BALLINA         36

(By Clive Moore in Corinthian Park, Galway)

BallinaCorinthiansBallina got off to a good start to their league campaign last Sunday when they travelled to Corinthian Park and earned a bonus point win against the Galway side. The Mayo team had a difficult task playing against a strong wind in the first half but they took the game to their opponents from the start. After receiving the kick off Ballina kept possession very well and made good ground with centres Michael Allen and Jerome Harrimate able to ensure their side was always making ground while the half backs of Michael Murphy and Cory Brown orchestrated the attacking play as Ballina held on to the ball through multiple phases. Corinthians weathered the storm and good kicking out of hand with the wind at their backs gave them field position inside Ballina’s 22, but when called on to defend Ballina were competent, aggressive and organised and were able to clear their lines on each occasion. Prop forward Alex Lee displayed a great appetite for tackling and was extremely effective, while one of the finest clearing kicks down the field against the wind was from second row Connor Forde after the ball was fielded by Francis Conroy, an example of forwards and backs combining well for Ballina in both defence and attack that was to become a feature of the game. Ballina’s set piece play was markedly improved on last week’s performance. Hooker Rodney O’Donnell found Phillip Timoney and Connor Forde despite difficult conditions for lineout throwing and the Ballina pack produced a solid scrumaging platform with props Alex Lee and Paul Newell working hard and doing very well. With Ballina looking to move the ball at every opportunity there was several promising breaks that just failed to yield scores when thwarted by a final handling error, with winger Francis Conroy and Harrimate going particularly close to getting away. Second row Marc Healy had a tremendous match. He was consistently in the thick of the action and extremely effective as he counter-rucked and turned over balls on several occasions. He was never too far from the ball carrier and also carried the ball extremely well himself and made several effective off loads out of the tackle. The pressure from Ballina yielded dividends twenty five minutes into the game when Ballina won a lineout in side Corinthians twenty two, set up a driving maul and out-half Cory Browne stepped inside the home sides defensive line to run in and score under the posts. The Ballina number 10 converted his own try and Ballina led 7-0. Fifteen minutes later Brown added more points to his sides tally. Lively young winger Trevor Moore made a break and when he was tackled late after he kicked ahead Ballina were awarded a penalty five metres from Corinthians line. Ballina opted to take a scrum, and were awarded an indirect penalty when Corinthians front row were penalised in it. Ballina ran the ball and should perhaps have scored but the final pass to Francis Conroy went astray. However Corinthians had strayed offside and Cory Brown made no mistake when kicking the penalty to stretch Ballina’s lead to 10-0 which remained the score until half time. Ballina’s back row forwards Phillip Timoney, Judd Ruane and Aiden McNulty performed consistently well throughout the match, with number eight McNulty powering his way through tackles setting up good go forward ball for his side, while Judd Ruane worked hard to win the battle at the breakdown ensuring continuity for the Mayo men while being equally industrious in defence, clocking up a huge tackle count. Their colleague Phillip Timoney also had a big impact on the game, producing a number of trademark bone crunching tackles, and five minutes into the second half he had an impact on the score line when finishing off an excellent piece of Ballina attacking play involving interplay between forwards and backs. The Ballina number 7 broke tackles and side stepped opponents before crashing over the line for a great try. Cory Brown added the conversion stretching the lead to 17-0. Ten minutes later Ballina scored again after once more patiently building the phases and recycling the ball with scrum half and Captain Michael Murphy dictating the pace of the game with crisp and prompt passing from the base of the rucks, until the youngest player on the team Michael Allen (who had just turned eighteen last Friday making him eligible to play senior rugby) stepped inside and powered over the line through the tackle of his opposite number. Brown missed the difficult conversion from wide on the left so Ballina led 22-0. Richard Kelly and Liam Lynch came on for Rodney O’Donnell and Aiden McNulty respectively and wasted no time getting into the thick of things. Corinthians didn’t help themselves when their restart went straight into touch allowing Ballina to continue to exert pressure on their hosts. Ballina’s next score came in a similar fashion to what had gone before as forwards and backs combined well in a patient build up, with good handling and continuity before the ball was thrown out to second row Connor Forde who showed good hands to hold the pass and accelerate into space before crossing the line for a very good try which earned his side the bonus point. Cory Brown judged the wind very well with his conversion kick from close to the touchline bringing the score to 29-0 in Ballina’s favour. Phillip Thornton came on at scrum half for Michael Murphy and fitted in seamlessly as did Craig Farrell who replaced Michael Allen in the centre. Shortly after that Ballina used all their subs when Orrie Collins replaced Judd Ruane and he proved to be equally industrious, especially on one occasion when he combined brilliantly with Francis Conroy to keep an attacking movement going. Collins set up the ruck after powering forward and when the ball was moved wide it was Cory Brown who eventually got in for his second try. He duly added the conversion with another great strike from wide on the left with a difficult wind blowing across the posts, so the score was 36-0 to Ballina. Corinthians were not about to capitulate even now however and to their credit they worked their way into the Ballina half, stretching the visitors defence and forcing the concession of a series of penalties. Ballina kept them out with good defence on the line but they ultimately failed to keep the home out when prop forward Mark O’Byrne drove over from a ruck on the line. The conversion was missed and the match ended shortly after 36-5 in the visitors favour. It was an excellent start to Ballina’s league campaign with some particularly encouraging performances from the many fresh young faces that are lining out with the team this season, but there is still plenty to work to be done and Ballina will be wise enough to know that a good start is no more than that and must be built on. Next Sunday they host a formidable Westport side which earned a creditable 9-9 draw against a much fancied OLBC side last weekend and this Mayo derby will be a huge challenge for this Ballina team. Those who are in Heffernan Park on Sunday at 3pm will see how they respond to that challenge and should be entertained by an enthralling match.                  

CORINTHIANS; Kieran Dolan, Jack Campbell, Aengus O’Connell, Eric Flynn, Brian Dixon, Rory Conelan, Emmett Melee, Mark O’Byrne, Alan Walsh, Brendan Barrett, Colin Raftery, Kim Williams, Conor Hastings, Adrian Pilkington, Dave Small, Cathal O’Shea, Sean Duignan.

BALLINA; Andrew Moynihan, Trevor Moore, Jerome Harrimate, Michael Allen, Francis Conroy, Cory Brown, Michael Murphy (C), Alex Lee, Rodney O’Donnell, Paul Newell, Connor Forde, Marc Healy, Phillip Timoney, Judd Ruane, Aiden McNulty, Richard Kelly, Liam Lynch, Orrie Collins, Craig Farrell, Phillip Thornton.

REFFEREE; Dan Collins.


Mini-Rugby between Ballina RFC and Loughrea RFC