On a perfect autumn afternoon Ballymena hosted Galwegians in the first AIL game of the season and won 37-14
This tie was the pick of the opening AIL 2A fixtures with both teams sights set on promotion. Galwegians fresh from a double victory over AIL 1B contenders Buccaneers in league and cup travelled to Ballymena with a strong squad including several Connaught Academy players.
Ballymena took to field full of confidence after victories over Harlequins and Dungannon. From the kick off Ballymena used the perfect conditions to throw the ball about and play a fast, exciting type of rugby. Ballymena were soon rewarded when a great team move was finished by flanker Michael Entwhistle. Tim Small missed the conversion from the touch line, 5-0. Galwegians who were struggling with the braid men’s pace got themselves back in the game after several penalties given away by Ballymena at the scrum. Galweigins kicked for the corner and from the line out they broke the braid men’s defence to score to the right of he post. The conversion was missed, 5-5.
Ballymena retook the lead several minutes later when they were awarded a penalty in their own half. Tim Small pointed at the posts and the resulting kick was dispatched between the uprights, 8-5. Ballymena were starting to put the visitors on the back foot and with 20 minutes of the game gone Ballymena extended their lead. This time it was prop Bryan Young who crossed the line when Ballymena stretched the Galwegians defence. Tim Small added the conversion, 15-5. For the next 10 minutes Ballymena found themselves under pressure as Galwegians used their much bigger pack to set a platform in the scrum. From this they were able to attack the braid men but their defence stood strong and they kept pushing Galwegians back. Galwegians finally added to the their total when they added a penalty after a strong scrum, 15-8. With the first half running out Ballymena launched another attack and after great hands by the backs Jordon Foster was released to score in the corner. This was is 6th try in 3 games by the speedster. The conversion was missed, half time 20-8.
Ballymena started the second half the way they ended the first but this time it’s was full back Tim Small who showed great pace and footwork to cross the chalk mark. The conversion was missed, 25-8. A few minutes later Galwegians reduced the deficit when again they were awarded a penalty bringing the score to 25-11. From the restart strong running from Mathew Rea and Adrian Hamilton got Ballymena within touching distance of the try line. Last ditched tackling kept Ballymena out but it did cost Galwegians a player when a yellow card was brandished for foul play.
Ballymena where now dominating all aspects of the game and it was from a line out steal that they set up their next try. The ball was won by Mathew Rea who tapped it down to Dave Shanahan. The ball was whipped out wide but Galwegians covered the move well until the ball was moved back inside were Connor Smith crash ball couldn’t be stopped. Connor’s try sealed the bonus point. Tim Small added the extras, 32-11. Galwegians now back to full strength went on the attack again but never looked as if they were going to break the Ballymena defence down. 10 minutes from time Galwegians were awarded another penalty which the full back added, 32-14. With full time approaching Ballymena went on one final attack and this time a quick thinking man of the match Glen Bailey chipped the ball over the defence for Callum Patterson to race onto and score. The conversion was missed and the game finished 37-14. This was a great performance from a young Ballymena side with plenty of skills and determination setting a good platform to build towards their promotion goal.
Team- Bryan Young, John Andrew, Adrian Kirkpatrick, David Whann, Connor Smith, Mathew Rea, Michael Entwhistle, Adrian Hamilton, Dave Shanahan, Glen Bailey, Jamie Smith, Mike McKeever, Ricky Andrew, Jordon Foster, Tim Small
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