Old Crescent, facing the imminent possibility of relegation to Devision 2B, were withing seconds of pulling off a shock win against Ballymena at Rosbrien. As the game went into the sixth minite of injury time Ballymena trailed by 17 points to 14, but the spirit and determination which has pulled them out of some sticky situations previously kicked in again, and after a series of drives at the Old Crescent try line, Adrian Hamilton ploughed over for the winning score. David O’Hara’s conversion, which to everyone else except the referee seemd to have been successful, was the last kick of the game, leaving a very dejected Old Crescent and a jubilant Ballymena.
The early part of the game belonged to Od Crescent, who took advantage of poor Ballymena discipline to kick two penalties for a 6-0 lead. Good interplay by the Ballymena backs created an opportunity for winger Darrell Montgomery who put the finishing touch to the try, which was converted by David O’Hara, and that completed the first half scoring, with the visitors holding on to a slender 7-6 lead. Any hopes that Old Crescent would lie down were dispelled immmediately after the restart when an attack down Ballymena’s right flank resulted in a penalty, which was converted to restore their lead. Another smart piece of play by the Old Crescent backs resulted in an unconverted try, which increaded their lead to 14-7.
The Ballymena pack, which had had much the better of the scrums and was winning their own lineouts easily, began to assert themselves and took the game to Old Crescent. That led to a scrum about ten metres from the opposition line from which Adrian Hamilton picked up to burst powerfully through the Old Crescent defence for a try, again converted by O’Hara to level the score at 14-14.
Throughout the game Old Crescent had made the better use of the strong wind blowing across the pitch, and when another kick set up a good position, Ballymena were penalised trying to run the ball from inside their 22 metre area. The full back again stepped up and slotted the kick to give his team a 17-14 lead, going into the last fifteen minutes, and for most of that time Ballymena’s attempts to break down their defence were thwarted by determined defence. But then came that dramatic finish, to give Ballymena a victory which for long periods did not seem likely.
Coach Andy Graham admitted to being very relieved at the result, but expressed concern at the failure of his team to take advantage of the good supply of ball the pack provided. Adrian Hamilto, for his two tries and general all round performance, would probably get the ‘Man of the Match’ award, but a solid front row, with Andy Warwick always prominent, and great work by David Whann in the lineout, give hope for the ret of the AIL campaign. A busy David Shanahan kept things moving a scrum half, showing great poise and accuracy throughout a difficult encounter.
Next up is another away game to a resurgent Rainey OB, followed by a trip to Cork to play UCC. Ballymena now lie second in the league with a game in hand.