Young Munster opened their win account in Ulster Bank League Division 1A at the fifth attempt, standing firm for a 34-29 bonus point triumph despite a late rally from hosts Ballynahinch.
Young Munster produced a tremendous performance just days after their Australian head coach Anthony Mathison resigned due to personal reasons. Director of rugby John Staunton, the man Mathison replaced in the summer, has now taken temporary charge of the side, and the players delivered the goods for him at Ballymacarn Park.
Ballynahinch came into this game on the back of an Ulster Senior Cup quarter-final win against City of Derry. However, 'Hinch boss Derek Suffern was without a number of injured players – Mike Graham, Aaron Cairns, Jonny Murphy, Paul Pritchard and David McGuigan were all unavailable.
Young Munster kicked off towards the Slieve Croob end and within three minutes, their out-half Paul Downes pushed a relatively straightforward penalty kick wide of the target.
However, charging hooker Ger Slattery got over the try-line from a 10th minute lineout, as the powerful Young Munster pack drove through successfully. Downes was more assured with the extras for a 7-0 lead.
With the visitors playing the better and more cohesive rugby, luck was on Downes' side when his next penalty attempt went over off a post. 'Hinch's leaky defence was further weakened when centre Will Stewart went off with a suspected head injury.
Six minutes before the interval, play continued after what 'Hinch felt was an obvious knock-on and Munsters lock Sean Duggan sauntered through for a controversial try which Downes failed to convert.
'Hinch's poor tackling was soon punished again as following a Chris Quinn penalty miss from halfway, the Cookies responded with another charge downfield and former Ireland Under-20 international Dan Goggin danced through the weak defence for a converted try.
Quinn knocked over a successful penalty on the stroke of half-time, making it 22-3, but the Limerick men stretched their lead considerably with two more tries after 43 and 47 minutes.
A yellow card for collapsing a maul saw 'Hinch hooker Andrew Harper sin-binned, and Staunton's men needed no second invitation as lock Alan Kennedy claimed their bonus point score.
Ireland Sevens international Diarmaid McCarthy was next over the whitewash, adding an unconverted effort for what seemed an insurmountable 34-3 lead.
Ballynahinch knuckled down to produce a much-improved performance over the closing 30 minutes, though. With Young Munster full-back Craig O'Hanlon in the bin for a ruck offence, the County Down men went for touch and from the subsequent lineout drive, impressive replacement Zack McCall made it over for a five-pointer.
Suddenly, 'Hinch were in control. Lorcan Dow, who undoubtedly played his best game for the club so far, rampaged through the middle alongside his back row colleague Conor Joyce.
Craig Trenier also made a big impact from the bench and settled a troubled scrum alongside the McCall brothers. With the home backs now making headway, the ball was moved across the pitch towards the dancing Robin Harte who dotted down for a try that Quinn converted.
The margin was down to 34-22 after the now-strengthened 'Hinch pack won a scrum against the head and drove for the try-line with the tiring Cookies collapsing it. Referee Frank Murphy awarded a penalty try with Quinn swiftly converting it.
Suffern's charges remained on the front foot thanks to their rampaging forwards. The Young Munster bench was emptied and Downes missed a penalty which would have steadied his side.
With the Young Munster defence stretched and penalties coming thick and fast, 'Hinch took the opportunity to set up a five-metre lineout, with 78 minutes on the clock. Set piece ball was won and the 'Hinch forwards ploughed through for prop Trenier to deservedly touch down for the bonus point score which Quinn turned into a seven-pointer.
It took some desperate defending from Munsters to see out the result, with 'Hinch ultimately leaving themselves with too much ground to make up. The visitors were delighted at the final whistle, taking home a hard-earned five points, while 'Hinch's four-try flourish gave them a brace of bonus points.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)