03.03.14

A BIG WIN FOR BALLINASLOE

MONIVEA 7-22  BALLINASLOE

And still the Ballinasloe bandwagon rolls on. From the Monastery Field in Clifden to the Castle Field in Monivea this Ballinasloe team has left a trail of destruction over the last two week-ends while building their own field of dreams in their drive to retain Div 1A status.

On Sunday they made the short hop to Monivea  to try and implement the most difficult of assignments, that of toppling the locals in their own cabbage patch. Few would have given them much of a chance of taking anything from this fixture as not many sides have lowered Mona’s colours on that citadel at the edge of the village. But Noel Mannion and Kevin Tierney and their merry band of players had plans and ideas of their own and they would pull off a huge win in somewhat extraordinary circumstances.

Monivea fielded without recognised props and, as a result, there were to be only non contested scrums from the off. Not much joy for Ballinasloe here as much of their game plan revolves around a strong scrum. Yet they had a tonic start and were seven points ahead after only four minutes. A big drive by the visitors pack had them just about to touch down for a try when an intervention by a Monivea player was deemed serious enough for the referee to award a penalty try with Ruaidhri Doolan kicking the conversion.

Monivea responded strongly and put the leaders under serious pressure. With their backs running at pace and constantly seeking an opening the visitors defensive strategy was seriously tested. Ger O’Connor was short with a kick at goal for the locals before Ballinasloe had a player yellow carded for a technical infringement as the hosts came close to scoring a try. They eventually made the breakthrough after 22mins when Stephen Joyce crashed his way over from the base of a ruck as O’Connor kicked the conversion and it was level pegging. It was hard to believe that this would be the local’s only score.

Ballinasloe had difficulty in getting a pattern to their play. They abandoned the tactic of trying to run the ball out of defence in favour of kicking for territory. Putting the ball in behind the Monivea backs and forcing them to turn brought a change of fortune for the visitors. From a lineout inside the local’s half, Ballinasloe threw short to the front of the line and ran the ball down the touchline for Conor Loughrey to run in the last few metres for an excellently worked try in the 34th minute. The conversion was not added.  Ballinasloe were now feeling more comfortable with their approach work and a John Hayes led drive just before half-time almost yielded try number three.

The hosts were 7-12 in arrears at half and would have felt aggrieved with themselves that they did not make more of their purple patch mid-way through the opening period.

Ballinasloe opened  smartly on the turnover and Andy O’Hara  might have taken the wrong option in going for a gap in the local’s defence with two of an overlap outside. A knock on put paid to an almost certain try. Monivea came back to have another crack at the visitors defensive system and, though lively and willing, could not puncture it.

Ballinasloe were coming strong as the game entered the final quarter and a trademark driving maul saw them over the Monivea line for try number three in the 62nd minute with Kevin Gavin last man up with the ball. The conversion came back off the upright. The hosts were now rapidly running out of ideas though left winger, Colman Maher, was still willing to test the opposition backs.  The winners sensed that a fourth try, and winning bonus point, was on. It duly arrived in the 74th minute when Gavin and Conor Loughrey set up the score for the strong running Conal Gormley. The conversion flashed wide of the posts.

And so Ballinasloe pulled off a famous victory on Monivea soil. It has been a long time coming but in essence it is only another step, though a huge one, in the battle for Div1A survival. Ballinasloe won because they were physically stronger and wanted it more on the day. Monivea played some neat running rugby and seriously threatened at times but lacked a real killer punch.

Ballinasloe: D.Burke, J.Dillon, C.Gormley, R.Cullinan, D.Freeman, R.Doolan, Conor Loughrey, K.Gavin, A.O’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, N.Staunton, K.Headd, A.Loughrey, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements: (all used) J.J.Carey, H.Harrigan, H.Reynolds, R.Wakefield, R.Sheppard.

U17: CONNEMARA  12-14  BALLINASLOE

Ballinasloe U17s made the long trip to Clifden on Sunday to engage with the locals in the Cup quarter –final and did well to come away with a two point victory. Credit must go to both sides for putting in a wholehearted display in very heavy underfoot conditions that were energy sapping. Ballinasloe drew first blood with a Rafeek Khan try that Brian Horkan converted. They were on top but an opportunist Connemara try, that was converted, gave the home side heart. The winners responded with a try of their own thanks to Frank Hopkins, who played well all through, with Horkan again stepping up to the mark.

Fourteen points to seven then at half time and it was still anyone’s game. An unconverted try for the locals early in the second half reduced the lead to two points and a real forwards’ battle ensued from there to the finish. Ballinasloe did well to hold out against a strong local outfit and earned a home semi-final against Castlebar.

Elsewhere,  there were wins in friendly fixtures for Ballinasloe Development Squad(seconds) against Midland Warriors from Moate and for the U15s against Ennis.

COMING UP

Ballinasloe girls U15s will be playing in their cup final against Westport at the Sportsground, in Galway, on Sunday next with a 1.00pm kick-off. They have had a huge season to date having already won the league and with notable wins over Ballina and Creggs to reach the cup final. Marshalled by a strong backroom team  of Declan Murphy, Catherine Devine, Marie Codyre and Stephen O’ Reilly they will be fancying their chances on Sunday. We wish the captain, Georgia Codyre, and her squad the best of luck.

The first xv are away to Castlebar in their penultimate league game of the season with a 2.30 pm kick-off.   Liam Courtney, Club PRO.

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