BALLINA       33
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
After the previous week’s defeat to OLBC Ballina restored confidence and scored five trys in the course of securing a bonus point win against derby rivals Castlebar in Heffernan Park last Sunday. Although they had a far from perfect game and largely made things much more difficult for themselves than they should have done, at times they put together some good passages of play and created some excellent scores. They had a steady supply of possession from both scrum and lineout, but a lack of communication and concentration meant that the ball was often turned over cheaply and despite a lot of endeavour Ballina were struggling to build phases of play or impose a pattern of play on the game. When Castlebar had the ball they were met a determined Ballina resistance, which never really looked seriously threatened by any of the visitors attacking efforts. Throughout all this Ballina’s out-half Cory Brown and second centre Jerome Harimate looked threatening and always on the verge of unlocking Castlebar’s defence. It was finally cracked open fourteen minutes into the game following a lineout in which Stephen Dolan secured the ball. Scrum-half Michael Murphy whipped the ball out to Brown who moved it wider to Harrimate. The kiwi centre brought play close to the Castlebar line after which Paul Newell and Rodney O’Donnell carried before Murphy popped a short pass to Cory Brown who crashed over close to the posts. Brown converted his own try giving Ballina a 7-0 lead. Shortly after the restart Castlebar’s out-half Robbie Cusack had an opportunity to reduce the deficit when Ballina were penalised in a scrum outside their 22. His effort drifted wide but five minutes later, following some good work by Castlebar where they retained possession and carried the ball into Ballina’s half, the Castlebar number ten had another chance after Ballina strayed offside at a ruck. Unfortunately for the visitors this effort also went awry. It was Ballina who broke out and scored next. Again a good break from Harrimate got them on the front foot and this time good ball retention and quickly recycled ruck ball unlocked Castlebar’s defence. The ball came to Michael Murphy who had great numbers in support but the Ballina captain didn’t need to use any of them as he cut through in an arcing run to score under the posts. Brown’s conversion stretched Ballina’s lead to 14-0. After the restart Castlebar gained possession and were able to force a penalty from Ballina in front of the posts again for offside. This time Cusack made no mistake and opened his sides account with a well struck kick so the score was 14-3. But any hopes of a revival by the visitors were short lived. Ballina hit back almost immediately. Their pressure yielded them a lineout in Castlebar’s 22. The throw in didn’t find it’s intended target but the alert second row Connor Forde gathered the ball athletically and took it forward before passing to flanker Liam Lynch who drew the last of the stretched cover defence and passed on to prop forward Alex Lee who gratefully grounded the ball for the try. Again Brown added the conversion giving Ballina a 21-3 lead which remained the score until half time. Two minutes into the second half Ballina scored again. Fullback Francis Conroy initiated a counter-attack from deep and after some excellent play combining the efforts of backs and forwards to recycle the ball quickly and move it as wide as possible as quickly as possible the Castlebar cover was breached once more when the final pass was fed inside to centre Michael Allen following some bewitching artistry from Michael Murphy the Ballina number 12 raced in for a try. The conversion attempt from Brown drifted wide so Ballina led 26-3 and the bonus point was secured. Very prominent in the build up to that score, as he had been in all of Ballina’s continuity play during the game was Orrie Collins who had an excellent game in the Ballina back row alongside Aiden McNulty and Liam Lynch. Ballina brought on winger David Brunker for Trevor Moore and David Rowe and Ciaran Melvin for Paul Newell and Rodney O’Donnell in the front row at half time and later introduced Mark Healy into the second row with Lynch going off and Forde moving into the back row. The reorganised scrum conceded penalties that helped keep Castlebar in the game but they never really looked creative enough to manage a credible comeback. Brunker was lively when given the opportunity to counter attack and after a great run was unlucky to be knocked into touch just in front of Castlebar’s try line by the visitors desperate scramble defence. Later in the half Cormac Quinn came on for centre Michael Allen and he was rewarded with a try following excellent combinations by Ballina’s backs and forwards in an attacking movement that culminated in second row Stephen Dolan selling an audacious dummy, before drawing the last defender and feeding inside to Quinn who raced in for the score under the posts. Browns conversion stretched the lead to 33-3. Castlebar refused to capitulate and in the final minutes were rewarded with a try following a scrum close to Ballina’s line the forwards picked and drove for the Ballina line until eventually flanker Matthew Staunton crashed over and touched down. Cusack’s conversion brought the visitors tally to 10 points and was followed by the final whistle. Ballina will be pleased to have returned to winning ways but will be troubled by many aspects of this performance and will be working hard to improve those parts of the game that let them down while building on the many positive things which were also evident. They will be hoping to put it all together next Sunday when they are at home again, this time hosting Galwegians (K.O. 3pm) in what promises to be an entertaining encounter.            
BALLINA; Francis Conroy, Trevor Moore, Jerome Harimate, Michael Allen, Robert Melody, Cory Brown, Michael Murphy (C), Alex Lee, Rodney O’Donnell, Paul Newell, Connor Forde, Stephen Dolan, Liam Lynch, Orrie Collins, Aiden McNulty, Ciaran Melvin, David Rowe, Mark Healy, David Brunker, Cormac Quinn.
CASTLEBAR; Luke Staunton, Martin Moran, Emmett Gill, Gearoid Molloy, Declan Moran, Robert Cusack, Paddy O’Malley, David Staunton, Gavin Sullivan, Matthew Staunton, Ruiri Hughes, Brian Mulgrew, Brian Flannery, Shane Horan, Liam Molloy, Mark Conlon, Oisin Roden, Padraig Conneely, Damien Togher, Johnny Doran.
REFFEREE; Joe Doyne.


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