Ballymena travelled to Dublin for the fourteenth game in the All League Division 1, but for the third week in a row they came away empty handed, suffering another narrow defeat in the dying minutes of the game. Conditions underfoot and overhead at Stradbrook Road were difficult, so there was never going to be much fast, open rugby and that is exactly so it turned out.
Blackrock opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a lineout drive, after the referee penalised Ballymena in the scrum. Given that Ballymena’s dominance in the scrum was the striking feature of the game, this was surprising but Blackrock took advantage of the decision, kicked for the corner and crossed the line for the try, which was converted to give them a seven nil lead. For the first 20 minutes of the game the home side had the edge and they were rewarded for their efforts in the 22nd minute with a penalty which gives them a ten point lead. McMaster closed the gap with a penalty but Blackrock replied in kind shortly after to open up a 13-3 lead. Ballymena were now exerting pressure on the Blackrock defence and five metre scrum when the home pack was driven backwards, preventing a Ballymena touchdown, resulted in a penalty try, given by the referee at the first collapse of the scrum. McMaster converted to reduce the gap to three points, and just before half-time another powerful Ballymena scrum produced another penalty, again converted by McMaster to make the half time score 13-13.
Shortly after the resumption McMaster kicked a penalty to put Ballymena in the lead for the first time in the game, and with the lineout working well and the scrum dominating, they seemed to be well in control. But at this stage Blackrock were beginning to run out of prop forwards and the game took on a completely different complexion when their last remaining prop came on only to leave the field almost immediately with a neck injury, so that the game was reduced to uncontested scrums, thus depriving Ballymena of their most potent weapon. With that pressure removed Blackrock were able to work their way back into the game and mount a series of attacks which eventually resulted in a try with only five minutes left on the clock. The conversion failed but that didn’t matter, as once again Ballymena suffered a narrow defeat. That hasn’t affected the league position, as they still occupy third place behind St Mary’s and Trinity, and well clear of Old Wesley, who lie fourth.