McGuckin leaves it late to grab spoils for Dungannon
It wasn’t a day for those who value free-flowing rugby as the weather impacted on the weekend’s games which saw all the Ulster clubs involved playing this side of the border.
At Stevenson Park’s Ulster derby clash, Dungannon got the better of Ballynahinch 13-8 thanks to a late unconverted score from John McGuckin which was manufactured from a James Shiells chip in behind the ‘Hinch defence.
The result, which brought a second home win for ‘Gannon, sees Justin Fitzpatrick’s squad rise from fifth to now sit second in the table thanks to a better points difference over Ballymena.
As for fifth-placed ‘Hinch, two narrow and bonus point Ulster derby defeats, alongside their solitary and wafer-thin home win over Galwegians, by no means constitutes a crisis for the newcomers but will focus minds on the need to beat Young Munster when they visit on Saturday.
Though a very closely fought encounter, ‘Gannon played the conditions with greater nous and their back row of Derek Hall, Ali Birch and Stuart McKenzie delivered big performances.
After ‘Hinch’s Ryan Bambry had opened the scoring with an early penalty, the Tyrone side took the lead when winger Craig Kilroy raced onto a Shiells chip. This was added to by a McGuckin penalty which saw the home side lead 8-3 at the turnaround.
‘Hinch levelled the scores when winger Nevin Spence got over the line and that is how it stayed until McGuckin’s late score gave the home side the spoils.
Over at Eaton Park, Ballymena fell to their first league defeat at the unlikely hands of previously winless Buccaneers; the visitors prevailing 18-15 in the difficult conditions.
The Braidmen started brightly enough when skipper Sam McKinney drove over the Buccs’ line and this was added to by a penalty from Rory Drysdale.
But instead of closing the deal, Ballymena allowed the visitors into the game and trailed 13-8 at the break. They did battle their way back though, and were awarded a penalty try which gave them a 15-13 lead after Drysdale added the extras.
But missed opportunities left them vulnerable and Buccs sealed the win in the dying minutes to leave Ballymena with a losing bonus point.
In Divison Two, fourth-placed Belfast Harlequins kept their unbeaten record intact with a 15-8 success over Gresytones at a weather-beaten Deramore.
Quins only led 5-0 at half time thanks to a Rory Blake-Knox try but pushed on in the remainder with a score from Andrew Gillespie which was converted by John Mills who then added a penalty to finish Quins’ scoring.
It was contrasting fortunes for Malone who succumbed to a third straight defeat when losing to Highfield 20-18.