Ballynahinch bottom after home loss

Ballynahinch bottom after home loss

24 November 2021

Ballynahinch swapped places with UCC at the bottom of the All-Ireland league Division 1A table after a very tight contest at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday.

Both sides were winless going into the game and Ballynahinch had long been targeting the fixture as an opportunity to move up the table.

Shorn of all their Ulster contingent, the locals took the field with largely the same side which dominated the Ulster Premiership back in September.

Bradley Luney made his first AIL start of the season in the middle of the back row, while Yasser Omar came back into the side at full-back.

Irish U-20 star Alex Kendellen was unavailable for UCC but they were able to call on Munster senior squad member Jack O’Sullivan in the back row.

Ballynahinch have been slow starters all season and once again fell behind to an early opposition try.

They were attacking in the UCC half when a loose pass lead to a turnover and what looked like a fairly speculative kick from centre Daniel Squires found acres of space and no covering defenders.

Winger Matthew Bowen was the beneficiary as he won a tight race to slide in and touch the ball down.

UCC captain Rob Hedderman nailed a tough conversion to take his side seven points clear after just three minutes.

Jack Milligan and Hedderman exchanged penalties and when Milligan knocked over his second penalty to cut the gap to four points leading into the second quarter, the home support were hopeful that their side would push on.

However, UCC largely controlled the rest of the half through the boot of outhalf Cian Whooley and despite a yellow card for Hedderman and a dominant Ballynahinch scrum, the students held on to their lead in relative comfort until the break.

After some UCC pressure early in the second half the Ballynahinch forwards went to work and dominated possession and territory for the next 20 minutes. However, the scoreboard remained the same as heroic UCC defence and a lack of accuracy at crucial times undid all the hard work.

A forward pass undid one multi-phase attack and a penalty given away in an attacking position from an otherwise excellent line-out maul foiled another.

Then a superb scrummaging effort won the home side a penalty on the UCC five-metre line. Ballynahinch looked to turn the screw and opted for another scrum, only to give away a penalty and come away from another stint in the UCC 22 with nothing. 

As the opportunities came and went UCC continued to defend well and kick superbly and when Squires got them out of trouble with a brilliantly executed 50-22 kick to give them a foothold in Ballynahinch territory they were visibly lifted and reasserted themselves in attack.

They were able to close out the game, despite missing a penalty in front of the posts and having another kick and chase try disallowed for a knock-on, leaving Ballynahinch reflecting on how they failed to turn all their possession and territory statistics into points. 

The league table, which is the only statistic that counts at the end of the season, shows Ballynahinch at the bottom, having been defeated by their nearest rivals in their last two outings.

There is no respite as Munster giants Cork Constitution roll into Ballymacarn Park this weekend on the back of three consecutive wins, having shrugged off their uncharacteristically slow start to the season. 

Ballynahinch (1-21): John Dickson, Zack McCall, Kyle McCall, James Simpson, John Donnan, Thomas Donnan, Oli Loughead, Bradley Luney, Chris Gibson, Jack Milligan, Aaron Cairns, Rory Butler, Tagen Strydom, Shane Ball, Yasser Omar, Josh Hanlon, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Diego Vidal Souza, Callum Irvine, Conor McCauley, Greg Hutley.