A rejuvenated Ballymena held of Ballynahinch at Eaton Park to progress to the Senior Cup Final next month where they will face City of Armagh, who beat Rainey OB 31 – 15.
That will be a repeat of last season’s final which saw Armagh make history by lifting the trophy for the first time in a 17-13 win.
The Braidsiders have found a rich vein of form in recent weeks and will look to atone for that loss last season by bringing the trophy back to Eaton Park for the first time since 2013 having lost in the final in 2016.
Against fellow AIL Divison 1B side Ballynahinch, Ballymena were quick out of the blocks, with out half Tim Small pulling the strings, as they piled the pressure on the visitors.
Jonny McMullan crossed for an unconverted try, after six minutes, before Small jinked through the Hinch defence to touch down close to the posts, on the 11th minute.
Small knocked over the easy conversion to give Ballymena a 12- 0 lead.
Hinch started to work their way back into the match but struggled to make headway against the determined Ballymena defence.
However the visitors reaped some reward when they broke from deep with the classy Ross Adair crossing for a converted try before a break from Aaron Cairns ended with Richard Reaney slotting over a penalty to add to his earlier conversion.
Hinch looked to be getting on top but the home team had the final say of the half with Conor Smith scoring a converted try to give Ballymena a 19 – 10 lead going into the break.
The second half was fairly even until Conor Smith took a 10-minute break for a late tackle.
Hinch took advantage and sent Connor Phillips over for a try, converted by Reaney, to pull the score back to 19 – 17.
A sustained period of huffing and puffing from both sides finally ended when Reaney knocked over a penalty to inch Hinch ahead with less than ten minutes remaining, the score reading 19 – 20 in Hinch’s favour.
Ballymena spent the remaining time battering the Hinch defence and finally got their reward when a penalty was awarded.
The cool and calm Small stepped up to knock it over in the final minutes.