Superb 16s into Ulster League Semi-Finals
Ballymena’s Under 16s produced a superb performance in their Ulster League quarter final play off to dominate Malone who arrived at Eaton Park as clear favourites to progress. Malone were Eastern League winners and were unbeaten this season. However, they were obviously not expecting the power and skill they encountered on Saturday. From the outset Ballymena were on the front foot. Malone fumbled the kick off and from the resultant scrum on the twenty-two influential number eight Alexander lifted and ran at the Malone defence shrugging off several tackles before crossing for the first try of the game. Malone were stung into action and with their physically bigger pack they began to put the home team under pressure. However, some excellent tackling from Mitchell and Mort kept the visitors at bay. Malone showed why they had such a successful season and it was only some excellent last ditch defending from Totten and Rainey which denied a score. The 16s managed to turn the ball over and a break from Gaston saw him sprint down the line being held up in the Malone half. The Braid boys were quick to the breakdown and scrum half Tweed moved the ball to outhalf Bracewell who beat several defenders to be held up just short of the line. The 16s did not panic and the ball was moved to the strong running French who crashed over for a trade mark try. The start of the second half saw the home team continue to make ground. With Read and McCartney dominating at the breakdown the 16s were soon on the front foot. Another strong run from Murdoch saw the ball moved to Logan he shrugged off several tackles before being denied just short of the line. Mohammed continued the attack and some quick thinking from Rosbotham saw him scoop up the ball from the base of the ruck to cross for another score. Gaston converted and the Braid boys were now firmly in charge. Ballymena could now sense Malone were on the rocks and a nice move involving Gillen and Carson saw them move back into the visitors half. McSparron and McCann then combined to go close before the ball was moved to Byrne. His neat pass saw Alexander burst onto the ball and cross for his second try. O’Rawe converted and Malone were now staring a shock defeat in the face. The last try was directly off the training ground. A scrum in the Malone twenty-two saw the ball moved to outhalf O’Rawe. A miss move in the centre saw the ball move to Johnston he moved the ball quickly to winger Sempey who made the most of the space to sprint up the line for the final score of the game. Malone were now shell shocked and they were almost grateful when the final whistle blew. The 16s now move into the Ulster League semi final play offs with another difficult fixture against Portadown. The Under 18s are also in a League semi-final play-off, a testament to the strength of youth rugby at Ballymena with both teams through to the last four in Ulster in their respective age grade competitions. Everyone at Eaton Park wishes the boys good luck in their semi-finals.
Final Score Ballymena 29 – 0 Malone