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Ballymena suffer relegation after brave fightback falls short

 

Tight contest: Ballynahinch's Ross Adair, on the ball, battles with Ballymena's Ben Moxham
Tight contest: Ballynahinch's Ross Adair, on the ball, battles with Ballymena's Ben Moxham

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballymena have dropped into Division Two of the SONI Ulster League after losing the relegation crunch 50-40 at Ballynahinch.

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It was an exciting and entertaining game with 14 tries at Ballymacarn Park, where Ballymena bravely fought back from a 38-14 interval deficit to create panic in the Hinch defence as the margin narrowed.

The home team had earlier romped to a 31-0 advantage before Ballymena wakened to the dire situation.

Centre Paddy Wright crossed in the corner before an individual effort by scrum-half Rhys O'Donnell led to the second.

Then a turn of pace saw prop Harry McCormick race in, and full-back Connor Rankin broke away from close to halfway. George Pringle charged down the middle to go under the posts, and Greg Hutley kicked three of the conversions.

Ballymena responded with Timmy Small goaling tries by Ali Burke and Mickey Stronge, before Hinch's Rankin added his second.

The first move of the second period saw Ross Adair make it 43-14 but Ballymena came back with tries from Ben Moxham, Johnny McMullan and Jordan Foster, two of which were goaled, but they allowed their opponents ease the pressure with a converted Aaron Cairns score.

Finally, Ballymena got a penalty try but it wasn't enough for them to avoid the drop.

Rainey already won the title and Stevenson Shield last week.

Promotion to the top section has not been finalised as Armagh bagged a 19-14 victory over Dungannon and Belfast Harlequins sealed a bonus-point 33-12 success at City of Derry.

The result of last week's postponed game between Quins and Armagh will decide the issue.

Armagh have 19 points and Quins 14 but the Belfast team can clinch the Division Two title with a bonus-point victory assuming they keep their opponents pointless.

Final Div 1 points tally: Rainey 20, Banbridge 16, Malone 14, Ballynahinch 12, Queen's nine and Ballymena six.

Div 2: Omagh finished on 17, Dungannon 13, Bangor 10 and City of Derry two.

Results: Division 1: Ballynahinch 50 Ballymena 40, Banbridge 26 Queen's 14, Malone 87 Rainey 5.

Division 2: Bangor 23 Omagh 21, City of Armagh 19 Dungannon 14, City of Derry 12 Belfast Harlequins 33.

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