REPORT: Semi-Final Portadown U18s Tournament. Lisburn U18’s v Ballynahinch U18’s Tuesday 10th April 2018

REPORT: Semi-Final Portadown U18s Tournament. Lisburn U18’s v Ballynahinch U18’s Tuesday 10th April 2018

REPORT: Semi-Final NK Portadown tournament. Lisburn U18’s v Ballynahinch U18’s Tuesday 10th April 2018.
The first of this season’s semi-final games got underway at a cold and damp Chambers Park when the Lisburn U18’s and the Ballynahinch U18’s game was played on Tuesday evening. The Ballynahinch U18 team recorded a well contested but deserved 26-7 victory. A sizeable crowd had gathered to watch a hard fought game played in increasingly difficult conditions which featured quite a few talented players on both teams. Included in the crowd were representatives of the Pro Rugby Talent ID Department.
Lisburn had a bright start with lock James Humphries and prop Aaron Hanna making strong carries which helped their team gain initial territory. A breakdown penalty was won and scrum half Harry Boyd was unfortunate when his kick hit the post. Within 2 minutes a further penalty was taken quickly by Andrew Cunningham and found flanker Andrew Reid a few metres from the line. Strong Hinch defence kept their line intact.
A third Lisburn penalty in the opening spell was kicked to the corner but great tackles from Hinch back rowers Kyle Gill and Sean Sweeney and centre Andrew Foster prevented any scoring and eventually forced a Lisburn knock on.
Eventually after 10 minutes Ballynahinch lifted the siege with a superb clearance from out half Cameron McDowell to deep into Lisburn territory. Kyle Gill stole the line out which led to a great run from lock Sam Duncan and Hinch’s first incursion into the opposition 22. Unfortunately a breakdown penalty stopped the momentum.
On 15 minutes McDowell pushed a penalty kick deep into the Lisburn 22 which began a series of phases close to the try line. Prop Calum Cairns was stopped a metre short but a pop to the charging Sean Sweeney opened the scoring on 18 minutes. Scrum half Jack Ferris added the extras. 7-0 to the Hinch !!
After a period of untidy play from both sides, Hinch managed to put the ball through several sets of hands before centre Matthew Leathem timed the final pass perfectly to put winger Tom Dolaghin in at the corner. The wide conversion was missed but Hinch had created a little breathing space.
Just before the interval Lisburn centre Sam Cardosi made a fine break which took him into the opposition 22 before he was tackled. Unfortunately his attempted off load to his support was knocked on and Lisburn did not register the score their first half efforts deserved.
The mist and mizzle was increasing making handling a greasy ball more and more difficult. Despite this Lisburn started the second half with a bang. Flanker Nicholas Blaine made good use of a knock on advantage to set off on a great run and find centre Matthew Kenny with a lovely off load. His excellent dummy took him past the remaining defence to score close to the posts. He goaled his own try to get his team right back in the match at 12-7 down.
A few minutes later Lisburn tried to attack from deep with Cardosi making ground and finding winger Kwiecien. His opposite number Ross Duncan tackled him into touch to avert the danger.
Ballynahinch restored their two score lead on 15 minutes from an attacking scrum in the final third. Big number 8 Sean Sweeney picked and went blind but play was quickly switched back into the midfield. A quick ruck allowed the ball to be moved back towards left winger Tom Dolaghin who displayed pace and strength to score from 25 metres out. Ferris added the extras to put Hinch 19-7 ahead.
The Hinch pack really dominated the next 10 minutes with Gill king of the lineout and their scrum well on top. Lisburn’s back row defended manfully with Andrew Reid’s workrate particularly impressive.
The game was sown up by a final Ballynahinch score on 25 minutes. A quickly tapped penalty was taken forward into contact by Sweeney and sucked in some defenders. Callum Cairns came fast onto a short ball from the ruck to crash over at the posts. Again Ferris coverted to build a 26-7 winning lead.
A late surge by a gallant Lisburn was not rewarded as handling conditions had become even more difficult.

The second semi-final game will take place on Wednesday 11th April under the Chambers Park floodlights when Rainey RFC U18’s will play Armagh RFC U18’s at 7-45pm. The Final is on Wednesday 25th April.