AIL Division 1A
James Kirk reports
Ballynahinch 26 Dublin University 40.
Time is running out for Ballynahinch in their battle to stay in Division 1A as they came off second best against fellow strugglers Dublin University in a crucial basement battle.
Brian McLaughlin had shuffled his pack again with Clive Ross away on Ulster duty. Jack Regan moved to blindside with Marcus Rea at number 8 and Bradley Luney at openside. Robin Harte came in to bolster the midfield with Aaron Cairns on the wing and Chris Gibson continuing at scrumhalf in the absence of Rhys O’Donnell.
Playing into a gale, Ballynahinch made the worst possible start when poor defence saw them sliced open for Trinity skipper James Hickey to score. A great long range break from Gibson led to a try for Cairns two phases later to bring the match back to all square but excellent tactical kicking pinned the home side back and they found it hard to keep possession long enough to gain territory.
Excellent linespeed in defence from the Dubliners kept Ballynahinch on the back foot and when they had the ball the students made inroads. Prop Bart Vermeulen crashed over after sustained pressure for a 14-7 lead.
Down on the scoreboard Ballynahinch lost their way over the rest of the half as they continued to force the play instead of minimising risk and aiming for damage limitation before turning around with a gale behind them. T
he Trinity wingers ran in three more tries before the break, all of them gift wrapped by Ballynahinch mistakes. The breaking ball may have bounced kindly for them on a couple of occasions but naïve tactics and scoreboard pressure laid waste to the Ballynahinch gameplan and they went in at half time 28 points down at 7-35.
A much improved second half showing earned Ballynahinch a crucial four try bonus point and they will be kicking themselves for allowing their opponents to stretch away in the first half. The forwards turned up the heat with replacement Conall Boomer to the fore and Marcus Rea put his team on the board early after driving over under the posts.
Trinity hit back with an insurance score from hooker Ben Nel but the last quarter was all Ballynahinch and they were rewarded with scores from close range from Luney and Boomer. They finished very strongly but had left themselves with far too much to do and were still two scores behind at the final whistle.
The leakiest defences in the division were on show and the students greater firepower pulled them out of the bottom two places as they now sit four points ahead of Ballynahinch and three ahead of UCC. All is not lost for the home side with UCC still to travel to Ballymacarn Park in the penultimate round but they will have to find something in order to be in contention when that game comes around.
Ballynahinch 1sts – Ben Cullen, Zack McCall, Jonny Blair, James Simpson, John Donnan, Jack Regan, Bradley Luney, Marcus Rea, Chris Gibson, Sean O’Hagan, Ross Adair, Robin Harte, Callum McLaughlin, Aaron Cairns, Paddy Wright. Conor Piper, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Conall Boomer, Connor Rankin, Ryan Wilson