Ballymena 33 Queens 9. First Round Ulster Senior Cup
Both sides fielded depleted squads in this First Round of the First Trust Senior Cup, but in the end it was Ballymena who ran out comfortable enough winners against the student side which had little to offer in attack, but defended manfully for most of the game. The first fifteen minutes followed that pattern – constant Ballymena pressure and well organised, resolute Queens’s defence. The deadlock was broken when a long pass from McMaster seemed to go astray and go to ground, but James Beattie was sharp enough to pick it up and squeeze over in the corner for a well taken try. The home side’s second try came about when the referee bizarrely missed a forward pass and two knock ons by Ballymena which put Jordan Foster in the clear. Sensibly enough, he didn’t stop to point out to the referee that he had made a mistake and ran in for the try, which McMaster converted to give Ballymena what looked like a winning 12-0 lead. But the referee, who seemed to find fault with the Ballymena scrum throughout the game, awarded Queen’s three penalties, which out half Justin Rea kicked from long range, to put an unrealistic gloss on the half time score line, with Ballymena leading by 12-9, only a three point lead to show for their almost complete dominance.
The second half began where the first had left off, with a penalty to Queen’s, but this time Justin Rea missed, and for the first time Queen’s began to show some attacking flair, but they couldn’t make any real inroads against the Ballymena defence, and a long run by Marty Irwin cleared the danger. More sustained Ballymena pressure, with Mulholland and Gallagher to the fore, led to a second try for James Beattie, who once again picked up a long pass from McMaster to score in the corner, converted by McMaster to put Ballymena 19-9 ahead. A penalty to Ballymena straight from the kick off gave McMaster the chance to find a good touch on the left touchline and set up an attacking position from the line out, but the throw went long over the back, and the chance seemed to be lost. But Willie McKay, who had put in his usual all-action performance, regained possession, and from the ensuing ruck Glenn Baillie ran in unopposed for a try between the posts which McMaster converted to make the score 26-9. From the kick off Ballymena attacked and won the ball on the Queen’s ten metre line, moved it right and another long pass from again hit the ground, but was gathered by Foster who outpaced the cover defence to score his second of the day. McMaster again converted to round off the scoring for the afternoon at 33-9 to Ballymena. The final word, however, went to the referee who yellow carded Richard McCrudden for what seemed like an innocuous offence, and he completed his day’s work by dismissing Chris Cundell, thirty seconds before he blew the final whistle, five minutes early.
The win over Queen’s sets up a quarter final tie against Banbridge at Eaton Park on Saturday 25th October. Next week Ballymena travel to Derry in the Ulster Senior League, for what always proves to be a difficult fixture. An equally challenging encounter awaits the 2nd XV who travel to Clogher Valley in the quarter final of the Junior Cup.
Match Highlights Provided by Harry Cook Image Media Films