Hinch hit by drop after play-off loss
It just wasn't to be. The plan for what would have been a miraculous escape unravelled for Ballynahinch as they fell at the final hurdle, and at home too, with Dublin University winning the promotion/relegation play-off shoot-out.
The students halted Hinch's impressively late run for survival in Division 1A by winning 18-9 and, in doing so, condemned Derek Suffern's dejected squad to taking the drop into 1B with Trinity replacing them in the AIL's upper tier.
It now means that there is no Ulster presence in 1A with Hinch now joining Ballymena in 1B for next season. It was a bitterly disappointing end for the Co Down side who, after struggling for much of the regulation season, had made an eye-catching late push to stay afloat and had impressively seen off Buccaneers in the first round of play-offs.
Two sin-binnings - David Nicholson in the first half and Paul Pritchard in the second - damaged Hinch's cause and despite leading 9-7 at the break, with two Chris Quinn penalties, the hosts failed to score again as Trinity took control.
Trinity, who beat Ballymena in their play-off semi-final, really turned the screw early in the second half when winger Max McFarland scored after the students ran a penalty from deep.
Jack McDermott's two penalties - added to his conversion of Tom Ryan's first half try - ensured that there was no way back into the game for Hinch.
"They were better on the day and they deserved it," said Hinch coach Derek Suffern, who will still be at the club in some capacity for next season.
"We just didn't play well enough and the boys looked tired though I'm so proud of their character and spirit for nearly being able to take the lifeline that we got to stay up."