Ballynahinch inch closer to great escape
Ballynahinch edged ever closer to beating the drop on Saturday afternoon with a thumping 41-19 victory over Buccaneers in their All-Ireland League relegation semi-final play-off.
Having struggled all season in the top tier but now just 80 minutes from safety, they will take on Dublin University at home this weekend after the students overcame Ballymena by a score of 25-20 at College Park in the other last four play-off.
Hinch found themselves in a battle early on against their Athlone opponents when winger Eoghan O'Reilly was allowed in for a pair of tries but were far superior from then on. Aaron Cairns had scored for the hosts in between O'Reilly's brace and a penalty from Justin Rea reduced the arrears to four points.
Ulster squad member Sam Windsor showed his class with an inventive chip and chase to create a try and the extras saw his side lead 17-14 at half-time.
Another Rea penalty and a converted try from Conor Joyce extended the advantage further before David Busby provided a fourth.
O'Reilly completed his hat-trick but Hinch would have the final say when hooker Jonny Murphy bagged the last score of the day.
An all-Ulster affair this Saturday was not to be, however.
In a back and forth contest, John Andrew and Connor Smyth crossed for Ballymena but the hosts took control and a late Clive Ross try could not spark a dramatic comeback.
There was disappointment too for Banbridge in the AIL 1B promotion play-offs following their 41-21 loss to UCC.
There was better news for Bangor after they concluded a memorable season in style and completed a return to the senior ranks thanks to a 29-12 win away to Clonmel.