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Hinch boost their survival mission

 

By Michael Sadlier

No better time to halt a morale-sapping three-game losing run than in the first round of fixtures since the start of the New Year.

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Indeed, Ballynahinch will have taken considerable encouragement from turning the tables on Clontarf, on a challenging day conditions-wise, to bring up only their third victory from 10 rounds.

Though the four highly-prized points from their 11-10 win still has Hinch at the foot of the Division 1A table, they are on 18 points along with Dublin University in ninth and UCC in eighth.

With seventh-placed Young Munster only three points ahead, there is hope that Brian McLaughlin's squad might yet remove themselves from the automatic spot for relegation and possibly even stage an escape from the play-offs.

After taking a tanking at Castle Avenue in the first round of their back-to-back with Clontarf, Hinch had to gather themselves to come from behind early on after the visitors put themselves 7-0 ahead.

Two penalties from the boot of Sean O'Hagan put them a point behind as the sides changed ends.

Hinch's ambition had already been seen in the first 40 minutes through some quality multi-phase attacks and it was from such accurate work that the game's key score was created.

Aaron Cairns got over in the corner after a more than useful assist from Ross Adair and, though the difficult conversion was missed, the home side were 11-7 up.

Though the Dublin visitors managed a penalty to put the pressure on, Hinch didn't concede again and were good value for this much-needed victory.

In 1B, City of Armagh's growing need to progress away from the lower end of the table may have assisted in them winning their Ulster derby with Banbridge.

In last month's previous round, the Co Down men had run up a big score to take maximum points when the sides met at Rifle Park so for Willie Faloon's squad to win 12-5, this time at the Palace Grounds, will presumably have done much for Armagh's self-belief.

In terms of the table, Armagh remain in eighth but have maintained their six-point cushion between themselves and Naas, who are ninth.

Armagh scored all their points in the opening half which saw them lead 12-0 at the midway break.

Tries from Shea O'Brien and Andrew Smyth, along with one conversion via Cormac Fox, got them there and the home side held firm in what remained of the game.

Bann's only points were scored on the hour when Ryan Hughes got over the Armagh line which, though it halted their three-game run of victories, earned them a losing bonus point as they were nudged down a place in the table to fourth.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, Malone rose one spot to sixth after they defeated Old Wesley 12-9 to achieve the double over the second-placed side.

Dave Cave and Ben McCaughey scored tries for Malone and Jack Milligan contributed a conversion as the visitors battled all the way for the four points.

1A: Ballynahinch 11 Clontarf 10.

1B: City of Armagh 12 Banbridge 5, Old Wesley 9 Malone 12.

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