Ballymena travelled to Highfield in the AIL and won 40-8
Ballymena set off for the next round in the AIL on Friday with a few changes to the Squad that beat Galwegians on the opening day. Their destination was Highfield RFC in Cork. On the morning of the the game there was a spring in everyone’s step, a confidence after their big win the week before. Ballymena took to the field in what was another great day for a fast paced game with temperatures in the 20’s. From the kick off Ballymena had Highfield under pressure with strong running from the braid men’s forwards. The Highfield team had done its homework on the Ballymena side and knew they would be in trouble if Ballymena moved the ball about. Their attempts to slow the ball down in the break down was deemed illegal by the referee and he showed Highfield the first yellow card within the opening 10 minutes. From the resulting penalty Tim Small dispatched the ball between the post to open the scoring, 0-3. Ballymena received the restart and went straight on the attack moving the ball about with pace. It was from this attack that saw Highfield getting their second yellow card of the day when the full back illegally slowed the ball up in a ruck. The braid men were now 2 men up but a very determined Highfield defence kept Ballymena out with some last ditched tackling. On 22 minutes Highfield gave away another penalty and this one was in the range of Tim Small’s boot. The in form fullback added the extra 3 points, 0-6. Highfield now back to full strength set about putting a solid defensive structure in to place. On 32 minutes Ballymena were awarded another penalty and credit to the home side’s defence the braid men opted for the kick at goal. Up stepped Tim Small who added to his personal tally, 0-9. With the clock running out Ballymena could not get through the Highfield defensive line but their ill discipline lead to another penalty which Tim Small added, 0-12. With only seconds left on the clock Ballymena received the kick off and a moment of magic from Ulster’s Ricky Andrews saw him side step the up rushing defender before racing under the posts beating 3 other Highfield defenders on the way. The conversion was added by Tim Small. Half time 0-19
At the start of the second half Highfield got their second wind and started to put the braid men under pressure. It was from this pressure that saw Ballymena reduced to 14 men when Jamie Smith sin binned for an infringement in the break down. Highfield got themselves on to the score board with the resulting penalty, 3-19. A few minutes later Ballymena were reduced to 13 men when forward Connor Smith was shown a yellow card. The momentum was with Highfield and tis time they opted for a quick tap and go. After several phases the opened the Ballymena defence to score out wide. The touch line conversion was missed, 8-19. Ballymena back to full strength and against the run of play added to their lead when Tim Small hacked through a wayward Highfield pass before collecting the ball to race unchallenged under the posts. He added the conversion, 8-26. The game had now entered the final 10 minutes and Ballymena upped the pressure in search of the bonus point. There chances were boosted by a superb maul from the braid men’s forwards which allowed Connor Smith to redeem his yellow card when he forced himself over the line for their third try. Tim Small added the conversion, 8-33. Five minutes from time Highfield was reduced to 14 men when their fullback was shown a red card for a high tackle on his opposite number. With seconds left on the clock centre Ricky Andrews broke through some weak tackling to score under the posts to secure the try bonus point. Tim Small added the conversion bringing his personal tally to 25 and the over all score to 8-40. Prop Adrian Kirkpatrick was voted man of the match. This bonus point win sees Ballymena sitting top of the table on the maximum 10 points.
Team- A.Kirkpatrick, J.Andrews, C.Cundell, D.Whann, C.Smith, M.Rea, M.Entwhistle, A.Hamilton, D.Shanahan, G.Bailey, J.Foster, R.Andrew, J.Smith, M.Johnston, T.Small subs- A.Ferguson, J.Taggart, M.Foster, D.Montgomery, J.Mcmullan