Nutty Krust U18 Tournament:
Ballymena U18 10-13 Malone U18
Wednesday 22 February 2017
The first of this season’s Second Round group stage games in the Nutty Krust U18 Tournament took place under the floodlights at a very damp Chambers Park when Ballymena U18’s and Malone U18’s played on Wednesday evening.
The Malone U18 team recorded a closely contested 13-10 victory with the scoreboard having read 5-5 at the break. A sizeable crowd had gathered to watch an entertaining game which featured quite a few talented players on both teams. Among the group watching the game was Jonny Gillespie, the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Manager.The difficult overhead conditions did not prohibit both teams from attempting to play positive rugby with the ball in hand. The opening stages of the game were played around the halfway mark with both packs featuring with some strong set piece play. Following a series of reset scrums the Malone outhalf, Jack Knox, put his team into a good territorial position with a fine kick. From an ensuing lineout Jack put a clever kick into the Ballymena in-goal area and won the foot race to touch down for an unconverted try to put his team into a 5-0 lead with just six minutes on the clock. Ballymena responded positively and good work from Josh Henry took them to within striking distance of the Malone line. The Ballymena team stayed close to the Malone line and went through a series of phase plays with Donovan Woulahan, Owen Surgenor and Eoin Kitson to the fore. Eventually, Jordan Pattison was released into space and he made no mistake in finishing with a fine try in the corner. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the Ballymena team was back in the game with the score at 5-5. Ballymena dominated proceedings for the next ten minutes but could find no way through a resolute Malone defence which was well marshalled by Jack Knox, Taylor Pollock and Thomas Quinn. Ballymena might have taken a lead into the break only to see a 35th minute penalty sail to the right of the upright.
As the weather conditions worsened the opening ten minutes of the second half became error strewn with both teams struggling to hold onto possession. Then Ballymena gained sufficient possession to mount a series of darts at the Malone line. Seemingly kickable penalties were turned down and their endeavours were rewarded when Donovan Woulahan barged his way over the Malone line to touch down for an unconverted try which put his team into a 10-5 lead. Malone now took control of the game and their impressive centre, Thomas Quinn, reduced their deficit to 10-8 when he converted a penalty opportunity midway through the half. The game now went end to end with the players adapting more readily to the conditions. Thomas Quinn and Taylor Pollock were creating waves of attacks for the Malone teas with Isaak Hackett, Jordan Pattison and Josh Henry doing likewise for the Ballymena team. Close to the final whistle an off-load from Thomas Quinn rebounded off the head of one of his colleagues. The loose ball was snapped up by Jack McIlroy who then ran in for an unconverted try which was sufficient to secure the 13-10 victory for the Malone U18 team.