Dromore RFC hold firm to end 80-year wait for Junior Cup joy
Ballynahinch II 19-22 Dromore
Dromore made their own piece of history last night by winning the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup for the first time in 80 years in what was a pulsating final at Kingspan Stadium which went to the wire.
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Not since the 1938-39 season had Dromore claimed the cup and this was only their third ever time in the final, though they were made to fight every inch of the way by holders Ballynahinch II, who were chasing a hat-trick of titles.
Dromore's set-piece dominance paved the way for this win, with tries from Tom Lyttle and Ben Heath along with a penalty try proving enough to end their long wait for the cup.
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Hinch, though, came charging back after trailing 19-6 and scored tries from Ronan Patterson and Aaron Ferris but just fell short despite looking most dangerous when the game opened up. In the end, they left themselves just too much to do.
Dromore were clearly up for the occasion from the off, though Hinch opened the scoring when Matthew Norton landed a penalty from their first visit to Dromore's 22 after 13 minutes.
Lee Steenson then missed with a long-range penalty shot shortly after the restart, but Dromore kept up the pressure on the holders and their pack took control of a lineout and mauled in from Hinch's 22 with prop Lyttle scoring.
Steenson was unable to convert but Dromore had the lead.
It didn't last as Norton landed his second penalty on 29 minutes, from distance, with the ball grazing the crossbar on its way over.
Steenson then missed again from the tee, but they ended the half strongly and after Gareth Gill had been turned over in his 22, Dromore surged to the line.
After Andrew Rutledge was held up short, Ferris went for an intercept and was judged to have deliberately knocked on by referee Christopher Lough, who not only yellow-carded the winger but awarded a penalty try, the half then ending with Dromore leading 12-6.
To their credit, the cup holders weren't willing to lie down, but a great surge from sub Kelvin Hamilton only resulted in Lewis Finlay knocking on from a promising position.
But Dromore immediately hit back and, after several strong phases, No.8 Heath was the one to breach Hinch's creaking defence on 49 minutes.
Steenson landed his first kick of the evening and Dromore were 19-6 up just as Hinch got 15 men back on the field.
But Hinch weren't done. They launched their best attack of the game with Ferris, Norton and James McBriar all prominent before they worked sub Ronan Patterson over in the left corner on 55 minutes.
However, Norton's difficult conversion hit the bar and bounced out, taking the scoreline to 19-11 in Dromore's favour.
They came again but Ferris was tackled into touch out on the right with Rutledge nailing the veteran winger.
Then with 12 minutes left, Ferris - who else - tore through the Dromore defence before being dragged down short of the line which resulted in McDonald being yellow-carded for playing the ball on the deck.
Hinch opted for the posts and Norton landed his third penalty to cut Dromore's lead to five points, though Steenson rapidly responded with a 70th-minute penalty which ended up proving to be the crucial, and deciding, score.
Ferris then got over the line with just minutes left after Dromore made a hash of a high ball, but Norton failed to convert and Hinch just couldn't find any more energy to deny Dromore their special moment.
Ballynahinch II: J McBriar, J McCoubrey, E McAnulty, P Wright, A Ferris, M Norton, L Finlay; B Cullen, C Milligan, H McCormick, M McKelvey, T Martin, B Howard, S Elwood, G Gill
Replacements: G McKittrick, K Hamilton, D Dawson, C Phillips, R Patterson
Dromore: A McDonald, B McClearn, A Stewart, G McCandless, A Rutledge, D Lyttle, L Steenson; T Lyttle, S Sloan, J Savage, M McMaster, R Bingham, A MacGregor, P Elliot, B Heath
Replacements: A Black, F Mulholland, J Maguire, S Russell, A Gilmore
Referee: C Lough