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In pictures: Ballynahinch crowned champions as skipper Cairns hails 'massive' day

 

Champions: Aaron Cairns and his Ballynahinch team-mates celebrate clinching the 1B title
Champions: Aaron Cairns and his Ballynahinch team-mates celebrate clinching the 1B title
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Aaron Cairns pictured with the cup after winning the game in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Aaron Cairns pictured with the cup after winning the game in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Aaron Cairns pictured with the cup after winning the game in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Aaron Cairns pictured with the cup after winning the game in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's David Busby pictured scoring during todays game with v St Marys in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Rhys O'Donnell pictured scoring during todays game with v St Marys in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Zac McCall and St Marys Michael McCormick pictured in action during todays game in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Jonny McPhilips pictured scoring during todays game with v St Marys in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-04-2019: All Ireland Rugby League match Ballynahinch v St Marys College RFC at Ballynahinch Rugby Club. Ballynahinch's Jonny McPhilips pictured scoring during todays game with v St Marys in Ballynahinch. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker.

By Michael Sadlier

There was to be no denying Ballynahinch their moment.

They dealt with St Mary's College without undue trouble and appropriately became 1B champions at Ballymacarn Park which also saw the Co Down side make their way back into next season's 1A after three years away.

The win they had needed to take the title - Hinch triumphed 41-15 - prompted huge celebrations before and after skipper Aaron Cairns had held the trophy, which was conveniently in situ, aloft.

"This is massive for the club," said Cairns.

"All the hard work this season has finally paid off," added the former Ulster squad member.

"We were in 1A a few years ago and I was part of that for the three seasons we were there and the club has been in a rebuilding phase to try and get up there again.

"We wouldn't have got here without our coaches Brian McLaughlin, Tom Rock and all the backroom staff.

"There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and without that we couldn't do it and all that work goes right the way through the club with all our teams," he said on the day Hinch's fourth team lifted the Crawford Cup.

"We've learnt lessons from our time before in 1A and hopefully we'll take that back up with us and see how we get on," added Cairns.

Indeed the trick will be staying in 1A somewhat longer this time around - Hinch managed three campaigns of mostly struggle before exiting in 2016 - and that fresh challenge awaits Brian McLaughlin's squad.

From the off on Saturday, as they made their way towards a sixth consecutive victory in what has, mostly, been an unpredictable and highly volatile 1B table, Hinch clearly had the greater desire, hunger and overall accuracy against a St Mary's side who needed to win to keep their remote top four hopes from slipping away.

On a difficult afternoon for both kicking and handling, with a biting wind howling across the pitch, the always dangerous Ross Adair had dashed over for the first of Hinch's six tries after just three minutes of play.

Ulster's Johnny McPhillips converted and added a quick-fire penalty before then also converting flanker Bradley Luney's 35th minute score.

With Tom O'Toole and Tommy O'Hagan anchoring Hinch's scrum, their lineout also being generally more secure, and their defence pretty solid with centre David Busby putting in a big shift, it was little surprise that Hinch led 17-0 at the break.

Though St Mary's did get off the mark, McPhillips rounded two defenders to touch down on the hour and the bonus point duly followed from scrum-half Rhys O'Donnell who broke clear to make his way under the sticks.

McPhillips converted O'Donnell's effort and at 29-5 the game was well and truly in the bag.

To their credit, St Mary's scored two further tries but the endgame was all about Hinch with Busby crossing - McPhillips converting which took his haul to 16 points - and then Adair snaring his second in the last minute though Richard Reaney missed the extras.

In truth, the party had already begun before Kieran Barry had blown for full-time.

Malone could be joining Hinch if they can navigate their way through the play-offs after expectedly securing fourth in the wake of beating already relegated Ballymena by 32-0 at Gibson Park.

Paddy Armstrong's squad now travel to UCC for their promotion play-off semi-final which is on April 27.

Winger Andy Bryans scored a hat-trick of tries while hooker Dave Cave and full-back Jack Owens also dotted down as Malone took maximum points.

Banbridge ended their season by moving up two places to fifth, winger Conor Field scoring two of the five try haul from their 34-14 home victory over Old Belvedere.

City of Armagh ended the day from where they had started, losing 31-10 at Old Wesley to remain eighth.

1B: Hinch 41 St Mary's 15, Bann 34vBelvo 14, Wesley 31 Armagh 10, Malone 32 Ballymena 0

Final placings; 1B: Hinch 1st, champions and promoted to 1A; Malone 4th and play-offs; Bann 5th; Armagh 8th; Ballymena 10th and relegated to 2A.

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