Connacht Junior League Div 1A
BALLINA      17  
CASTLEBAR 0
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
Two tries from Phillip Rowe along with two conversions and a penalty from Cory Brown were enough to secure the victory for Ballina in Heffernan Park last Sunday. It was a fractious hard fought game with little sustained continuity. It was of course contested as keenly as you would expect from a derby encounter but, as is often the case in a derby, it was for much of the game an entrenched stalemate. Ballina were dominating, especially territorially as they were encamped in the Castlebar half, David_Newmancorraine_beattiebut they failed to turn this territorial dominance into points on the board for most of the game. Ballina will naturally look at their shortcomings themselves. Their failure to secure their lineout ball consistently, a creaking scrum on their own put in, the concession of too many penalties for losing their feet in the rucks, all of which contributed to the home sides frustrations, but credit must also be given to the visitors who were so unyielding in their defence, and were always very quick to get their hands on the ball after the tackle, which ensured a much slowed down ruck ball for the home team and made continuity very difficult.
If Ballina had problems with their own set piece play, they proved to be well able to exert pressure on their opponents scrum and lineout. Phillip Timoney and William O’Connor were the contesting the lineouts successfully and as gradually they sourced some of their own lineout ball through Conor Forde a supply of possession began to flow Ballina’s way. Even when Ballina’s scrum was in difficulty, number 8 Aiden McNulty was able to skilfully get the ball away to scrum half Michael Murphy on most occasions and when the ball got slowed up in the ruck Murphy was always able to somehow dig it out and set his backline in motion. Player/Coach Cory Brown was dictating the game from Out Half and he kept the pressure on the visitors, always looking to unleash Ballina’s formidable Centres David Newman and Chris O’Neill at every opportunity. When Ballina did piece the phases together they looked likely to score. On one occasion it looked like they had done enough with sustained pressure from ball carrying forwards followed by good direct running and handling from the back line which resulted in Stephen McCarron crashing over the line, only for the misfortunate Ballina Full Back to lose the ball in the tackle as he fell over the line. McCarron was having a good game for Ballina, and he proved a handful for Castlebar as he and Wingers Niall O’Malley and Kieran Rouse gathered any ball that came their way and counter attacked at every chance. Ballina’s back row were becoming more influential in the game and Phillip Timoney appeared to have scored when one of his trade mark runs ended with him powering over under the posts but referee Noel Crowley didn’t see him ground the ball and Castlebar were still holding their hosts scoreless.

The breakthrough finally came when Ballina’s Kieran Rouse gathered a clearing kick from Castlebar and ran the ball back with Phillip Rowe and Michael Murphy in support. Phillip Rowe was put away in space and the Ballina Flanker showed great individual skill to step inside the cover defence and race in to score under the posts. Cory Brown added the conversion giving Ballina a 7-0 lead which remained the score line until half time.
Ballina introduced Michael Clarke for Niall O’Malley and Hooker Rodney O’Donnell for Liam Lynch at half time, and if anything the home side were even more territorially dominant. Within four minutes of the re-start Castlebar had conceded a penalty within Cory Brown’s range, and the Ballina Out-Half was unerring with his well struck kick which stretched his sides lead to 10-0. Mark Healy came on for Conor Forde in the Second Row, and later Judd Ruane came into the back-row for Aiden McNulty. Ballina’s lineouts were now functioning well providing a more sure source of possession and as the Moy side team continued to apply pressure you felt it was only a matter of time before they registered another score. It again came from running back a clearing kick from Castlebar. This time Michael Clarke ran from inside his own half, and the elusive Ballina Winger done well to take his man on the outside and storm into Castlebar’s 22. When he was finally tackled his pass inside found Phillip Rowe in support as a good openside should be. The Ballina number 7 couldn’t be stopped from crossing the line for his second try of the day and Cory Brown added the conversion with an excellently struck kick two metres in from the touchline to give Ballina a 17-0 lead. Phillip Rowe appeared to be in for his hat trick after some great handling and running which culminated in Michael Murphy drawing a defender and passing the ball to Rowe who brilliantly changed the angle of his run and raced over for what seemed to be the best try of the day. Referee Noel Crowley deemed an element of crossing occurred and brought play back for a penalty to Castlebar. The match ended with Castlebar in the Ballina half (almost for the first time in the game) gamely trying to create a try, but in truth they never really looked capable of troubling the Ballina defence. Their best effort involved a late pass to the strong running Michael Staunton from deep, but he was met with a thunderous tackle from Stephen McCarron who then secured the ball and set off on a run out of defence during which, not for the first time on the day, he literally ran over would be tacklers. In the end neither side could add to the score board, so the game finished up 17-0 to Ballina in this particular Mayo derby. Ballina will be conscious of the areas of their game they have to work on, but can be pleased with the way they sorted out many of their problems on the pitch as the match progressed, which is the hallmark of a good side. Next week they travel away to Glenina to take on Galwegians in what promises to be another difficult challenge, but one they definitely have the ability to rise to.

BALLINA; Ciaran Melvin, Liam Lynch, Tom Tolan, Conor Forde, William O’Connor, Phillip Rowe, Phillip Timoney, Aiden McNulty, Michael Murphy, Cory Brown, Kieran Rouse, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Niall O’Malley, Stephen McCarron, Rodney O’Donnell, Mark Healy, Judd Ruane, Michael Clarke, Francis Conroy.
CASTLEBAR; L Molloy, N Coyle, B Flannery, D Mulgrew, R Hughes, S Casey, P Flannelly, D Staunton, C Cusack, R Cusack, N Byrne, P Coady, M Staunton, L Staunton, R Conway, G Sullivan, C Rogan, E Molloy, P O’Malley.
REFFEREE; Noel Crowley.

Pic (C) Corraine Beattie

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