Hinch Firsts Overpower Queens To Regain Stevenson Shield

Queen's University rugby team were no match for Ballynahinch Firsts.

Queen’s University rugby team were no match for Ballynahinch Firsts.

Ballynahinch 33 Queens University 8.

Stevenson Cup Final.

Report by James Kirk.

Ballynahinch showed the rest of Ulster the gap in class between AIL Division 1A and 2A as they swept Queens University aside to regain the Ulster Premiership title and take possession of the historic Stevenson Shield.

The game had been billed by some as an even contest as Queen’s cruised to the top of Division 2A and Ballynahinch found themselves winless at the foot of 1A. However, the standard of opposition is radically different and a battle hardened Ballynahinch outfit were far too strong for the students on Saturday.

Adam Craig was delighted to welcome the McCall brothers back into the front row and had winger Conor Rankin available for the first time this season. Greg Hutley continued at full-back with Jack Milligan at outhalf and a strong bench included returning Ireland Sevens squad member Zac Ward. The weather was excellent for some enterprising rugby and a large festive crowd was in attendance.

2021 Zack McCall receives the Stevenson Shield from Ulster Branch President Gary Leslie as he celebrated with his team after the Ulster Senior League decider clash between Ballynahinch and Queens at Ballymacarn Park, Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland. (Photo by John Dickson/Dicksondigital)

Ballynahinch started superbly with a succession of strong carries testing the Queens defence until a sweet show and go from Milligan broke the line. He linked with Conor McCauley and then an excellent kick from Hutley was gathered by Aaron Cairns who fed flanker Olly Loughead for an excellent finish in the corner.

The home side continued to pile in the pressure, securing fast ruck balls for their carriers and dominating possession and territory. Powerful scrummaging from the home side also caused the students real problems and allowed them to pin the students back in their own 22 where they were forced to clear their lines and concede possession.

It took desperate defence to stop Rankin after a great break from McAuley and the only thing missing from a near-perfect first quarter was a scoreline more reflective of the action.

As the game entered the second quarter Ballynahinch gave away a penalty to allow the students into their 22 for the first time. Another penalty allowed Richie McMaster to kick three points before normal service was resumed and the home pack cranked up the pressure, dominating territory and forcing Queens to play from deep in their own half.

Superb interplay between backs and forwards built some heavy pressure on the Queens line and Ballynahinch really should have scored at least one more try before half time. Desperate student defence and a lack of accuracy at crucial moments kept the Queens line intact and ensured all was to play for in the second half.

Ward entered the fray at half time and showed his intent with two powerful carries as Ballynahinch continued to dominate the ball. An injury to prop Peter Cooper stalled the momentum of the game but his replacement Nacho Cladera Crespo made an immediate impact and the heavy defensive shift from Queens started to take its toll.

Jack Milligan during the Ulster Senior League decider clash between Ballynahinch and Queens at Ballymacarn Park, Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland. (Photo by John Dickson/Dicksondigital).

The Queen’s tackling lacked the same intensity and the Ballynahinch pack started to make ground at will. Kyle McCall scored from close range on 54 minutes and after some excellent defence stalled a spell of Queens pressure an outrageous dummy from Milligan close to his own line allowed Ballynahinch to clear and a brilliant chase forced Queens to knock the ball on deep in their own half.

Crespo and his friends in the front row pulverised their opponents in the scrum to win a penalty and from the ensuing lineout the big Argentinian made his presence felt with a punishing carry. Ward took the ball on and when Queen’s conceded a penalty the Ballynahinch pack opted for another scrum as their opponents began to look increasingly demoralised. A knock-on stalled their progress momentarily but an excellent line-out steal gave the impressive centre Tagen Strydom a chance to attack the Queen’s line and when he was held up Crespo was on hand to blast over.

Leading 19-3 with ten minutes to go, and dominant in all areas of the match, Ballynahinch failed to kick the ball out from the restart and allowed a now desperate Queen’s the opportunity to run at them and McMaster started and finished an excellent try he made a great initial break and was on hand for the return pass to give the local supporters something to think about as the game reached its conclusion.

However, there was no need for concern as the Ballynahinch forwards went to work and closed the game impressively setting up quick ball for Milligan to put Ward over the line and seal the result. Bradley Luney then crowned a superb team performance with an injury time try to more accurately reflect the dominance of the home side.

A great Ward turnover allowed Hutley to kick for the corner and after a multiphase attack Luney ran a great line to finish the scoring. Ulster Branch President Gary Leslie was on hand to present Zac McCall with the Stevenson Shield amid great jubilation from the home support.

Ballynahinch RFC Club Notes and Round Up For 18th December 2021

The 2nd XV opened their Premiership 2nd XV campaign in fine style, scoring six tries as they defeated main rivals Armagh 34-30 in a game which was not nearly as close as the scoreline suggests and they will go into the next round of the Junior Cup versus Clogher Valley full of confidence.

The club would like to wish all players, sponsors, members, supporters, parents, coaches and volunteers a happy and safe Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Enjoy the break!

Kelvin Hamilton in possession during the Seconds League clash against Armagh at Ballymacarn Park, Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland. (Photo by John Dickson/Dicksondigital).

Youth Training continues at 7pm on a Monday night. All players U12/U14/U16/U18 welcome and no experience necessary. Contact Michael Preston for details on 07702050192.

Mini rugby continues on Saturday mornings from 9.30-11am. Boys and girls from P1 – Yr 8 are all welcome, with training run for each age group in their school year. Mini rugby news is posted weekly on the club Facebook page at:


For more details contact David Martin – Mini Convenor on 07837944892 or email hinchminis@gmail.com.

Details of how to purchase tickets for the First XV matches and a full selection of Hinch merchandise can be found on our social media outlets and on the club app.

AIL pre-match lunches are back in full swing with Terenure the visitors on January 22nd 2022. Contact James Shaw 07740308051, Erin Hodgen 07540706564 or David George 07951610151

Results 18/12/2021

Ballynahinch 33 Queens University 8 (Ulster Premiership)

Ballynahinch 2 34 Armagh 2 30 (Premiership 2nd XV)

Fixture 01/01/2022

Clogher Valley vs Ballynahinch 2 (Junior Cup) TBC