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Ballynahinch and Banbridge are perfect 10s

By Ronnie Ingram

The warm weather and firm pitches resulted in the five SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership games producing 280 points, including 41 tries.

Undefeated Ballynahinch and Banbridge are the early leaders in Division 1 with the maximum 10 points, while unbeaten Malone have already opened up a gap in Division 2.

Most interest focused on the clash between Hinch and Ballymena at Ballymacarn where the home side could still remember last season’s disappointing 31-26 defeat.

They made amends in no uncertain manner, however, by crossing for four tries and a bonus point in a 31-11 victory although both teams were weakened by Ulster commitments.

Flanker Conor Philips, who is also a Rugby League-registered player, made a massive difference to the Hinch side and put them ahead after seven minutes with a try which Chris Quinn goaled.

Glenn Bailey came back with two penalties and although his team was reduced to 14 players for 10 minutes Hinch failed to take advantage.

Quinn kicked a home penalty and the home side were 10-6 in front at the interval although it was a period in which they struggled.

The second half was different with Hinch looking more determined and as the game progressed they appeared fitter than the opposition.

A huge pack effort led to a pushover try from former Rainey player Joe Roe and then winger Callum McLaughlin, on his debut and a son of Brian, finished off a well worked try.

Full-back Stephen McCauley, showing some of his old form, started a move for speedy Davy Nicholson to burst through for a solo effort score.

Quinn goaled all three to bring his tally to 11 points in the match.

Towards the close of the contest the visitors took a short penalty for the pack to trundle forward for Adrian Kirkpatrick to crash over.

Results: Division 1: Ballynahinch 31 Ballymena 11, Banbridge 50 City of Derry 5, Dungannon 20 Armagh 35.

Division 2: Bangor 22 Malone 50, Belfast Harlequins 46 Queen’s 10

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