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Banbridge are on the rise after claiming Hinch's scalp

 

By Michael Sadlier

Well, something had to give as Co Down sides Banbridge and Ballynahinch locked horns at Bann's Rifle Park and, as things turned out, the home side took the spoils and all the bragging rights.

Bann's 20-10 derby win not only saw them remain undefeated this season, but also allowed Dan Soper's men to leap-frog Hinch to go into second place, four points ahead of Brian McLaughlin's squad who are now in third.

Soper's in-form players have now won four and drawn one of their games - not bad for a club just promoted to 1B - in addition to getting one over Hinch, who have considered themselves Ulster's leading side for a number of seasons now.

Tries in either half from centre Andrew Morrison and winger Conor Field saw Bann take the victory in front of their home crowd while Hinch - who had come into the game in pretty decent shape themselves off the back of three bonus-point wins and just one defeat in the campaign - were left to rue their indiscipline with two players being shown yellow cards in the opening 40 minutes.

With just a quarter of an hour gone, prop Jonny Simpson was the first to be sin-binned and Bann got over for their first try from Morrison with scrum-half Ian Porter converting.

Five minutes before the half-hour and Porter landed a penalty to put Bann 10-0 ahead, which is how it ended at the break, though, by that stage, Hinch had lost scrum-half Blane McIlroy two minutes before half-time as he was sitting out his yellow card.

With Hinch down to 14 again, Bann worked Field over after a strong Morrison run with Porter's conversion making it 17-0.

At this point, Bann looked to be in a pretty unassailable position but their rivals clearly had other ideas.

Hinch finally got on the scoreboard when Johnny McPhillips dotted down under the posts and he converted his own score to cut Bann's lead to 10 points.

And the Ballymacarn side weren't finished there either.

Ulster squad member McPhillips then landed a penalty to make it 17-10 and bring the visitors into range for a losing bonus point.

But that was as good as it got for Hinch and with just a minute left on the clock, Porter kicked another penalty to deny their Co Down rivals any consolation from the trip to Rifle Park.

Down in Co Kildare, Ballymena badly needed to halt their three-game losing run and delivered what they needed with a hugely valuable 19-13 win at Naas.

A try from Angus Kernohan along with four penalties and a conversion via the boot of Ulster squad member Brett Heron - a very respectable 14-point haul - brought Andy Graham's hard-pressed squad some welcome relief from their recent troubles and, more importantly, four crucial points.

The Braidmen led 13-10 at the half-time interval, though that opening 40 minutes had seen them have Glenn Bailie yellow carded.

Discipline has been a problem for Graham's men but, on this occasion, Ballymena stayed very much in the game.

Much of their good work was done up front by their pack, which included brothers Mattie and Marcus Rea.

This platform assisted towards Heron's third and fourth penalties with the four points lifting the Braidmen up a place into seventh.

Results: Division 1B: Bann 20 Hinch 10, Dolphin 10 Belvo 31, Naas 13 Ballymena 19, UCC 31 Old Wesley 27

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