Quinn pulls the strings as Hinch defend Senior Cup
Ballynahinch 19-10 Ballymena
Ballynahinch retained the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup for the first time in what was a gutsy display which saw them come from behind twice to see off Ballymena in a closely contested but hardly classic final.
The side currently bottom of the AIL’s Division 1A — and appearing in their third consecutive final — were simply more accurate and ambitious for the team flying high in the division below.
Man of the match Chris Quinn had a significant say with his 14 points — four penalties and a conversion — ensuring the winger had a 100 per cent return from his kicking and brought the cup, which was lifted by captain Michael Graham, back to Ballymacarn Park for the third time in six final appearances.
Hinch scored one try with centre Richard Reaney getting over early in the second-half in what had been a see-saw battle with the lead changing hands several times.
Ballymena’s points came from an Adam McBurney try along with a conversion and penalty from Richie McMaster with the Braidmen leading 7-6 at the break.
McMaster was wide for Ballymena with an eighth-minute penalty after some Hinch backchat brought the original call closer to the posts.
Then on 16 minutes, Hinch were reduced to 14 men after second row James Simpson was binned for dragging down a Ballymena maul.
The Braidmen went for the corner and, off a Michael Shields take, they cranked up another maul though, this time, the Co Down side defended it well.
But after a Mattie Rea drive, Ballymena lost control of the ball as they shovelled it out towards winger Jordan Foster and Adam Craig was able to break out of his 22 to relieve the danger.
And that seemed a significant moment as shortly afterwards Hinch made ground into Ballymena’s 22 and came away with a penalty which Quinn kicked on 26 minutes just before Simpson returned to the field.
But it was the Braidmen who scored next after a hack through pinned Hinch into their 22 and a couple of penalties were put into the corner.
This allowed Ballymena to deploy their impressive maul and this time the black shirts rumbled over the line with hooker McBurney getting the touchdown.
McMaster converted and Ballymena had a 7-3 lead after 36 minutes. Hinch, though, responded with a Quinn penalty just before the break and the half ended with Ballymena leading 7-6.
Just two minutes after the restart, Hinch took the lead after Quinn landed a monster penalty after referee Jonny Erskine adjudged that Manihera Eden had been taken out in the air.
But Hinch then strayed offside with McMaster making no mistake to put the Blacks back in the lead at 10-9.
It didn’t last and on 50 minutes Hinch got over the line following a powerful surge from centre Robin Harte. His attempted pass to fellow midfielder Reaney went loose and cannoned off him. But Reaney was alert and dotted down.
Quinn made no mistake with the extras and the Division 1A side were back in the lead at 16-10.
Ballymena needed to respond and just after the hour Glenn Baillie made a clean break and had replacement Paddy Magowan steaming up in support but only a super covering tackle by Aaron Cairns saved a score.
Then, on 72 minutes, and with Ballymena pressing hard, Eden gathered a kick through from Baillie and set off from his own 22.
Eden’s pass found Stuart Orr in support just outside Ballymena’s 22 which saw their skipper penalised for hands in the ruck and shown yellow. Quinn stepped up and nailed the kick to make it 19-10 to Hinch. There was no way back for Ballymena.
Belfast Telegraph Digital