Garryowen 32 Ballymena 24
This defeat in Limerick by Garryowen sees Ballymena drop to third place in the Division 1B table, but level on points with Garryowen, who now occupy second spot. With home advantage Garryowen enjoyed most of the territorial advantage in the first half, but after fifteen minutes the scores were tied at three points each, with No.10 Jamie Gavin opening the scoring with a penalty and Tim Small responding in kind. With Garryowen dominating territory, Ballymena were being forced to run from deep, but were unable to make a lot of headway against a well organised home defence.
The first try of the game was scored by Garryowen when centre Andrew O’Byrne kicked through for open side wing forward Barry O’Mahony to beat a hesitant Ballymena defence to the touchdown for a try which Gavin converted. They scored their second try when a kick ahead by Tim Small fell into the arms of O’Byrne who made ground and put left wing Wooton in for a try, again converted by Gavin to open up a 17-3 lead at half time.
A good drive in the scrum gave Garryowen a penalty which they kicked into the corner,and set up a drive from the catch. Ballymena seemed to have halted the drive, but Wooton picked up the ball and dived over the maul for his side’s third try, again converted by Gavin for a 24-3 lead.
.0A scrum in the ballymena half provided an opportunity for the Garryowen no. 10 to drop agoal, putting his side 27-3 ahead. At this stage Ballymena had really picked up their game and were handling confidently, with left winger James Beattie almost getting in at the corner Their patience and industry were rewarded when Mike McComish made a break and gave Martin Irwin a scent of the try line. He showed great strength to take a couple of defenders across the line with him for a try which Small converted, but still leaving Ballymena 27-10 adrift, .Things looked bleak when Garryowen scored another try through left wing Wooton and extended the lead to 32-10, but Ballymena were not finished yet. They were awarded a penalty in front of the Garryowen posts, but elected to kick for the corner to set up a catch and drive. The line throw was cleanly taken by Mark Foster and the pack drove across the line for a try which Small converted to make the score 32-17. Again the Ballymena backs showed what a threat they can be, and sone great mid field passing set up a ruck from which replacement scrum half made a break, but last ditch defence kept him out. Ballymena were awarded the scrum and a powerful drive sent Garryowen backwards The front row stood up and the referee immediately went between the posts for a penalty try, which McMaster converted, leaving Ballymena just eight points in arrears. They continued to press and with the last play of the game were rewarded with a penalty some forty metres out. McMaster’s kick just drifted wide, the referee blew for full time and Ballymena left Dooradoyle empty handed without the losing bonus point which their second half performance deserved.
Naturally disappointed at losing, Coach Andy Graham was nevertheless well pleased with the way his side has responded to being so far adrift, away from home. “There is nothing between our two sides, and if anything I thought we were the more creative, and a performance like that sets us up for the rest of the season”, he said after the game.