UCC 9 Ballynahinch 19
A young UCC side found themselves outmuscled by fellow energia All-Ireland Division 1A basement dwellers Ballynahinch at the Mardyke on Saturday.
It was the Ulster club’s first victory of the season and avenged an earlier home loss to the students though its impact on the table is likely to be minimal.
Barring some unforeseen results on the run-in to the regular end of the season, it looks as if this pair will go head-to-head again in a two-legged relegation decider to determine who stays up and who drops to division 1B.
It was a poignant day at the famous old ground, when College rested the number 15 jersey for the remainder of the year as a mark of respect to the late Tom Kiernan.
In its place UCC now have jersey number 54, identifying the amount of international caps won by one of the great full-backs of his time, with George Coomber the first wearer.
And there are links to the current College team as well.
Kiernan’s grandson, Louis Bruce, held the College 15 shirt during the minute’s silence before the start and a grand-nephew, Billy Kiernan, appeared off the bench.
Very little went right for the students against the wind in the opening half, falling 12-0 in arrears inside 16 minutes to a couple of tries from hooker Kyle McCall from close-range lineout mauls.
It’s an unforgiving league as the youngsters are finding out the hard way, line-out struggles and allowing a ball to bounce contributing to Hinch’s degree of comfort.
Injuries took a toll, as well, losing flanker Jack O’Sullivan, out-half Eoin Monahan and wing and captain Rob Hedderman either side of a Daniel Squires penalty on the half-hour.
Still, the early exchanges of the second half and with a strengthening wind at their backs provided lots of encouragement.
Squires had plenty to spare with his second kick from the 10m line after 46 minutes and while he pushed an even longer effort to the right moments later, College sensed possibilities.
The gap was down to three, 12-9, after 64 minutes with a third Squires kick and the visitors had centre Ryan Wilson yellow carded, too.
But, the 14-men wrestled back control in the remaining time with College also reduced numerically, when replacement hooker Scott Buckley was sent to the sin-bin.
And Hich made their pressure tell with a late converted try from Hutley.