Ballynahinch’s 10-match unbeaten run in Division 1B was ended by one of their chief rivals, UCD, at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday afternoon.
The students did all the damage in the first half of his high octane tie, sending back-three colleagues Sam Coghlan Murray and Andrew Boyle through for unconverted tries.
Three penalties from out-half James Thornton widened the margin to 19-0 for half-time, and ‘Hinch, despite improving after the restart, were unable to get back in touch.
Referee Gary Conway had a pitch inspection beforehand and at one point the match was in doubt as Ballymacarn Park was extremely soft and very wet in places.
Last minute remedial work by the groundstaff did the trick. In theory a heavy pitch would not have suited the fast backs division of UCD, but as proceedings got underway they gave a masterclass of precise handling skills and how to play a smart kicking game.
Thornton opened the scoring in the fourth minute for the visitors when he converted a penalty after 'Hinch strayed offside at a ruck.
A dropped ball in the 'Hinch midfield in the seventh minute was hacked towards the home try-line with Blane McIlroy winning the race to the ball as Coghlan Murray threatened to score.
Thornton made it 6-0 soon after when 'Hinch failed to release the player in a tackle. The UCD backs cut loose for the first time in the 15th minute, passing the ball with great accuracy and centre Alex Kelly sliced his way inside Stuart Morrow.
As Kelly headed for the line, he had Coghlan Murray supporting on the inside and he took Rodger McBurney's tackle to put Coghlan Murray clear to score an unconverted try and make it 11-0.
From the restart the home side struggled to build any momentum, poor handling, forced play and dreadful discipline at the breakdown had referee Conway’s whistle blowing red hot.
Ballynahinch went off their feet again in the 18th minute and Thornton sent over his third successful penalty goal.
James Thompson was yellow carded in the 20th minute when he deliberately knocked the ball from UCD scrum half Jamie Glynn’s hands at a ruck, but Thornton failed to convert
'Hinch then had their first visit into the visitors' 22 where UCD failed to release in a tackle from Robert Greer. Michael Lawton missed the attempt at goal though.
The students were quick to pin the 'Hinch men back in their 22 and after a series of attacks centre Stephen Murphy was held up over the whitewash.
In the 29th minute the home side infringed at a scrum with UCD second row Brian Cawley taking a quick tap, catching 'Hinch half asleep. He twisted and turned before offloading to full-back Andrew Boyle who smashed his way over for his side's second try.
The students' defence was more than a match for the County Down outfit. In the 40th minute, a Hinch penalty under the UCD posts was reversed with James Simpson sent to the touchline for 10 minutes for punching a player on the ground.
'Hinch kept up the pressure on the visitors though and a third yellow card was soon flashed, this time UCD flanker Mark McGroarty was punished for not using his arms in a tackle.
'Hinch failed to capitalise when Lawton pushed his penalty effort wide of the posts, but the home side made the perfect start to the second half.
Two minutes in, number 10 Thompson put in a lovely chip and chase and gathered the ball to race clear and score behind the posts. Adam Craig added the extras for a 19-7 scoreline.
Thornton missed a penalty shot in the 45th minute, as the game became a scrappy affair with the heavy ground finally taking its toll.
'Hinch discipline continued to be a problem and by the end of the game the hosts' statistics showed a record penalty count had been amassed.
In the 72nd minute UCD replacement Rory Harrison was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle, but despite having an extra man advantage 'Hinch failed to secure any further points.
The best scoring opportunity fell to the home side in the 75th minute when flanker David McGuigan burst clear and almost made the line.
In the final minute a fifth yellow card was issued to 'Hinch skipper Chris Stevenson for hands in a ruck right on his own try-line.
UCD were the better side by a fair margin and deserved to return to Dublin with four league points to their credit. The result keeps them hot on the heels of the top two ahead of next Friday's Colours clash with second-placed Trinity.
Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)