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Ervine brace sees Banbridge claim the spoils in Hinch derby

 

By Michael Sadlier

It's all getting rather congested at the top, which is just how Banbridge will like it after coming away with full honours after derailing leaders Ballynahinch in their own backyard.

Bann fought back from being 14-0 behind to triumph 29-14 in their Ulster derby with Hinch which meant that Dan Soper's squad not only achieved a double over their Co Down rivals in this campaign but closed the gap to one point between third and first.

Hinch, therefore, failed to take this opportunity bolster their lead at the top of the table which could prove to be extremely costly after second-placed Shannon also failed to win over the weekend.

1B looks set for quite a finish with four games remaining before the regulation season ends and third-placed Bann are well in the mix now to try and claim automatic promotion to 1A by winning the league.

As for Hinch, Brian McLaughlin will now need to earn his corn by steering his squad through this potentially season-wrecking reverse and get them back on track for their visit to UL Bohemians in two weeks' time.

Bann, though, will be feeling reasonably confident of an Ulster derby double when Ballymena head to Rifle Park for the first Saturday in March.

It had all started so promisingly for in-form Hinch with Richard Reaney kicking three penalties in the first 12 minutes to put his side 9-0 up.

He then managed to score a try after taking a pass from Conal Boomer though the conversion didn't make it through the sticks.

But Hinch - who had Peter Nelson pulled from their side on Friday night due to Johnny McPhillips's injury for Ulster - failed to keep their visitors out before half-time as centre James Hume nabbed a try on his AIL debut.

Adam Doherty's conversion saw the sides turn round with Bann trailing 14-7 and, as things panned out, Hinch never scored again.

Hume's fellow centre Adam Ervine then racked up a brace, Doherty converting the second, and Bann led 19-14.

A penalty from Doherty and flanker Nick Hayes's bonus point try ensured that five points belonged to Bann.

At Eaton Park, Ballymena showed some real fight in their battle to avoid the relegation zone by beating Naas 26-8.

The bonus point win lifted them to eighth through tries from Azur Allison, Rodger McBurney and Glenn Bailie with Clive Ross bagging the all-important fourth score to bring Andy Graham's squad hope.

Results: Div 1B: Ballymena v26 Naas 8, Hinch14 Banbridge 29, Old Belvo 34 Dolphin 19, Old Wesley 19 UCC 22

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