Ballymena v Banbridge
In their first encounter in the All Ireland League Ballymena lost narrowly to newly promoted Banbridge, despite dominating the game for long periods. The first half in particular belonged to Ballymena and coming up to the break they led by ten points to nil, thanks to a Brett Herron penalty, followed by a try and conversion from the same player. In a concerted Ballymena assault on the Banbridge line, on the ninth phase Herron chipped over the defence from about five metres out into an empty dead ball area, winning the touch down at the posts, and leaving himself an easy conversion. With only minutes to go to half time this gave the home side a ten point lead, but a failure to secure the kick off allowed Banbridge to regain possession and launch a series of attacks on the Ballymena line, which ended up with Chris Allen scoring from an Ian Porter reverse pass and reducing Ballymena’s half time lead to 10-7.
After half time a reenergised Banbridge side took control, setting up two penalty opportunities for Porter which he converted to put his side in the lead 13-10. Ballymena reasserted themselves and a dominant scrum five metres out resulted In a penalty try, now an automatic seven points, so with about ten minutes left Ballymena led by seventeen points to thirteen and at that stage were looking reasonably comfortable. Another Porter penalty reduced the lead to one point, but Ballymena were still on the attack and a great run from Patterson from a set scrum move and a series of drives at the line almost brought a try, but Banbridge managed to clear the danger. Ballymena won the lineout on the halfway line and once again moved the ball wide, but knocked on at the critical moment giving Banbridge a scrum. Ballymena appeared to have their opponents in all kinds of trouble in the scrum, but the referee decided it was illegal. Some minor dissent at this decision resulted in him moving the penalty ten metres down the field and a good touch set up a Banbridge lineout on the twenty two metre line. A catch and drive secured possession and created enough space for the scrum half to run into, who slipped an inside pass for the hooker to score a try, converted by Porter tomake the final score 23-17.
Nest Saturday Ballymena meet Omaha, newly promoted to the All Ireland League, in the quarter final of the Senior Cup Kick off at Eaton Park is the usual 2;30 p.m.
BALLYMENA 17 BANBRIDGE 23, Eaton Park (played on Friday)
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Brett Herron, Penalty try; Cons: Brett Herron, Penalty try con; Pen: Brett Herron
Banbridge: Tries: Chris Allen, Ian Porter; Cons: Ian Porter 2; Pens: Ian Porter 3
HT: Ballymena 10 Banbridge 7
BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Angus Kernohan, Callum Patterson, Glenn Baillie, Matthew Norris; Brett Herron, David Shanahan; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Adam McBurney, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Clive Ross, Matthew Agnew, Stephen Mulholland.
Replacements: Ross Kane, James Taggart, Joe Thompson, Michael Stronge, Alan Smyth.
BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Robert Lyttle; Michael lowry, Ian Porter (capt); Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Ryan Hughes, Robin Sinton, Nick Hayes, Stephen Irvine.
Replacements: Tim Savage, Stuart Cromie, Richard Graham, Josh Cromie, Ben Carson.
Images courtesy of Darrell O’Kane Photography