BALLYHAUNIS 14   BALLINASLOE 21

Ballinasloe returned to league fare on Sunday with a hard fought 21pts to 14 victory at a bitterly cold Ballyhaunis. After their recent Cup exploits, that included a first round win over the hosts, the visitors were in a good vein of form coming into this game.

Ballinasloe got off to a dream start. A penalty kick to the corner and a clean take by Aidan Doorley at the lineout set up Conor Johnston for the opening try after only five minutes. Kealan O’Neill added the extras.

Ten minutes on the clock and Ballinasloe’s No.8, John Hayes, was on the prowl. A strong break by him from half way was halted just short of the local’s line. An outside pass to a free running colleague, as the cover came in, might have yielded a try but nevertheless it showed the visitors intent.

The hosts were not to be outdone, however, and a response was forthcoming. In the fifteenth minute Seamus Horan won a loose ball on half way for them and set in motion a slice of action that lead to Gabriel Gallagher touching down for a try that was converted by Jean Pierre Jeffreys to level the scores. The later had a chance to put his side ahead minutes later with a penalty but he never got hold of the kick.

As the half progressed Ballinasloe were building a head of steam with the locals being forced to play the game on their own twenty two metre line. From a forward drive, John Hayes touched down for a perfectly taken try but the referee was unsighted and unfortunately for the visitors he did not have the luxury of going upstairs to the TMO and a scrum to the attacking side was the outcome.

Just before half time Ballinasloe made their positive approach pay off and a free flowing passing movement saw Mark Gibbons dive in at the corner for try no. two with Kealan O’Neill landing a difficult conversion to leave the hosts 7pts to 14 in arrears at the interval.

Ballinasloe continued to dictate matters in early second half exchanges. J.J.Carey had a few snipes around the edges to keep the home side honest. After fifty minutes Conor Johnston was making tracks for the local’s line and as the tackle come in he gave an inch perfect pop pass to the supporting Matthew Tierney who touched down by the posts with O’Neill adding the conversion.

The visitors went after the bonus point for scoring four tries but Ballyhaunis put in a battling final twenty minutes. Gallagher and Jeffreys repeated their first half scoring feat to leave seven points between the sides. Try as they might the locals could not unhinge a stubborn Ballinasloe defence that held out to the finish.

Ballinasloe: M.Tierney, R.Ahern, D.Freeman, C.Johnston, M.Gibbons, K.O’Neill, C.Loughrey, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, N.Staunton, H.Reynolds, R.Wakefield, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements: G.Donellan, K.Gavin, M.Harrigan, A.Loughrey.

Liam Courtney

PRO Ballinasloe RFC

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