Ballymena v UCC
UCC were promoted to Division 1B last season and played Ballymena twice, winning both encounters, one by one point and the other by two points, so all the indications pointed to a tight struggle at Eaton Park on Saturday, and as, the final score of 34-35 would appear to show, that is how it turned out. But fourteen of Ballymena’s points came in the dying minutes of the second half after UCC had opened up a 35-20 lead, and the conversion of the last of those two tries was the last kick of the game.
The opening exchanges were pretty even, with Ballymena taking the lead through a Brett Herron penalty, but UCC drew level with a Taylor penalty and edged in front when a beautifully flighted cross kick from their out half was plucked out out of the air by the right wing for and unconverted try. Herron reduced the arrears with a long range penalty and that signalled the start of a period of intense Ballymena pressure, but the UCC defence not only held firm, but when an attack broke down not far from their line their no.7 Feeney picked up the ball and galloped the length of the field for a try, brushing off some ineffectual tackles on his way. That was converted to give UCC a 15-6 lead, which on the run of play they scarcely deserved. The rest of the first half saw Ballymena mostly on the attack and they were rewarded when centre Kernohan chipped ahead, followed up quickly and snaffled the ball when the UCC full back fumbled right on his own line, to score near the posts leaving Herron with an easy conversion. Half time Ballymena 13 UCC 15.
The home side began the second half strongly and were awarded a penalty which Herron placed in the corner and from the ensuing line out the Ballymena pack drove over for a try which Herron converted to put his team back in the lead at 20-15. UCC responded n kind with a line out drive from a penalty but they were awarded a penalty try for their efforts, an automatic seven points, so they were now 22-15 in the lead. The gap widened when outhalf Taylor kicked a penalty and hard straight running by their backs produced a fine try, again converted and those thirteen points, which opened up a fifteen point led at 35-20, seemed to have left Ballymena without even the consolation of a losing bonus point. But in the last couple of minutes a revitalised Ballymena team ran in two tries through Connor Smyth and Angus Kernohan which gave Ballymena both a losing bonus point and a four try bonus point.
To get two points from a game when all seemed lost is a tribute to the spirit of this Ballymena team and they will need all that resolve for the net fixture at home to Ballynahinch under lights on Friday night, kick off 8:00 pm
Ballymena 2nd XV 24 Banbridge 2nd XV 14
After. Difficult start to the season when so many players were unavailable, Ballymena 2nd XV notched up their second successive win in the Conference League against Banbridge 2nds. Conor White opened the scoring for Ballymena after fifteen minutes with a penalty with an unconverted try, but Banbridge struck back with try which they converted for a 7-5 lead. Jame Bovill restored Ballymena’s lead with a well struck penalty, but surrendered it not long after when Banbridge charged down a clearance kick for a converted try to put them 14-11 ahead at the break.
Ryan Mattison scored a converted try for Ballymena to put his side 18-14 in the lead and the match was made safe by two Bovill penalties for a final score of 24-14.
Man of. The Match was Dominic Gallagher, who is returning to something like hi old form.