Hinch Start Season With Win Over Armagh

 SONI Ulster Premiership

Ballynahinch RFC v City of Armagh RFC

Played – 25.08.18

Ballynahinch  24   City of Armagh  7.

(Richard Hart reports from Ballymacarn Park. Photos by Hugh Wilkinson).

A cloudy but bright day at Ballymacarn Park awaited the Hinch faithful for the start of the SONI Ulster Premiership Division 1 season. The clash was between Ballynahinch and last season’s Stevenson Shield winners and newly promoted All Ireland League Division 1B members, City of Armagh RFC.

Conal Boomer is blocked by a desperate Armagh defence.

In three recent meetings the County Armagh side had had the better of their County Down rivals, so this match would set the tone for both the Ulster Premiership and potentially the All Ireland league.

Both sides started strongly, with the visitors playing towards the Clubhouse and with both sides unable to play any of their Ulster players, it was two club sides battling on the field. It took a solid 10 minutes of play for both sides to put together a solid flow of play, with the Orchard County team putting together a good run of play deep into the Hinch 22’, resulting in Armagh Captain Chris Colville scoring and Clarke Cousins adding the extras.

The score was the impetus that Hinch clearly needed to shock them back into action and in the mouth of the half-time whistle, after an excellent team effort to move the ball down the pitch in hand, Tom Martin picked the ball from a ruck 5 meters out and crashed over the line with two Armagh defenders hanging off him to score. Paddy Wright stepped up to take the extras, but pushed the kick just wide, to leave Hinch trailing by 2 points going into the second half.

HT – Hinch 5 Armagh 7

Rhys O’Donnell breaks to score.

The County Down side started the stronger and attacked deep into the Armagh half, but strong defence from the visitors saw several Hinch attacks thwarted. After a solid 10 minutes work from the Hinch forwards, with big carries from locks James Simpson and John Donnan, whilst sterling work on the ground by the lithe Conal Boomer ensured ball retention for the home team.

Richard Reaney on a charge.

After an error by the home side saw Armagh run a penalty, an outstanding individual tackle on the visitors’ 10m line from Captain Aaron Cairns, saw him regain his feet quickly and then kick the loose ball through; to then chase the erratically bouncing ball to dot down for Hinch’s second try, with Wright adding the extras. 19-7 after 58 minutes.

Next on the scoreboard as Brian McLaughlin’s charges took control of the match was young scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell, as he broke into the Armagh 22’ after dodging at least five Armagh defenders, having picked up from a ruck and went down the blind side. O’Donnell then drew the final defender before off-loading to the supporting Connor Phillips who dotted down under the post for Wright to add the extras. 19-7 after 64 minutes.

Hinch remained in control for the remainder of the match and with clever use of the bench, maintained their dominance of their visitors. The Hinch level of fitness was obviously stronger as the County Armagh team started to wilt as the match headed towards the final whistle.

With a few minutes left on the clock and after a steady Hinch team effort towards the Armagh line, prop Kelvin Hamilton picked up a loose ball that had spilled from a Hinch ruck to crash over the line from 5 meters out, for the home side’s bonus point score. A tired Paddy Wright missed the extras, but the job was done.

Minutes later, after Armagh’s last ditch effort to cross the Hinch line was well thwarted by the exhausted Hinch defence, Referee Christopher Lough blew the final whistle to see McLaughlin’s charges secure a well earned win at home and start the season on a huge positive with a bonus point win.

Tom Martin avoids the attention of an Armagh defender.