Latest loss has Ballynahinch looking over their shoulders
While Ballymena made off with the spoils from the Ulster derby encounter at Ballymacarn Park, Ballynahinch were left to rue another bad day at the office after going down 28-18.
A third successive home defeat for Hinch has left the Co Down side having won just one of their last five games and the impact of not being able to take advantage against a Ballymena side with two men in the bin is now a cause for some concern ahead of what appears to be a must-win clash at Dolphin on Saturday.
Even though Hinch remain in sixth they have won just three games from eight and badly need a result this weekend ahead of the Christmas break to avoid being dragged into the wrong part of the table and to take something positive into next month's Ulster Senior Cup final when they will bid to lift the cup for the third year running.
"They were strong and better than us," said Hinch head coach Derek Suffern. "We made a poor start and fell off too many tackles and we had the momentum when they were down to 13 men but didn't take our chances."
As for Ballymena, their second win on the bounce has kept Andy Graham's squad in fourth and within striking distance of the top though they do face a stern challenge this Saturday, hosting leaders Buccaneers.
The Braidmen will certainly looking to make the same start which they managed at Hinch when first half tries from Stephen Mulholland and James Beattie which were both converted by Ritchie McMaster who also kicked two penalties in that opening 40 minutes which gave his side a 20-11 lead at the turnaround.
Hinch had at least managed to get back into the game with a David Nicholson try just before half-time, but it was Ballymena who struck first on the resumption when Jordan Foster's try put them 25-11 in front.
It looked a tall order for the Co Down side now but they did find a way back into the game after McMaster was yellow-carded. A penalty try followed for Hinch - resulting in the sin-binning of hooker John Andrew - and Chris Quinn's conversion narrowed the Braidmen's lead to 25-18.
Crucially, though, Hinch couldn't make their extra men count and after McMaster returned, the visitors' out-half rubbed further salt into Hinch wounds by landing a late penalty which even robbed Suffern's squad of a losing bonus point.
Results: UCC 15 Dolphin 25 (FRI), Ballynahinch 18 Ballymena 28, Naas 13 UL Bohs 10, Shannon 24 Old Wesley 24