Ballymena 1’s hosted Bruff 1’s in the final round of the AIL before the Christmas break and won
After last weeks hard fought victory in Naas the braid men knew they were going to need the same intensity and determination to beat Bruff who always give ballymena a tough game. Ballymena were also missing Mathew Rea, Adrian Hamilton, Ricky Andrews and Dave Shanahan who were all called up to the Ulster Ravens as well as a few others out with injury.
The game kicked off under the new flood lights at eaton park and it was the visitors who set the early pace. With in the first 10 minutes Bruff were given a penalty in front of the post. Bruff’s Outhalf Declan Bannon split the posts with his kick, 0-3. From the restart the braid men started to get into the game with strong driving from the forwards. Ballymena were soon deep in the visitors 22 when the ball was fired out to the charging Connor Smyth who could not be stopped as he barged his way over the line. Tim Small dispatched the conversion between the posts, 7-3. Bruff upped their game and went on the attack putting the ballymena defensive line under serious pressure. After a prolonged period of play in the braid men’s half Bruff finally unlocked the defence to send Andy White into space to score out wide. Declan Bannon conversion fell inches short of the bar, 7-8. Just before half time Ballymena were awarded a penalty but as Tim Small went to strike the ball his grounded foot slipped sending the ball wide. Half time 7-8.
The second half started like the first with an early penalty to Bruff but this time the kick from Declan Bannon went wide. As the half continued Ballymena got more ball which allowed them to move the ball about among the speedy backs. It was from one such move that Tim Small was released down the wing showing a clean pair of heels to score in the corner. Tim Small missed his own touch line conversion, 12-8. With the match entering the final 10 minutes Bruff were looking very dangerous when a well worked move released Mike McMahon to score under the posts. Declan Bannon added the conversion to take the lead, 12-15. With time running out Ballymena turned the ball over in a ruck and moved the ball up the field. The clock had 80 minutes on it but the brave braid men recycled the ball well using the forwards to make the hard yards into the visitors 22. Ballymena were stopped inches from the try line but a pick and go from number 8 Connor Smyth broke the hearts of the travelling team as he was helped over the line. Tim Small added the conversion to make the final score 19-15. This victory see Ballymena sit top of the 2A league table. There is still along way to go but if the players show the same determination and fight in every game then they will give themselves the best possible chance of promotion back to AIL 1B.
Team- Andrew Warwick, John Andrews, Bryan Young, David Whann, Ian Caldwell, Mark Foster, Willie McKay, Connor Smyth, Glen Bailie, David Ohara, Jordan Foster, Martin Irwin, Mike McKeever, Tim Small, Jamie Smith. Subs- Adrian Kirkpatrick, James Taggart, Peter Ireland, John Nichol, Darrell Montgomery