off the top of the lineout from Morton gave Lobb the opportunity to kick a beautiful cross-field ball which was gathered on the full by Adam Craig, who managed to smash his way over for a try in the left corner.

Lobb's conversion from the touchline was crucial, and he bisected the uprights to clinch another hard-earned losing bonus point for Ballynahinch.

Pleased with his side's second half showing, Suffern said: “I suppose we are reasonably happy with that bonus point. With 10 minutes to go in the game we were well out of it, and the boys showed great character to get back in it and gain that bonus point. It was the fourth week in a row, another five minutes and we might have got something more.

“We played that first half into the very hard conditions, and with about five minutes to go (before the break) we were very, very happy.

“Then there was a swing there of about 10 points in that last five minutes of the first half, which I think was the difference in the game.

“Then in the second half I suppose the pitch, the wind, and the rain became a bit more playable for Lansdowne so we probably got the wrong end of the stick there weather-wise, but the boys showed great character all day and they fought really hard right to the end. I am proud of every one of them.”

Referee: Eddie Hogan O'Connell (IRFU)