BALLINA         20
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
It’s been two weeks since Ballina 1st XV have played a rugby match, but last Sunday they got their Connacht Junior league campaign back on track when they hosted Corinthians and ran out winners by a margin of 17 points, scoring two trys in the process. From the kick off Ballina were dominant and applying all the early pressure. A strong gusting breeze was at their back and Ballina took the game to the Galway men. With Michael Murphy orchestrating the play from scrum half, and forwards like Aiden McNulty, David Rowe and Rodney O’Donnell carrying the ball, Ballina brought play right up to the Corinthians line, but their lack of match practice showed when they ultimately lost possession when trying to pass the ball when taking contact and when supporting players arrived too slow to rucks to ensure continuity when it was about to pay dividends. Corinthians found it hard to cope with this onslaught from the home side however and four minutes into the game they strayed offside from a ruck inside their 22 and young Ballina outhalf Francis Conroy struck an excellent kick to give Ballina a 3-0 lead. After the restart Ballina continued to take the game to their opponents. Centres Michael Allen and Jerome Harrimate tested Corinthians defensive resolve and kept Ballina going forward and in the Galway side’s half. Up front the scrums were a fairly even contest early on, while Connor Forde and Orrie Collins were proving effective target men for Rodney O’Donnell in the lineout. When the visitors tried to kick into Ballina’s half Ballina’s back three of Robert Melody, Trevor Moore and Niall O’Malley linked up and counter attacked very well. The next score came when a ball was turned over inside Corinthians half and when it was eventually passed to Jerome Harrimate he stepped inside his would be tackler brilliantly and showed great speed to outpace all and touch down for a try. Francis Conroy added the conversion giving Ballina a 10-0 lead. The next scoring opportunity fell to Francis Conroy again when Corinthians were penalised for handling the ball in a ruck but his kick from a difficult angle drifted wide. Corinthians produced some good rugby themselves, and with players like Eric Flynn to the fore they put together some promising passages of play. Ballina were well organised defensively however and Orrie Collins and Judd Ruane were particularly uncompromising for the Mayo men. When the next score came it was from a turnover from a tackle inside their own half and when Michael Murphy emerged with the ball he quickly passed wide to winger Trevor Moore. Moore made great ground and as the cover was closing in on him managed to pass inside to the supporting Michael Allen who drew the remaining defenders before passing on to Michael Murphy who raced in to touch down under the posts. Francis Conroy’s conversion gave Ballina a 17-0 lead. The game was slipping away from Corinthians who responded immediately. A mix up by two Ballina players calling for the ball from the restart got them into Ballina’s half and when the pressure came on as the visitors built the phases Ballina strayed offside. Outhalf Eric Flynn stepped up and put the kick over to give his side their first points of the game and the score was to remain 17-3 until half time. In the second half it would have been reasonable to expect Ballina to push on and go in search of the bonus point but they got off to a poor start when Orrie Collins was sin binned for going offside at a ruck. Reduced to fourteen men and now facing the wind Ballina were pinned inside their own half. Corinthians made the numerical advantage pay despite some heroic defending by Ballina right on their own line. Eventually outhalf Flynn put in a deft perfectly judged kick behind the onrushing Ballina mid-field defence. Winger Paul Connolly did well to ground the ball for a try before it rolled out of the in goal area. Eric Flynn was unable to add the difficult touchline conversion so the score was now 17-8. Ballina made a number of substitutions in the second half. Phillip Timoney came on in the back row for Judd Ruane, Paul King in the centre for Jerome Harrimate, Stephen Dolan in second row for Mark Healy and in the front row David Rowe and Ciaran Melvin replaced David Rowe and Rodney O’Donnell at prop and hooker. This all helped to revitalise the home side with hooker Ciaran Melvin carrying the ball effectively and making one particularly incisive break deep into the visitors 22. Corinthians were penalised from the ensuing ruck and Francis Conroy stretched Ballina’s lead to 20-8 with a well struck penalty kick. There were some other very good passages of play from the Mayo men. Number 8 Aiden McNulty played very well from the base of the scrum, once notably from inside their own 22 he carried the ball very well before linking up with scrum half Michael Murphy who was almost clean away only for a tap tackle by a despairing defender. Murphy did manage to pop the ball up to the on rushing flanker Phillip Timoney who added even more yards with a powerful run before unluckily stepping into touch before he could link up with his support. In the end the score remained 20-8 at full time as either side failed to add to their tally. Next week Ballina have a very difficult task as they travel to Westport to renew the rivalry between these two Mayo sides. With Westport recording some good results of late including wins in the All Ireland Junior Cup this promises to be an even bigger challenge than when the sides met in the league earlier this year, a match which Ballina narrowly won.                        
BALLINA; Robert Melody, Trevor Moore, Jerome Harrimate, Michael Allen, Niall O’Malley, Francis Conroy, Michael Murphy (C), David Rowe, Rodney O’Donnell, Alex Lee, Mark Healy, Connor Forde, Orrie Collins, Judd Ruane, Aiden McNulty, Ciaran Melvin, Paul Newell, Stephen Dolan, Phillip Timoney, Paul King.
CORINTHIANS; Billy Casserly, Paul Flannagan, Jame Buckley, Eoin Daly, Paul Connolly, David Panther, Eirc Flynn, Cathal O’Shea , Brendan Barrett, Alan Walsh, Mark O’Beirne, Jamie Lynch, Darragh Gardiner, Mark Byrne, Adrian Pilkington, Conor Hastings.


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