Firsts exit Junior Cup:
Two tries for Ballynahinch 2’s in the final quarter concluded what was in fact a closely contested match against youthful Cooke XV.
The game started at a tempestuous pace with ‘Hinch attacks repelled by some sharp defending by the Cooke backline. With just under 10 minutes played Hinch 10, Matthew Norton, embarked on a place kicking “masterclass” with his first penalty from the home 10 metre line. Two minutes later the same player extended the visitors lead with a further kick from far out when Cooke drifted offside.
Cooke responded immediately but squandered a try scoring opportunity when a pass to speedy winger Andy Pollock went astray as he headed for the corner flag. Continued pressure by the home side was rewarded by a Rob Mitchell penalty with 20 minutes played. The restart kick was taken by Cooke number 8 Jason Lyons who made a blistering 40m break before being hauled down but two further infringements by Cooke were punished by Matthew Norton penalties. Mitchell claimed his second penalty just before half time bring the score line at the break to Cooke 6, Ballynahinch 12
Cooke made a spritely start to the second half and were rewarded by a further Mitchell penalty but the first try of the game followed a steal by Ballynahinch’s Ulster Academy hooker, Clayton Milligan, who spread the ball to supporting full-back James McBrier to cross the Cooke line in the corner. Norton failed to convert. The home side responded immediately when in-form centre, Jonny Backus, sprinted around the Hinch defence and back towards the posts for Mitchell to convert bringing the margin between the teams to 1 point.
Norton kept the scoreboard clicking in the visitors favour with his 5th penalty with his counterpart Rob Mitchell kicking just wide of the posts shortly afterwards. It was two lapses in concentration by Cooke in the final quarter of the game that allowed Hinch to claim a place in the next round of the cup. Within 5 minutes the visitors influential scrum half, Lewis Finlay, was in support to claim a try when his right winger carried close to the Cooke line and then returned the favour when setting up his winger to touch down in the corner. Norton converted one off the posts to bring the final scoreline to Cooke 16, Ballynahinch 32
Despite the score difference Cooke played well against the very clinical cup holders. The team was extremely unfortunate not to have narrowed the scoreline having been awarded a string of penalties when the pack sought to break the Hinch defence on the visitors try line late in the game. Players worthy of mention were Jonny Walsh for his work rate and Ryan Flavelle for his defensive play. The Cooke scrum performed particularly well against an experienced Hinch 8 with much credit due to rookie props James Milligan and Aaron Hunter.