BANBRIDGE U15s 24 Ballynahinch 22
Following defeats to Ballymena and Randalstown, Bann Under-15 coach John Mullan asked his squad for a Christmas win and the boys duly obliged, emerging victorious after a typical derby scrap against neighbours Ballynahinch.
‘Hinch started the brighter and were soon 7-0 up after some quick thinking from their No 8 and a few missed tackles from Bann saw him step his way under the posts for the opener.
Bann skipper Matthew Blain rallied his troops and led from the front as the home side fought back to produce arguably the best piece of rugby Bann have played all year. Blain caught a ‘Hinch kick inside his own half kick and went on the offensive. Curtis Jackson, Andrew Harvey, Nathan Wallace, Jack Flanagan and Conor Burns were all involved in a series of off-loads before Lee Jackson came into play with the final off-load allowing Blain to score under the posts. Alex Walker added the conversion.
The half finished with Hinch having the upper hand and adding an unconverted score to lead 7-12 at the interval.
The second half started with Bann keeping the pressure on ‘Hinch. A clearance kick from the ‘Hinch 10 was well fielded by Callum Carlisle who then pulled the defenders wide before slipping the ball inside to the supporting Curtis Jackson who powered his way over to score in the corner.
To their credit ‘Hinch came right back at Bann when their out-half went for an old style kick and chase and was rewarded with a kind bounce to score in the corner. Bann were soon back in the opposition half and with ‘Hinch coming off-side at a ruck the home side won a penalty. The ball was quickly moved to Curtis Jackson who once again powered his way through five ‘wannabe’ tacklers to score in the corner. Alex Walker got the conversion of the day when he was able to slot over from the touchline and for the first time Bann were in the lead.
‘Hinch never let their heads drop and were soon back in the Bann half. A wonderful bit of counter-rucking from John Buller and Carlisle saw Wallace react quickest. He gathered up the loose ball on his own 10 metre line and ran the rest of the pitch, stepping inside the full back and winger to score the try. ‘Hinch finished the game with a try in the corner but the attempted conversion that would have levelled the scores fell short.
Coach Mullan was delighted with the efforts of his team. “That was a great performance,” he said after the game. “It’s always a tight game against Ballynahinch and for the lads to come from behind three times to claim the points, well, I think it says a lot about the spirit in the squad.
“I thought Lee Jackson was the stand-out performer up-front, along with Matthew Blain who led his side by example the whole game. All the backs played out of their skin but a special mention must go to Alex Walker and Curtis Jackson having their first games for Bann. Alex’s organizing and decision-making were top-notch and that super conversion was the difference between the teams at the end. But for Man-of-the-Match I must go for Curtis Jackson who was always a threat with the ball in hand.”