HEINEKEN CONNACHT JUNIOR CUP
Tries: T Watson (3), J Fourie, D Costello, S Rochford
Conv: A Flannery
Tries: A O’Hara, A Loughrey
Conv: A Loughrey (2)
BALLINROBE are back. After a season of low points in the league, few expected the men from South Mayo to offer any sort of challenge in this season’s Heineken Junior Cup. On Sunday, however, the critics were proved wrong as once again the home side proved that there is no tougher place to go to in a cup tie than the vast expanses of their Racecourse venue.
This is a proud club that has suffered in the past 18 months. Last season they exited the cup tamely to Gort away and their recent league form has been poor. They needed to make a statement on Sunday. They needed to stand up and restore some stature and credibility to the notion that Ballinrobe are always a force come cup time. After scoring six tries in this contest, no one was left in any doubt.
Ballinasloe had come expecting victory, having defeated Buccaneers in the league the week previously. But they were hit hard and early by a fitter and more skilful home side primed for battle. The visitors were completely overwhelmed in the set-pieces, especially at the scrums, where Ballinrobe overturned them time and again.
The platform was set in the first 15 minutes and Ballinrobe opened the scoring in familiar but impressive fashion. A lineout 20 metres out was taken in well by Colm Sheridan and the subsequent maul was technically excellent with Trevor Watson touching down over the line for the opening score.
The manner in which Ballinrobe maintained their stranglehold on the contest was noteworthy, but they were not as yet making it count on the scoreboard. Two subsequent visits to the Ballinasloe 22 yielded nothing and the travelling support were gaining in confidence as the Galway side appeared to be edging their way into the contest.
On the half hour mark Ballinrobe extended their lead with try number two from Watson after the possession was won against the head in the scrum. Seamus O’Toole broke on the blindside and made ground deep into the ‘22. From the ensuing maul, the strapping Watson picked the ball and drove over from close range.
Ballinrobe were now in top gear. The off loading in the tight was wreaking havoc and leading to huge yard gains through the phases. Seamus O’Toole and the excellent Doran McHugh linked well in tight and made significant ground, while the outstanding Joe Fourie was a constant threat at the fringe from the scrum half position.
Ballinrobe opened up a new bag of tricks before the break, scoring on the counter attack. Fourie picked up in midfield and found Patrick Flanagan. He recycled quickly to Paul Keane who made 25 metres before laying off to the ever reliable Watson, who was once again on hand to secure his hat trick despite the cover of three defenders. The conversion was missed but Ballinrobe led 15-0 at the break.
Any notions that the hosts would take their feet off the gas in the second half were quickly dispelled as they quickly picked up where they had left off. Brendan O’Toole and John Flannery were putting in the big hits in the front row, while second row Sheridan was getting through a huge workload.
Ballinrobe scored their fourth try five minutes into the second half. Scrum half Fourie finished after a long spell of pressure that began with a superb rob by the excellent Keane and saw Michael Staunton demonstrate his skills with ball in hand.
The rout continued a minute later with Watson again to the fore in a brilliant build-up that led to the explosive Costello scoring in the corner for try number five. The kicking problems continued, however, with both Flannery and Stephen Rochford missing.
Rochford rounded off the scoring with the sixth try to cap a superb game at first centre. He marshalled the backline throughout and gave out half Flannery an outlet for the crash ball and sparking backline attacks.
Ballinasloe added a couple of late scores from Andy O’Hara and Aidan Loughrey. But this was Ballinrobe’s afternoon and they launched their new jerseys in some style with a display as good as any seen by the club in the past decade. Home advantage in the quarter-final will give them added confidence, but Galwegians will be a completely different prospect than a weak Ballinalsoe.
A Golden; D Costello, P Flanagan, S Rochford, M Ansbro; A Flannery, J Fourie; D McHugh, B O’Toole, J Flannery; P Keane, C Sheridan; T Watson, M Staunton, S O’Toole. Replacements: M Costello, S Kelly, J O’Toole, D Burke.
C Brophy; L Feerick, M Carey, O Finton, A Loughrey; S Kenny, F Sweeney; O Courtney, A O’Hara, T Dolan; J Gallagher, D Feehily; A Doorley, K Mason, A Connan. Replacement: P Stewart, J Burke, D Feeney.
Referee: M Honan