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Ballynahinch do the double to leave Ballymena in battle for survival

 

By Michael Sadlier

It always had the look of a home win about it and so it turned out with Ballynahinch triumphing 28-13 to rack up an AIL double over struggling Ballymena.

Brian McLaughlin's second-placed side, with Ulster's Peter Nelson at out-half, stayed in the promotion hunt with another four valuable points though there will doubtless be some disappointment that they failed to nail down a try bonus.

Winger Richard Reaney led the scoring for Hinch at Ballymacarn Park with his 18 points coming from a try, two conversions and three penalties.

Indeed Reaney had already managed to collect most of his final total by half-time which had put Hinch in front 11-6.

And though the Braidmen did stage a comeback to close Hinch's lead to 18-13, they just couldn't put any further pressure on the scoreboard with Ulster squad member Brett Herron registering all their points from a try, a conversion and two penalties.

Indeed Hinch pulled away with 10 second half points thanks to scrum-half Aaron Cairns' breakaway try and then another touchdown from hooker Zack McCall.

These are worrying times for Ballymena who have now only won three times in 11 games and Andy Graham's squad are looking increasingly vulnerable regarding relegation issues as they sit in eighth place and only three points ahead of UL Bohemians.

Of even more concern is that Graham had a strong side out at the weekend with Ulster players John Andrew, Ross Kane, Dave Shanahan and Herron all in the starting team.

As for Hinch, their eighth win of the campaign keeps them tucked in behind leaders Shannon who are four points ahead of McLaughlin's squad with the next full round of games coming on January 27.

Banbridge began the New Year on the wrong end of an 18-15 result at Old Belvedere though Dan Soper's side did make off with a losing bonus point and remain third in the table.

Bann will be disappointed with the result though as they did lead 15-7 in the second half after flanker Nick Hayes had dotted down.

But the home side came back to tie the scores with only a late drop goal snatching the four points for Belvo.

Div 1B: Dolphin 12 UCC 9 (Friday game), Shannon 25 Naas 3, Hinch 28 Ballymena 13, Belvo 18 Bann 15, Old Wesley 15 UL Bohs 17

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