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Ulster sides setting the pace after first four games


Adam Doherty
Adam Doherty

By Michael Sadlier

After four rounds, the top of the 1B table makes good viewing for Ulster clubs now that Banbridge have hit the front with Malone and Ballynahinch in close pursuit.

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Malone now occupy second spot, a solitary point off Bann, while Hinch have risen from fifth to third and are two behind the new leaders.

Bann's 38-10 bonus point thumping of Ballymena in their Ulster derby at Rifle Park not only elevated the Co Down side to pole position - though former leaders Naas did not play and have a game in hand - but also ensured the Braidmen stayed bottom with just one victory to their name.

The home team built up a 16-0 lead after just half an hour - thanks to a Stevie Irvine try alongside a conversion and three penalties from Adam Doherty - before Tim Small got Ballymena off the mark with a penalty just before half-time.

After that, it was all Bann with Doherty's fourth penalty - he ended the afternoon kicking another two conversions for 18 points of the home side's total - followed by further tries for Conor Field, Niall Armstrong and Aaron Kennedy.

Trailing 38-3, Connor Smyth's late touchdown, converted by Small, brought Ballymena little solace following the raised hopes which followed their, so far, sole victory over St Mary's College in the previous round.

Though Hinch ran in eight tries to see off Buccaneers 42-31 to manage two consecutive bonus point results, a late surge from the visitors to Ballymacarn Park will hardly have gone down well at Ballymena as Buccs grabbed a try bonus to sit one point ahead of the lowly Braidmen.

Hinch, who only led 12-10 when the sides changed ends, put on the afterburners after the restart. Richard Reaney, who scored in the opening half, then went on to score on two further occasions to claim his hat-trick of tries.

Reaney was closely followed by Rhys O'Donnell in the scoring stakes as he picked up a brace of touchdowns while James Simpson, Callum McLaughlin and Aaron Cairns also got tries for Hinch who led 42-10 before the late surge from their Connacht visitors.

At Gibson Park, Malone made amends for the previous weekend's defeat at Armagh by managing six tries for their maximum point result over Old Belvedere.

Malone finished up 39-8 winners as Michael Shiels, Ben McCaughey, Mattie Agnew, and Ulster hooker Adam McBurney all dotted down. Winger Davy McMaster came in as top scorer, though, as he got over the Belvo line on two occasions.

City of Armagh tumbled from third to sixth at St Mary's College where the home side were 27-11 victors.

Willie Faloon's squad had put themselves 11-0 ahead in the first half, with two penalties from Cormac Fox and an Andrew Smyth try getting them there, but the hosts narrowed that lead through their own try before half-time and then added another three in the second half to take a bonus point win.

Div 1B: Ballynahinch​ ​42 Buccaneers 31, Banbridge 38 Ballymena 10, Malone 39 Old Belvo 8, St Mary's 27 Armagh 11.

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