Ballina 6 9 Westport

(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)

In the terrible conditions that prevailed in Heffernan park last Sunday Ballina struggled valiantly right up to the last second of the game to play rugby but eventually they succumbed to three penalties from Westport Out Half Lyndon Jones against two from Ballina’s Sam Johnson. Ballina received the kick off and in the ensuing ruck were immediately penalised outside their 22. Lyndon Jones put over the kick giving his side an effortless lead 3-0. It was an early indication of what was to come as throughout the game Ballina were penalised a disproportionate amount of times in the breakdown situation, and with some cost.

The conditions dictated a lot of the play and while playing against a strong wind in the first half Ballina spent a good deal of time defending in their own half as Lyndon Jones and his colleague Full Back Kevin Corcoran booted the ball into Ballina’s territory when possible. The home team were defensively well organised however and when Ballina did succeed in turning the ball over without being penalised they quickly moved the ball wide allowing Full Back Jerome Harrimate to put Winger Francis Conroy away. Conroy showed good pace and footwork to break out from the 10 metre line in his own half and bring play up to Westport’s 22. Ultimately the ball was knocked on but it gave Ballina a foothold in Westport’s 22.

Ballina maintained the pressure on their opponents and from after winning possession in a lineout through Stephen Dolan, Hooker Richard Kelly looped around and passed on to Michael Murphy in some space. Murphy passed on to Aiden McNulty who ran onto the pass with great pace, and made great ground before being penalised for holding on because of lack of support when he was eventually grounded. The pressure was maintained with good play involving centres Cory Brown and Michael Allen but, understandably in the deteriorating conditions, Ballina’s efforts to pass the ball around ultimately ended with handling errors. Ballina did gain just reward for hard work when after a lot of pressure on a Westport lineout close to their line, a sloppy pass over their try line forced a scrambled fly kick clearance which was picked up by a Westport player in an offside position beside the posts. Sam Johnson kicked over the resulting penalty to tie the score 3-3.

There followed a period of pressure from Westport which saw them camped in Ballina’s 22 largely due to the penalties that Ballina conceded. Westport brought play right up to Ballina’s line but stout defence from the home side repelled their efforts until eventually the Covies were penalised for holding on in a ruck and the siege was lifted. Ballina were soon under more pressure when Aiden McNulty was sin-binned for what was deemed a late tackle and from that penalty Lyndon Jones re-established his side’s lead with a very well struck kick leaving the score 6-3 in Westport’s favour. There was no further change to the score line before halftime although Lyndon Jones attempted another penalty kick and Aiden McNulty was back on the field before the break, as ultimately the conditions thwarted each side’s efforts. In the second half Judd Ruane replaced Conor Mason at Wing Forward for Ballina.

The half began in a mirror image of the first as this time Westport received the kick off and were immediately penalised in the first ruck. Sam Johnson put over a very good kick from the left of the posts, outside the 22 to level the scores once more. Ballina now were beginning to show some dominance up front where Props Tom Tolan and Paul Newell were causing problems in the scrum for Westport and in the lineout Stephen Dolan and Orrie Collins competed with great effect. Westport were temporarily reduced to 14 themselves when Niall O’Malley was sin-binned for not releasing in the tackle, but the penalty count against Ballina negated against any endeavour or advantage. Judd Ruane was injured and replaced by Mason once more but Tom Tolan from Ballina was the next to be sin-binned for entering a ruck from the side. Alistair Brown came on at Prop and Flanker Conor Mason was forced off field during this period. The only change to the score line was a penalty kick from Lyndon Jones which gave his side the lead again 9-6 as the penalty count against the home side escalated. Kevin McCarron came on the Wing for the home side replacing Francesco Lo Bartolo and Ballina were restored to 15 men before full time when the sin-bin time elapsed and Mason and Tolan came back on.

There followed a period of titanic effort from the Moy side XV as they put together some great attacking play in awful conditions. It culminated in a fine flowing attack from a lineout with quickly recycled ball moved wide at pace allowing the strong running McCarron to race down the wing and put in the final pass to Francis Conroy who was on his shoulder. Only a flying cover tackle from a desperate Westport defence prevented Conroy from touching down at the corner flag, and that dramatic passage of play was the final action of the game as the Referee blew the final whistle immediately afterwards.                   

BALLINA; Jerome Harrimate, Francis Conroy, Michael Allen, Cory Brown, Francesco Lo Bartolo, Sam Johnson, Paul Newell, Richard Kelly, Tom Tolan, Stephen Dolan, Kieran Bourke, Conor Mason, Orrie Collins, Aiden McNulty, Alistair Brown, Rodney O’Donnell, Judd Ruane, Kevin McCarron, Tyrone De Silva.

WESTPORT; Kevin Corcoran, Niall O’Malley, Andrew McAllister, Joe O’Malley, Eoin Joyce, Lyndon Jones, Pat Hoban, Matt Walsh, Joe O’Connor, Adam Burke, Ciaran Ryan, Liam Schaill (C), Tom Joyce, (C), Dave Keane, Sam McCormack, Marten Kenneally, Mick Cronam, Kevin Gill, Tom McDonagh.

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