Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Title in sight as Hinch time winning run to perfection


David Busby
David Busby

By Michael Sadlier

Though the destiny of the 1B title will now go to the wire, Ballynahinch have hit the front at just the right moment.

Winning their Ulster derby 27-19 at City of Armagh allowed Hinch to leapfrog former leaders Old Wesley - who lost their Dublin derby at Old Belvedere - and open up a three-point lead heading into the weekend's last round of regular season games.

It means that Brian McLaughlin's squad will win the league if they beat St Mary's College at Ballymacarn Park and, should they do so, the Co Down club be automatically promoted to 1A where they last resided in the 2015-16 season, before dropping out via the play-offs.

Hinch have certainly chosen a good time to hit form, their win over Armagh being the club's fifth straight success since narrowly losing to Wesley in February.

And when things looked potentially tricky at the Palace Grounds - Armagh came back from trailing 19-9 via a penalty try to close Hinch's lead to 19-16 - the visitors were able to put daylight between the sides again to keep them on track for a shot at the title.

Hinch, who had Tommy O'Hagan, David Busby and Zac Ward in their squad, took the four points after tries from Zack McCall, Rhys O'Donnell and Aaron Cairns.

Richard Reaney also made a healthy contribution, kicking 12 points from four penalties.

Armagh dropped down from fifth to eighth and are safe now from being dragged into the play-offs to maintain a place in 1B.

Indeed, a fourth-place finish for Willie Faloon's squad is still possible though highly unlikely as, in addition to beating Wesley in Dublin, a series of other results have to now go their way .

Malone were involved in the most dramatic encounter of the day but had to content themselves with two bonus points after being pipped at St Mary's College by 38-36 in an 11-try thriller.

The defeat meant that Malone slipped one place to fourth and with just three points separating them from Armagh in eighth, the Gibson Park club must aim to deliver a bonus point win when hosting already relegated Ballymena at the weekend, and hope that Hinch beat St Mary's, to guarantee a top four finish and a play-off place.

Coach Paddy Armstrong's side looked as if they might have had the job done shortly after half-time when Adam McBurney crashed over for their bonus point try to put Malone 24-7 ahead after Mark O'Connor's conversion.

But the hosts came charging back into the game to narrow Malone's lead to 24-21.

Ross Kane's score kept Malone eight points in front but, again, St Mary's weren't finished and took a 31-29 lead.

With five minutes on the clock Graham Curtis touched down for Malone's sixth try - Andy Bryans, Stewart Moore and Jack Owens having done likewise in the first half - only for St Mary's to cross again for their fifth, with Conor Dean's conversion winning the game.

Banbridge got themselves up to seventh, and all-important safety, after coming from behind to win 24-20 at Buccaneers, Andrew Morrison's try bringing them five points.

Relegated Ballymena lost 47-24 at home to Naas.

1B: B'mena 24 Naas 47, Armagh 19 Hinch 27, Buccs 20 Banbridge 24, St Mary's 38 Malone 36.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph