Ballinasloe 30-5 OLBC

Ballinasloe secured a four try bonus point win in this Junior 1A league fixture against OLBC at Graigueawoneen on Sunday. In doing so they maintained their unbeaten home record but had more of a battle on their hands than the final score line might suggest. With a growing injury list the locals were forced re-jig their starting lineup with Matt Tierney showing his versatility by lining out at scrum half and experienced flanker, Aidan Doorley, making a welcome return.

OLBC might not be having the best of starts to their season but they were not prepared to surrender too easily in this encounter. They started in typical Boy’s Club fashion, hard and feisty, taking the fight to their opponents. Their scrum was solid throughout and Joe Connolly was featuring at lineout time. However, their backs, while committed and willing, did not conjure up a try threatening move all afternoon and therein laid their problem. Ballinasloe, in comparison, were more inventive out wide and had the backs to give it a go while mixing smart clinical play with some sloppy and misdirected passing at times.

The visitors did not make anything from their early endeavors and when they did make it into the locals twenty-two John Hayes did well to turn over their ball on two occasions. Then after 15minutes they were penalised for off side and when the decision was disputed the referee moved the kick ten metres forward and  Ross Keller slotted the ball between the posts for the opening score. OLBC lost their winger Jonathon Long to a hamstring injury which made for early changes. Ballinasloe were then to enjoy a purple patch. Conor Johnston, who is emerging as a centre of note, finished off a fine passing movement with a strong charge for a try that Keller converted and with 25 minutes on the clock. From the kick off the hosts were back for more and the same two players were active again. When the ball was ran back Keller smartly drew in the tacklers before releasing Johnston for his second touchdown. This time the conversion was missed. The visitors were shell shocked as from nowhere they were hit for two well constructed tries within minutes. And there was more to follow.

With Keller now bossing the game at out half the locals pushed on. A driving Ballinasloe maul made its way over the visitors’ line with No.8, Kevin Gavin, claiming the try honours. The conversion kick did not enhance the score line. Some poor ball handling skills by the home side did not help their efforts in making further inroads before the break. They did add a last minute penalty from the boot of Keller to bring the half to a close with the hosts 23pts to the good.

The second period was not near as dramatic with much of the play fought out by the packs between the ten metre lines. OLBC might have gained more by kicking into the golf club corner with the wind assisting them in that direction and asking more questions of the homeside. In fact they gained very little distance from their kicks throughout the game. They did pull a try back in the fifty seventh minute but it was gifted to them by the hosts. Ballinasloe seemed to be in control of the ball in a ruck but then it spurted out and Eamon Dowling gladly gathered the loose ball and went in uninterupted for a try with the conversion going wide of the posts. The visitors huffed and puffed for a while after that but did not look like scoring again. Ross Keller was yellow carded in the sixty eighth minute for entering a two player scuffle but it was really only light hand bag stuff.

Ballinasloe secured  their fourth try with six minutes to go. Andrew Mannion made an incisive break from half way before popping the ball to Darragh Burke who made tracks for the line. The locals won an ensuing ruck and flashed the ball wide for Rodney Cullinan to touch down. Conor Johnston landed the conversion and a 30pts to 5 scoreline was a nice send off for the locals as they travel north on Saturday to take on CIYMS in Belfast in the first round of the All Ireland Junior Cup competition.              BALLINASLOE: A.Mannion, D.Burke, C.Johnston, R.Cullinan, Cian Loughrey, R.Keller, M.Tierney, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara, T.Dolan, N.Staunton, H.Reynolds, J.Hayes, K.Gavin, A.Doorley. Replacements: G.Donnellan, D.Freeman, M.Harrigan, R.Sheppard, K.O’Neill.

Ballinasloe were doubly engaged with Sligo in under-age league fixtures at the week-end. Ballinasloe U14s won their game by 30pts to nil while the club’s U15s triumphed 45-5. The U17 fixture with Ballinrobe was postponed.                                                            LIAM COURTNEY, PRO BALLINASLOE RFC

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