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McGrath Brothers Star As Clinical Clontarf See Off ‘Hinch
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McGrath Brothers Star As Clinical Clontarf See Off ‘Hinch

McGrath Brothers Star As Clinical Clontarf See Off ‘Hinch

A second half hat-trick from Mick McGrath saw Clontarf come from behind to beat Ballynahinch 38-17 and maintain their winning start to the Ulster Bank League Division 1A campaign.

Adding to his brace from the opening night against UCD, Mick McGrath turned this game on its head as Ballynahinch's 10-0 interval lead was erased by the Leinster winger's trio of scores.

McGrath's brother Rob and 'Hinch prop Craig Trenier swapped further tries before Michael Brown's late effort – converted by Joey Carbery – completed the table toppers' third victory on the trot. Leinster recruit Mick Kearney made a welcome return from injury in the Clontarf second row.

'Hinch started the brighter of the two teams at sunny Castle Avenue. Their experienced pack, led by captain Paul Pritchard, dominated possession and territory with a significant breeze at their backs in the first half. 

The consistent pressure from the 'Hinch forwards forced a penalty for the visitors in the eighth minute, bit out-half Richard Reaney pulled his kick.

Ulster prospect David Busby crossed the whitewash just three minutes later, following good driving again by the pack and excellent handling to see the ball move wide to exploit the space. Reaney added the extras, giving Derek Suffern's men a deserved 7-0 lead.

A further Reaney penalty attempt was successful in the 24th minute, making it 10-0,  and the Co. Down side should have gone further ahead before half-time after Busby ran a great line up the middle. However, when the ball was moved wide towards the left wing, the score went a-begging. 

Clontarf were living off scraps at this stage, but still looked extremely dangerous on the break. Ireland Sevens international Aaron Cairns had to make a last-ditch cover tackle on Mick McGrath to prevent a certain try on the stroke of half-time.

From the restart, the 'Hinch forwards continued to hold their own as they turned into the wind, but the dangerous home back-line were now starting to see more of the ball and threaten what had been a very resilient defensive line. Young out-half Carbery missed a penalty on 48 minutes, but made amends two minutes later to cut the gap 10-3.

The visitors lost talismanic flanker Pritchard to a knee injury in the 55th minute and Clontarf levelled matters soon after. A well-worked Mick McGrath try on the hour mark was converted by Ireland Under-20 international Carbery.

The north Dubliners then took the lead as 'Hinch unnecessarily forced play on the halfway line. Munster recruit Matt D'Arcy intercepted a pass and put Mick McGrath in for his second try, with Carbery's conversion giving the hosts a 17-10 buffer.

A speculative kick to the left wing from Carbery minutes later saw the bounce of the ball go 'Tarf's way and McGrath bulldozed his way in for his hat-trick score with Carbery also converting. 

A shell-shocked 'Hinch side, who had dominated play up to this point, really had to 
chase the game and after looking certain to score down the left wing, they coughed up possession and a fine breakaway try from Rob McGrath, converted by Carbery, widened the margin to 31-10 and gave Andy Wood's charges the bonus point try.

Ballynahinch remained resilient and attempted to stop the bleeding with a try by hard-working tighthead Trenier after a series of pick and goes. Reaney converted to make it 31-17, but Clontarf broke away in the dying minutes to score a fifth try through replacement Brown – again converted by Carbery – and push the opportunity of a losing bonus point well out of 'Hinch's reach.

Referee: Andy Brace (IRFU)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Timmy McCoy; Rob McGrath, Colm O'Shea, Matt D'Arcy, Mick McGrath; Joey Carbery, Dermot O'Meara; Ivan Soroka, Turlough Considine, Ian Hirst, Mick Kearney, Ben Reilly (capt), Tom Byrne, Karl Moran, Anthony Ryan.

Replacements: Jack Hutchinson, Michael Noone, Dave Moore, Sam Cronin, Michael Brown.

Away Team

Adam Craig; David Busby, Robin Harte, Willie Stewart, Aaron Cairns; Richard Reaney, Paul Rowley; Ruaidhri Murphy, Jonny Murphy, Craig Trenier, James Simpson, Jonny Madden, Conor Joyce, Paul Pritchard (capt), Michael Graham.

Replacements: Kyle McCall, Andrew Harper, James McBriar, David McIlwaine, Lorcan Dow.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Mick McGrath 3, Rob McGrath, Michael Brown; Cons: Joey Carbery 5; Pen: Joey Carbery

Away Team

Tries: David Busby, Craig Trenier; Cons: Richard Reaney 2; Pen: Richard Reaney