When Ballinasloe and OLBC were drawn to meet each other in the Connacht Junior Plate and with an outstanding league game also to be played by them it only made sense that they would play off the two  in a single fixture. The winner takes all type of contest. And so both teams found themselves going head to head at Graigueawoneen on Friday night last.

The opening exchanges were tame and it took some time for the contestants to warm to their task on what was a chilly evening. OLBC showed more hunger for the fray as the half advanced and certainly had the measure of the locals at this stage of the proceedings. Their play certainly belied their lowly league position. They were strong in the tight play, their scrum was solid and they drove forward with purpose though their lineouts were wobbly at times. Indeed the locals found it difficult to make any serious headway into enemy territory.

It was somewhat against the run of play that Ballinasloe took the lead mid-way through the half. They won quick ruck ball inside the visitors half with Jamie Kelly feeding the ball to Ross Keller who made tracks down the right hand tramline before touching down for a try that went unconverted. OLBC did not allow this set back to affect them and when Brendan Walsh made a scything run through the Ballinasloe cover, Niall Staunton did well to get across to take him down close to the local’s try line. Ballinasloe had another close call as half time approached; OLBC won their own lineout on the Ballinasloe 22 and with the Connolly cousins working in tandem they brought play to within feet of the hosts  line only for the ball to be turned over.Five pts to nil for the locals at the interval and it was still either teams game for the taking.

Whatever was said to the locals at the break worked the oracle. They were a transformed side on the turnover. The drives and promptings provided by John Hayes (he came off the bench as an injury replacement at the end of the first half) drew the necessary response from his colleagues. The hosts got in for their second try after fifty minutes. They mauled their way over with prop, J.J.Carey, in the middle of it all claiming the try. Ross Keller kicked the conversion to put his side 12pts ahead. They scored their third try minutes later. Some accurate and crisp passing across the backline saw Conal Gormley go over in the corner with no return from the conversion kick.

Ballinasloe were now on a roll. Their forwards were dominating the pack exchanges and the ball handling skills among the backs had vastly improved. For all intents and purposes OLBC had disappeared off the radar. It was difficult to believe that they had been the likelier side in the opening forty minutes.

Try number four came after 65 minutes. Ballinasloe ran the ball smartly from the half way line with Cian Loughrey coming in off the right wing to create space for Gormley on the left as he went in for his second of the evening. The conversion was not added. OLBC had given it their best shot by now and had little more to offer. The fifth try arrived with six minutes feft on the clock. Ross Keller ran it in from fifty metres out and with a clear run to the line to conclude the scoring. Ballinasloe are now a respectable third in the league table and are through to the semi-final of the Plate trophy.                                                                                                                               Ballinasloe: A.Mannion, Cian Loughrey, D.Burke, K.O’Neill, C.Gormley, R.Keller, J.Kelly, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara, T.Dolan, N.Staunton, K.Headd (capt), R.Wakefield, K.Gavin, A.Loughrey. Replacements: G.Donnellan, M.Harrigan, H.Reynolds, J.Hayes, R.Cullinan.

Ballinasloe U18s captured the league Plate at Ballyhaunis on Sunday with a stylish display that saw them outscore Ballina by 43pts to 26. They were first on the scoreboard with a well taken try by Donnacha Reilly. They scored another thanks to C.Coffey, converted by Simon Keller that saw the sides level 12pts each at the interval. Both sides gave it a real go on the resumption providing a very entertaining spectacle. Their second half haul included further tries from  Ian Fletcher (two) and one each from Reilly and Keller. Next up for Ballinasloie is a cup fixture against Connemara.                                                                                                                                      Sunday’s winning squad included: F.Hopkins, G.Burdess, D.Reilly, I.Fletcher, S.Keller, C.Payne, G.Donoghue, C.Cogavin, S.Parker, D.Dent, R.Kahn, L.Murray, R.Hynes, O.Lyons, C.Callagy, F.Stuart, C.Harewood, C.Coffey.                                                                                                                 Liam Courtney, Club PRO.


Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup