BALLYMENA 40 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 22, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Tim Small, David Whann, John Andrew, Glenn Baillie; Cons: Tim Small 4; Pens: Tim Small 4
St. Mary’s College: Tries: Conor Dean, Richard Halpin, Mark Fogarty; Cons: Conor Dean 2; Pen: Conor Dean
HT: Ballymena 20 St. Mary’s College 17

Out-half Tim Small pulled the strings and top-scored with a terrific 25-point haul as Ballymena opened their win account in Division 1B with a 40-22 bonus point dismissal of St. Mary’s College at Eaton Park.

Having scored only three points in the previous two rounds, the Braidmen turned in their best attacking display of the season so far as they pushed clear of the Dubliners in the second half to claim a four-try victory despite losing two players to the sin-bin.

St. Mary’s did get off to the better start, with Connacht Academy out-half Conor Dean to the fore on his seasonal debut in the league. He landed a wind-backed penalty from near halfway and then took a well-timed Cormac Foley pass from a scrum to slip past two defenders and touch down, 13 minutes in.

That gave the visitors an early 10-7 lead, with Dean’s try cancelling out a converted score from his opposite number Small, who spotted his opportunity following some pick-and-goes from the home forwards. Missed tackles have proven costly for Mary’s so far this season, and another one allowed Ulster hooker John Andrew through for Ballymena’s second try.

That was sandwiched by two penalties from Small, leaving Mary’s 10 points behind before their pack hit back on the half hour mark. Ronan Watters’ well-won lineout led to a maul and some individual drives, chipping away at the home defence until hooker Richard Halpin took a great angle to score by the posts. Dean converted and Mary’s had a third try in their sights on the stroke of half-time, but a crucial scrum went awry.

A penalty for obstruction, two minutes into the second period, saw Small get the scoreboard moving again for Ballymena at 23-17. Mary’s frustration grew as they lost lineout possession, handing the initiative to the home forwards who set up lock David Whann for a well-taken 50th-minute try.

Small converted and added his fourth successful penalty, before centre Glenn Baillie got in on the scoring act with a 65th-minute bonus point effort, running in from the edge of the Mary’s 22 after a mix-up in the visitors’ defence on a kick ahead. Winger Mark Fogarty gained some consolation with a classy injury-time try, profiting from a dropped Ballymena ball in midfield to kick through twice and get the touchdown.

BALLYMENA: Matthew Norris; Jordan Foster, Darrell Montgomery, Glenn Baillie, Dean Reynolds; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, John Andrew, Chris Cundell, JJ McKee, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Reilly, Stephen Mulholland.

Replacements: Josh Bill, Jonny Spence, Willie McKay, James Wheeler, Jonny McMullan.

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