Tuam 16 beat Ballina 13 – Garraun Park, Tuam

Ballina travelled south for its final Junior 1A league match and although they had the better of the first-half’s tight exchanges, 13points with the breeze was not enough to carry them through.

And while Ballina may have suffered as a result, rugby did not as both teams combined for a worthy spectacle from start to finish.

Ballina demonstrated early that its foot was firmly on the accelerator snatching a tap-and-go penalty after Tuam infringed at rucktime. Michael Murphy set the ball rolling and fed Orrie Collins who snuck over seconds later for a 7-nil start. Mere moments later another Tuam misdemeanour gifted the visitors a further three to go 10 ahead.

Halfway through the first 40, Tuam again conceded the advantage to Ballina well within Francis Conroy’s range and he stretched it to 13.

On the back of such a stellar opening offensive the bookies would have fairly fancied Ballina to grab the four points on offer but the penalty tide ate into the Ballina foundations thereafter as they were unable to compete in any facet for turnover ball. So vehement was the whistling, repeat offending eventually cost Ballina a player, Connor Forde the unfortunate recipient of an involuntary 10-minute breather.

Tuam centre Killian McDonagh pulled the deficit back to 10 with a penalty on half-time.

Mathematically, Tuam lodged a similar deposit in their second-half account as Ballina did in the first.

With the luxury of a one-man overlap, Tuam hammered into the first eight minutes of the second spell, and blindside bullock Stephan Burke powered over after a series of scrums for Tuam’s first try, McDonagh obliged with the extras.

Ballina’s brains trust found their second wind and through concerted graft and percentage footy pushed their way beyond halfway to mount another offensive on the local line. Hooker Rich Kelly, Orrie Collins, Murphy at nine and centre Jerome Harrimate largely responsible for the fightback. Again indiscipline undid their efforts and gifted Tuam timely respites.

Tuam’s McDonagh levelled the pegs with his third success (13-all), and within 10minutes he did it again to snatch the lead. Ballina’s resident kitchen sink propforward Alex Lee landed on the paddock and went ballistic rallying weary legs to Ballina’s cause. So prevalent was his injection into the fray, Ballina drove a lineout take from halfway to 20m from the Tuam line.

If Lee’s introduction was a shot in the arm, the arrival at the Tuam line was a kick in the backside and Ballina launched three dead-cert scoring opportunities at the goal-line. Wayward passes, isolated ball-carriers and desperate red-and-blue defence denied them on all three occasions and yielded nothing but heartbreak.

Ballina finally won a kickable penalty, although hardly straightforward. McDonagh, so reliable earlier, pushed it wide and Tuam finished the right side of a three point separation.

TUAM; Eoin Cosgrove, Dave Burke, Killeen McDonagh, Nicky Brady, Chris Madden, Jamie Murphy, Robbie Kavanagh, George Connolly, Eanna Hegerty, Pa Cunningham, Barry Ruane, Paul Cannovan, Stephen Burke, Brian Ruane, Mike Ward, Dave Noone, Shane O’Neill, Cahal Dempsey, Eoin Lydon, Colin Hegers.

BALLINA; Trevor Moore, Francis Conroy, Jerome Harrimate, Michael Allen, Cormac Quinn, Andrew Moynihan, Michael Murphy (C), Ciaran Melvin, Richard Kelly, Paul Newell, Stephen Dolan, Connor Forde, Phillip Timoney, Orrie Collins, Aidan McNulty, Alistair Brown, Mark Healy, Alex Lee, Nial O’Malley, Craig Culkin.

(contributed – Clive Moore)

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