Stunning 16s Surge Into Ulster League Final

Ballymena RFC’s Under 16s produced another tremendous display in awful conditions to reach the Ulster League Final. Portadown arrived at Eaton Park with a physically bigger pack and backs who had scored a handful of tries in their quarter final. However, from the outset the 16s showed courage and skill to outplay the visitors. Portadown set up a series of drives through their big pack, but some strong tackling from Totten and Rainey kept them at bay. A turnover in midfield saw scrum half Tweed release influential captain Johnston. He evaded a tackle before releasing winger Mitchel who side stepped his opposite number to score in the corner. Portadown toiled hard but with Mort and Rosbotham dominating at the breakdown, Ballymena were again on the front foot. A nice move between out half O’Rawe and full back Murdoch saw the ball again move to Mitchell who ran in his second try. Gaston hit the first of his three conversions and the Braid boys were now taking control of the game. The half time whistle probably came too soon and interrupted the 16s momentum. The re-start saw Ballymena fumble and Portadown showed why they were in the semi final and having pounced on the loose ball they crashed over for a score. The game was now in the balance and the 16s knew they had a fight on their hands. A strong tackle from McSparon saw the boys retrieve the ball and surge forward. Some tight forward play saw the ever dangerous McCartney pop the ball up for man of the match Alexander who crashed over for a well deserved try. The conditions were now fairly poor with both sides caked in muck, however the quality of the play was outstanding from the Ballymena boys. A trademark strong run from French saw the boys gain more ground with Gillen and Mohammed going close before second row Beattie crashed over for the score which took the fight out of the visitors. The 16s were now firmly in control with Gaston and Sempey beginning to make inroads into the Portadown half. Some neat play from Read saw him link with McPeake. His pass released O’Rawe who played in Byrne who side stepped a tackle before releasing winger McCann who sprinted clear for a fabulous try under the posts which put the gloss on a well deserved victory for the Braid boys. The final whistle saw the boys race to their supporters with the realisation that they were now into the last 2 of all the Under 16 teams in Ulster. The 16s are now into to the Ulster final a fantastic achievement for the players and coaches and a testament to their hard work all season. Unbeaten Armagh await next week and the Braid boys can hardly wait to take on the next challenge.

Final Score : Ballymena 31 – 5 Portadown

1. Open side flanker Ryan McCartney making ground supported by McSparon and O’Rawe
2. Lewis Beattie the Under 16s influential second row taking on the Portadown defence.

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