Brilliant Bruff’s massive boost

New Bruff coach and former Munster centre Mike Lynch could hardly contain his admiration for a developing team, following a surprising but thoroughly deserved Ulster Bank League Division 1B victory over favourites Ballymena at Kilballyowen Park on Saturday.

Bruff won the Bateman Cup in sensational fashion two years ago but of the 22 who represented the club in the final, only five remain; the others are either retired or scattered throughout the country and abroad.

Yet this village club continue to punch above their weight and now relying on the young players who have been successfully groomed at underage level, on Saturday many of them came of age.

Ballymena came south with a powerful pack, expecting to dominate a club whose reputation has often been built on producing rugged forwards like John ‘Bull’ Hayes.

But Bruff were ready for the challenge and heaped pressure on the visitors with a blanket defence before unleashing a decent looking back division of their own. The smaller, lighter forwards didn’t do half bad either and with a try count reading 3-1, one of them a penalty try, they came within a whisker of getting a bonus point victory.

“I suppose that was one of the biggest things in the game, but I was also delighted with the intensity of our play,” said Lynch.

“I would give the lads 80 out of a 100 for that display, and perhaps if there had been a little more self-belief they might have got five points from it. However, if, beforehand, somebody had told them they could win this game by 20 points they would have taken it. Now we will be working on the self-belief bit.”

After surviving Ballymena’s early onslaught, it started to go right for Bruff when Brian Carroll kicked a 24th minute penalty but especially after he converted a Brendan Deady. Referee Sean Gallagher might have allowed the home side more time for a pushover try before awarding a penalty, but Carroll kicked the goal for a 13-0 half-time lead.

Garry Leonard’s 43rd minute intercept try kept the scoreboard ticking over as the visitors’ unforced error count grew to epidemic proportions and a 61st minute penalty try, converted by Carroll, pushed the lead out to 25 points.

Ricky Andrew got a consolation try for Ballymena but by then Bruff had done more than enough. Indeed they were denied the bonus point when Deady spilled the ball as he was about to touch down under the posts.

An even bigger test awaits the Limerick side next weekend when they take on UCD in Dublin, the students setting down a marker with a 48-20 victory over Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park to claim top spot.

Malone and Dublin University both secured five pointers, the Ulster club smashing Dungannon 36-13 and the students securing a 29-13 win over Blackrock College.

Back in the top flight, last year’s challengers Young Munster took pole position following their Friday night demolition of local rivals Shannon. Garryowen, Lansdowne, St Mary’s and Constitution were the other winners in the division and Clontarf, UL Bohs and Old Belvedere all secured losing bonus points.

Demoted last season, UCC made a bright start to their Division 2A campaign with a bonus point 45-15 win away to City of Derry. Corinthians, Banbridge and Highfield all had bonus points wins, while newcomers Cashel secured a 21-11 win over Midleton at Towns Park.

Boyne, Navan and Naas all had five pointers in Division 2B, while Sundays Well won the Munster derby with Thomond at Musgrave Park and Clonakilty drew at home to Armagh.

BRUFF: B Deady, M Cosgrove, T O’Callaghan, G Leonard, R Finn, B Carroll, E Maher, D Horan, J Hogan, C O’Sullivan, M O’Connell (captain), Padraigh Clery, Paddy Clery, M Carroll, D Keogh.

Rolling replacements: C O’Regan, G Collins, D Mtya, W Casey, A Breen.

BALLYMENA: R Andrew, T Small, T Hughes, K McLean, D Montgomery, M Irwin (captain), N Martin, A Warwick, J Burns, M Irving, C Smith, M Foster, A Hamilton, S Mulholland, W McKay.

Rolling replacements: J Carson, C Cundell, A Smyth, M Rea, J Andrew.

Referee: S Gallagher (IRFU)

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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