Ballymena triumph at rain-soaked UCC

Ballymena took the spoils in a rain-hit Division 1B opener against UCC at the Mardyke where centre Alisdair Frazer scored the only try.

Ballymena took the spoils in a rain-hit Division 1B opener against UCC at the Mardyke where centre Alisdair Frazer scored the only try.

It was a humid day on Leeside but heavy rain made playing conditions particularly difficult, and it was no surprise that the first half was tryless until Ballymena made a late breakthrough.

Former Dolphin out-half Cormac O’Flynn kicked the Cork students ahead from a third minute penalty, before Ulster prospect Blane McIlroy replied to for Ballymena ten minutes later.

O’Flynn smacked over a terrific penalty from near the sideline to restore UCC’s advantage, but Ballymena were proving the stronger outfit in open play.

The pressure eventually told when Frazer crashed over for John Andrews’ charges on the stroke of half-time, making it 8-6 to Ballymena.

The second period was a real war of attrition slugged out between the packs. Both sides missed penalty opportunities and the Braidmen did enough to hold on and take a two-point win.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers edged out Bruff 17-11 in a lively and absorbing tussle played in perfect conditions at Dubarry Park.

Buccs had to make a late change with Adam Kennedy crying off with illness. He was replaced by Mark Dolan at scrum half in a young, new-look Pirates outfit.

In-form Bruff looked the more organised side early on but the hosts' outside centre Paul Harte finished off an enterprising home move for a 13th minute try which Jack Carty converted.

But Bruff's response was swift, winger Andrew Cashman getting on the end of a fine move for a try within three minutes.

Carty extended Buccs advantage with a 21st minute penalty after Bruff were penalised in the scrum, while Tony Cahill missed his conversion kick and a penalty.

Cahill, the visitors' skipper, duly added salt to Buccs' wounds just on half-time when, after Denis Buckley was yellow carded, he tapped over the ensuing penalty.

Still, Buccs, a mite aggrieved that a Bruff player escaped the sin-bin for excessive use of a boot in the lead-up to this score, led 10-8 ahead at the break.

Eager to maximise their temporary numerical superiority, Bruff piled forward on the resumption and Cahill's 41st-minute penalty nosed them ahead.

They put the midlanders under fierce pressure for a sustained spell but somehow Buccs held their line intact, with man-of-the-match Eoghan Grace putting in vital work.

Having lifted the siege, the Pirates enjoyed the better chances thereafter against a Limerick side that were difficult to break down.

Daniel Qualter did particularly well to claim a lineout on the hour mark and Buccs followed this up with some clever attacking play which was finished off in style by the ever-eager Conor Lavelle.

Carty converted to forge a narrow, hard-earned home victory, which has them third in the table after the opening weekend's action.

A place above them are Ballynahinch who recorded a bonus point 33-17 success at Galwegians - despite losing out-half James Lash to a first half red card.

'Hinch began brightly at Crowley Park, using their wind advantage in the first half to good effect, and Lash converted two penalties inside the opening 11 minutes.

‘Wegians tightened up their discipline and then used their dominance in the scrum - they had three set pieces on the five-metre line - to force a penalty try in the 22nd minute which Tadhg Leader converted.

Lash replied with his third successful penalty and with ‘Hinch moving the ball accurately and at pace, centre James Thompson took a lovely line to score their first try.

Lash missed the conversion and turned villain on the half hour mark when he was red carded for stamping on a ‘Wegians player. Leader quickly landed a penalty for a 14-10 scoreline.

But two minutes before the break, centre Stuart Morrow punished the hosts for losing concentration to collect ‘Hinch’s second try.

The County Down side protected their 19-10 buffer until lock Chris Napier was sin-binned for slowing down ‘Wegians ball close to his own try-line.

Still, Thompson managed to break through for his second try and Leader wriggled free for 'Wegians' second, which he converted himself. That kept them in touch at 26-17.

But winger Robin Harte had the final when he raced away for a last-minute try - 'Hinch's fourth - after Thompson had gathered an interception near his own line.

At Deramore Park, right winger Rory Scholes scored the only try of the game as Belfast Harlequins took a 14-12 verdict over visitors UL Bohemians.

Ireland Under-20 international JJ Hanrahan booted all of Bohs' points - three penalties and a drop - but 'Quins, who led 11-3, deservedly took the spoils. Scrum half Michael Heaney landed three penalties for the hosts.

Meanwhile, Dungannon are riding high at the top of the table thanks to their runaway 35-13 win over promoted side UCD.

At Stevenson Park, the Tyrone men cantered away in the second half having been 15-13 in front at the break. Backs Chris Cochrane and Peter Nelson touched down as did two-try flanker Derek Hall.

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