Ballinasloe’s lonely statistic of being the only team in Div1A of the league still looking for their first win stands no more. Their emphatic win away to Tuam on Sunday eradicates that little detail. Only 7pts may have separated the sides at the final whistle, yet few amongst the attendance would argue that Ballinasloe’s performance had them more in control of the exchanges than the scoreboard might suggest. Bear in mind that more than a quarter of the game had elapsed before Tuam had made a serious expedition deep into the visitor’s half and with nearly 60mins. on the clock the north Galway side trailed by 20pts to 3 while struggling to get a structure to their game.

The challenge for Ballinasloe was to bring their performance for the final 15mins. of their last game against Monivea into this fixture and this they achieved with aplomb.

The visitors opened brightly, producing the more fluent rugby, while being well organised around the fringes and inventive further out. They were also first on the board when out half Ruaidhri Doolan landed a 9th minute penalty from thirty metres.

The hosts were forced to soak up a lot of pressure in the opening quarter but their defence held firm despite the early onslaught. When they eventually found themselves in the Ballinasloe red zone area for the first time they must have been truly frustrated to see visiting forwards, John Hayes and Niall Staunton, inter change passes to bring them back to their own 22 and forcing them to start all over again.

The locals did draw level on the half hour mark when Ballinasloe got themselves off side and Jamie Murphy stroked over the resultant penalty.

Ballinasloe were soon in front again. Another Hayes charge and Doolan was on hand to collect and kick speculatively into the corner. Tuam were slow to clear the danger and Darragh Burke took advantage of their hesitancy to touch down for a try with Doolan converting to put the visitors 10pts to 3 ahead.

The guests finished the half with a flourish. They kicked two penalties to the corner and won their line outs but their drives for tries were repulsed by a stubborn home defence on both occasions. When a third penalty was awarded on the stroke of half time Doolan landed a difficult kick at goal to leave the home side trailing 13- 3 at the break.

Ballinasloe continued with their high octane game as the second period unfolded. Hayes was to the fore again early on with a massive drive to bring play close to the Tuam line; is there a more effective back row forward currently playing junior rugby in the province? As a try scoring opportunity developed for Ballinasloe, Tuam’s wily No.8 Mike Carr cynically came around on the wrong side of the ruck to deny Ballinasloe quick ball. The referee flashed the yellow card and Mike took himself away for a 10 minute siesta. Minutes later and Ballinasloe were driving their opponents rapidly backwards towards their own line in a scrum. When the homeside collapsed it the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. The in-form Doolan added the extras and the visitors were 17pts to the good as the 60th minute approached.

Credit to the locals for not throwing in the towel. They were determined not to go down without a fight and were duly rewarded for their efforts. Full back, Killian McDonagh, cleverly punted the ball along the ground to set up a base for his team deep in enemy territory. This was the launch pad for a Tuam try as they drove over the line with Eoin Cosgrove being credited with the score. The conversion was missed. They now went chasing the game and had some serious drives at the Ballinasloe line but their hosts were in a mean mood and were not prepared to relinquish their hard earned lead. Ballinasloe turned over Tuam ball and Conor Loughrey made a relieving break into the local’s half. As the minutes ticked away Ballinasloe made one late effort for another try. Replacement lock, Mark Harrigan, took giant strides as he made for the line but was held up just as he was about to say hello to the whitewash and his threat was averted. Tuam had a pushover try deep into stoppage time, with Eoin Cosgrove again accepting the claps on the back, to secure a losing bonus point. The conversion kick was off target.

Noel Mannion and his crew will know that ,like one swallow not making a summer one league win does not make a season and that some tough assignments lie ahead. However this win will be a big confidence booster for a relatively young and inexperienced side and will give them a fillip for a demanding season ahead.  

BALLINASLOE:  D.Burke, M.Tierney, L.Feerick, R.Cullinan, Cian Loughrey, R.Doolan, Conor Loughrey, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, H.Reynolds, N.Staunton, A.Loughrey, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements: (all used) K.Gavin, M.Harrigan, R.Wakefield, J.Kelly, E.Croffy.                                         TUAM:  K.McDonagh, R.Cosgrove, B.Ruane, N.Brady, E.Hallion, J.Murphy, E.Cosgrove, B.Ruane, C.Dempsey, G.Connolly, C.Hurst, P.Canavan, D.Noone, M.Ward, L.Hallion. Replacements: S.O’Neill(used), D.Cunningham(used), A.Finnerty(used), S.Kavanagh). M.Burke(used).

                                                            TUAM  6    BALLINASLOE  0

Tuam and Ballinasloe also crossed swords in this Jonior C fixture also at Tuam. A heavy drizzle made it difficult for both sides to play any decent running rugby and with slippery underfoot conditions there were quite a few unforced errors. Nevertheless, both sides went about their business in a determined fashion and two evenly matched sides played out a scoreless first half.                                           A smart break by Ballinasloe’s Tierney on the left wing on the resumption saw them get a foothold on the Tuam 22 but as in the opening period, scores were hard to come by. The visitors were wide with a kickable penalty in the 50th minute. With Alan Wade and Eoghan Clogher driving the Ballinasloe pack forward and Neville Kelly sniping from behind the scrum, they dominated much of the exchanges. A strong drive by Ballinasloe lock, Pat McCormack, to near the local’s line in the 80th minute failed to unhinge their defence. It took two late but well struck penalties by Ja Fallon to separate the sides.                                                                                                                                                 Ballinasloe: N.Gibbons, S.Reynolds, C.Gormley, J.Dillon, D.Tierney, R.McCarthy, N.Kelly, G.Donnellan, J.Harwood, A.Moloney, P.McCormack, L.Hynes, A.Wade, E.Clogher, D.Maguire. Replacement: D.Freeman(used).                                                                                                                                                   Liam Courtney, Club PRO


Mini-Rugby between Ballina RFC and Loughrea RFC