A match report by James Kirk reporting from Balynacarn Park covering the Ballynahinch Firsts in the Energia Community Series for Saturday 10th October 2020.
Final result: Ballynahinch 17 Queens 20
There was more injury time agony for Ballynahinch as they lost to the last kick of the match for the second week running.
They felt rightly aggrieved after Armagh burgled a result last week in a game the home side should have won comfortably. However Queens thoroughly deserved their win against an out of sorts local outfit.
Preparation for the match was thrown into disarray with influential pair Rhys O’Donnell and Rory Butler pulling up injured in training on Thursday night.
Then prop John Dickson went down in the warmup and with Bradley Luney, Ollie Loughead, Conor Kelly, Aaron Cairns and James Simpson also unavailable both backs and forwards were shorn of a number of starters.
However, disruption from injury and Covid-19 related absence is a fact of life this season and with skipper Zac McCall available after injury disrupted his pre-season and Ryan Wilson fit to bolster the backline the Ballynahinch coaching staff were confident that they could overcome a good Queens side coached by former long-term Hinch supremo Derek Suffern.
After a heavy shower at kick-off gave way to a sunny and breezy autumn afternoon the scene was set for some enterprising rugby.
The young Queens side rose to the task as they dominated possession into a strong breeze. They bossed the breakdown and Ballynahinch were limited to a few Adair bursts as they struggled for continuity in the opening quarter.
A series of strong scrums and driving mauls gave Ballynahinch their first sustained visit to the opposition 22 but a botched backrow move allowed Queens to clear and they should have opened the scoring moments later but knocked the ball on with the line at their mercy after a fine move.
Ballynahinch failed to clear their lines from the ensuing scrum and the students attacked in waves with a sustained period of pressure.
They were eventually rewarded with a score after the home team invited more pressure on themselves with another botched exit. They simply ran out of numbers in the end and Queens were well worth their lead.
A stunning Ward carry from the back of a scrum on halfway gave the home a chance to salvage something from a poor first-half performance but they failed to look after the ball deep in Queens territory and went into the break trailing by a single score.
The second half began with some excellent end to end play with both sides attempting to run the ball and Ballynahinch keeping the ball much better and gaining some parity at the breakdown.
A great Adair break came to nothing when he ran out of support but the home side continued to attack with real intent and were rewarded with a penalty under the Queens posts after a high tackle on McCall.
The Queens’ prop was sinbinned for the offence and a scrum may have been a better option but Greg Hutley knocked over the kick to reduce the arrears to two points.
Hutley was then unlucky to be penalised for a deliberate knock on around halfway, allowing Queens to build pressure in the Ballynahinch half and eat up the clock on the sin bin.
Worse was to come for the home side when they were far too easily mauled over the line by the Queens pack.
A fine Ronan Patterson score levelled things up at ten points each after Ballynahinch exploited the extra man to put full back Paddy Wright into open space. Disaster was to follow as Queens scored an interception try to go seven points clear.
Restored to 15 men, Queens then spent ten minutes in Hinch territory but the home side defended well and should probably have done better from a McCall breakout.
They looked to have weathered the storm when Queens received another yellow with around ten minutes to play for taking Ward out without the ball but were turned over again from a lineout maul deep in Queens territory.
However they put together a superb sequence of phases to send Ward over and Hutley levelled up the scores with the conversion as the game moved into injury time.
Late drama then ensued as Queens won a penalty in home territory to give them a chance to win the game. This dropped short and Ballynahinch, refusing to accept a draw, attacked from under their own posts.
They battled their way up to halfway but turned the ball over at the breakdown again and Queens’ outhalf McMaster calmly kicked the ball through the posts for a well-deserved away win.
This will be a difficult result to process for the Ballynahinch coaches. The team invited pressure on themselves by repeatedly failing to clear their lines and conceded two tries when their opponents were down a man, leaving plenty to work on this week in training ahead of a tough trip to Rainey on Saturday.