Westport  8

Ballina   26

(In Carrowholy, Westport)

Last Sunday when Ballina travelled to Westport for their first away match in the league they secured a very satisfactory bonus point win. The game was played in very sunny but extremely windy conditions which impacted on the endeavours of both sides. Ballina played against the wind during the first half but dominated the set pieces and so had the possession and applied all the early pressure. Ballina had a very solid scrum which at times had their opponents under a lot of pressure but it was the visitor’s lineout which reaped the greatest rewards for the full 80 minutes. Ballina’s lineout jumpers Phillip Timoney and Stephen Dolan profited handsomely from Westport Hooker Joe O’Connor’s difficulty dealing with the gusting wind when throwing in. Their colleague Mark Healy was also ever alert and cleaned up a lot of loose ball and put in some storming runs.

Westport Out Half Lyndon Jones used the wind well when possession came his way and Ballina were frequently forced back into their own half, but even then they looked composed and were happy to play their way out of their 22 when kicking against such a strong wind was a risky option. Ballina Out half Sam Johnson was making good breaks and orchestrating his backline well but the Moy siders suffered a blow when he had to go off injured just 20 minutes into the game. He had an able replacement in the experienced Cory Brown, but after Ballina were penalised for a high tackle it was Westport’s number 10 Lyndon Jones who opened the scoring with a very good place kick which gave his side a 3-0 lead. Ballina continued to make breaks and put good passages of play together but Westport were not going to concede a score easily and when they put boot to ball they had the advantage of the wind to keep the visitors chasing back into their own half. When Ballina were penalised for handling the ball in a ruck Lyndon Jones attempted another difficult kick from just within the Ballina half but this time he was unsuccessful. Ballina were finding more gaps in the Westport defence now and soon worked their way into the home sides 22.

There was an increasing fluidity to Ballina’s continuity play and the half backs of Michael Murphy and Cory Brown were beginning to dominate. Orrie Collins was put into space by a short pop pass from Brown and the hard running flanker was taken down close to the Covies try line. Desperate defence by Westport came at the cost of conceding penalties and Cory Brown had a place kick which went wide. From a lineout 10 metres inside the home team’s half Ballina secured the ball and set up an impressive driving maul which brought them right into the Westport 22. From there they remained camped with some powerful driving play by forwards like Paul Newell, Alex Lee Stephen Dolan and Phillip Timoney up front. It looked like Ballina were running out of time in the half and were going to reach the break without recording a score. Then, in a repeat of the earlier play, Brown once again put Collins away with a short pass off his shoulder. This time the Ballina number 6 couldn’t be prevented from storming over the line. It was an important score at an important time. When Cory Brown added the conversion the whistle sounded for half time, so Westport suffered the psychologically damaging experience of ending the half 7-3 down instead of 3-0 up.

In the second half Ballina maintained the pressure they had being applying in the first half. Liam Schaill, Westport’s Number 8 and Captain was hard working and powerful with the ball in hand and Fullback Kevin Corcoran was always a threat when counter attacking, but for the most part the home team was defending in their own half. Winger Conor Dever was having a very good game for Ballina, in a backline which was beginning to dominate as much as their forwards were in the set piece play and after several near misses it was fitting that he was to get the next score for his side. It came from a Westport lineout inside their 22 which Phillip Timoney claimed for Ballina with a clean two handed take. When the ball was passed out Cory Brown made a break and play was brought right up to Westports line. It seemed Ballina had lost the chance when the ball went to ground but it was recovered and Full Back Andrew Moynihan entered the line and passed early.

It went through the hands to Conor Dever who showed great pace and determination to race in and ground the ball at the corner flag before being bundled into touch. Cory Brown’s conversion attempt was wide so Ballina led 12-3. Ballina’s backline was finding gaps in the Covies defence at will during this period and from the restart the visitors were relentless in their pursuit of another score. Cory Browns passes were cutting out defenders and putting players away and there was strong running from Centre Francesco Lo Bartolo and Winger Tyrone De Silva before eventually Brown put Phillip Timoney away and the Ballina Flanker ran in a superb try for the Moy siders. Cory Brown’s conversion stretched the lead to 19-3 and thoughts turned to a bonus point for his side. Ciaran Melvin and Rodney O’Donnell came on in the front row for Alex Lee and Richard Kelly and both were soon making their presence felt around the field. Later Barry McCarthy replaced Aidan McNulty in the back row and Robert Melody came on for Tyrone De Silva. Both added new impetus to Ballina’s efforts.

O’Donnell was rewarded for his diligent support play when he tracked a great break by Francesco Lo Bartolo which brought play from outside the half right up to within a metre of the try line. From the subsequent ruck Rodney O’Donnell couldn’t be prevented from crashing over and scoring the try which earned the bonus point. A great conversion kick from Cory Brown 5 metres in from the left hand touch line gave Ballina a commanding 26-3 lead. Westport never gave up and their try when it came was an excellent one. It was another promising attacking position for Ballina, Orrie Collins was chasing down a kick ahead which was gathered by Joe O’Malley 5 metres from his try line. He evaded Colins’s tackle and set off on a counter attack which saw the ball moved wide to Kevin Corcoran on the other wing. The powerful Full Back set off on a magnificent run breaking and evading tackles before crossing for a great try.

Lyndon Jones was unable to add the conversion so when the final whistle sounded minutes later the score was 26-3 in Ballina’s favour. This was a significant win for Ballina and they will be keen to continue their winning ways when they travel to Crowley Park to take on a very good Galwegians side next Sunday. It was a very good but by no means a flawless performance and there is plenty they will have to work on if they are to overcome the Galway city men. Last Sunday they showed glimpses of the performance they are capable of and will have to reproduce for more sustained periods next week.                   

WESTPORT; Kevin Corcoran, Niall O’Malley, Brian O’Donnell, Alan King, Joe O’Malley, Lyndon Jones, Dylan Carpenter, Matt Walsh, Joe O’Connor, Adam Burke, Ciaran Ryan, Sam McCormack, Dave Herrity, Tom Joyce, Liam Schaill (C), Marten Kenneally, Marten Pollack, Dave Conway, Conor Hastings, Mark Gillen.

BALLINA: Andrew Moynihan, Francesco Lo Bartolo, Connor Dever, Michael Allen, Sam Johnson, Michael Murphy (C), Alex Lee, Richard Kelly, Paul Newell, Stephen Dolan, Mark Healy, Orrie Collins, Phillip Timoney, Aidan McNulty, Ciaran Melvin, Rodney O’Donnell, Barry McCarthy, Cory Brown, Robert Melody.


Mini-Rugby between Ballina RFC and Loughrea RFC