All Ireland League – Old Wesley 6 Ballynahinch 27
Ulster coach Les Kiss was an interested spectator as Ballynahinch swept aside the Old Wesley challenge to record a bonus point win by 27 – 6 at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday. The home side included four Ulster contracted and four academy players in their squad and proved too good in most facets of play against a game but physically smaller Wesley side. The result leaves the Donnybrook side with just one point after two league outings and joint bottom of the table.
The game was played in dry conditions but with a very strong cross wind making handling difficult for both sides. However, it was Ballynahinch who mastered the conditions far better, particularly when playing with the wind in the second half. Their impressive half back pairing of Aaron Cairns at 9 and Jonny McPhilips at 10 controlled proceedings throughout most of the 80 minutes by keeping their enormous and industrious pack on the front foot. Each contributed a try with Cairns last minute break out touch down producing the bonus point.
Old Wesley started brightly with Josh Pim and Matthew Bursey very much to the fore but, despite plenty of early possession, the visitors seldom looked threatening. A crucial moment in the game after 10 minutes came when, with the visitors pressing, Mc Philips intercepted close to half way and outpaced the Old Wesley cover to touch down before converting to give ‘Hinch a 7-0 lead against the run of play. Opting to drive around the loose fringes instead of playing for territory, the visitors forced a penalty on 15 minutes, converted by Adam Kennedy; the scrum half was yellow carded shortly after for a deliberate infringement at the ruck. While winning plenty of loose ball, the Old Wesley attack was easily read by the home side as they opted for a spread defence rather that commit players to the rucks. A malfunctioning lineout for the second week in a row, despite the valiant efforts of No. 4 Mark Robinson, did not help the Old Wesley cause.
On the 30 minute mark, following a swift and efficient passage of play involving forwards and backs, Ballynahinch extended their lead through full back Conor Kelly who crossed close to the posts. McPhilips again added the points. While a second penalty goal from Kennedy reduced the deficit to 14 – 6 at the interval, it was apparent to the travelling support that Old Wesley faced an uphill battle to get anything from the game.
The second half saw the visitors defence well organised and reasonably comfortably containing the Ballynahinch attacks. However going forward Old Wesley seldom looked threatening. A penalty by McPhilips extended the ‘Hinch lead to 17-6 on the 50 minutes mark but it took until the 58th minute for the home side to record its third try through winger Richard Reaney. At this stage, trailing 22-6, Old Wesley had their best passage in the game, moving the ball further away from the breakdown and breaching the gain line on several occasions mainly through Josh Pim. Still the home attack appeared far more varied and potent than their counterparts and it was not a great surprise when the impressive Aaron Cairns rounded off the match with a bonus point touch down with the last play of the game to leave the final score 27-6.
While Old Wesley departed Ballymacarn Park empty handed they will feel that the final scoreline was a little harsh and did not fairly represent a solid defensive performance. Next up the Donnybrook outfit face Shannon on the all-weather pitch in Donnybrook when they will hope to get their league campaign up and running.
Old Wesley Scorers: A. Kennedy (2 pens)
Old Wesley: Rory Stynes, Eoghan O’Reilly, David Poff, Cillian Monaghan, Richie Jermyn, Josh Miller, Adam Kennedy, Cronan Gleeson, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Mark Robinson, Josh Hinde, Darren Horan (Capt), Matthew Bursey, Josh Pim. Replacements:- Craig Telford, Ryan Healy, Jonny O’Sullivan, Kieran Murphy, Jack Maybury