U18s v City of Derry – League – 19th December 2015

City of Derry 10 Ballymena 19

The U18s finished off the first half of the season with a hard fought win in Londonderry, against a tough side and in very blustery conditions. The squad was missing a few regulars but the lads who took the field really stood up to be counted, with a number playing in unfamiliar positions. The pre-match chat was all about enjoying the game as a team and it was without a doubt this attitude that took the boys in black through to the final whistle and a well deserved 3 points.

An early sniping score from McGarry, from the base of a ruck sent the visitors into the lead but the home side worked their way back into the game despite playing against the wind. A score for the Derry men went unconverted leaving Ballymena with their noses just in front. With the wind playing havoc with any attempt to move the ball wide the visiting side drove the ball repeatedly through their pack with McCormick, Jordan Glover carrying strongly and van Loggerenberg keeping the forward momentum going in the centre alongside new partner Bones. The continuous pounding of the Derry defence eventually opened up an opportunity which was quickly spotted by skipper Fullerton who broke through the middle of a ruck to score unopposed under the posts. Despite the Ballymena having the wind advantage in the first half City of Derry looked dangerous with ball in hand and the half closed with another score for the home team, and it was only the two earlier conversions for the Ballymena no 10 that kept the Braidmen in front.

The second half saw the visitors having to defend stoically and they were more than up to the task. Having defended their line solidly for a full ten minutes they frustrated City of Derry into an error and started a length of the field breakaway which saw Bones sprinting down the touch line only to be held up just short of the line. Luckily support came in n the shape of his winger who had made up a huge amount of ground from the far side of the field. It was a great score that deservedly sealed the win for the Ballymena lads and a terrific way to celebrate the start of the Christmas break.

A Merry Christmas to all the lads, from all the coaching staff, and we’ll start where we left off in the New Year.

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U18s v Banbridge – League – 17th October 2015

Banbridge 12 Ballymena 24
It was a shaky start for the U18s from the opening whistle as some misplaced passes allowed the opposition to camp in the Ballymena 22 for the first ten minutes. This early pressure was turned into points with a converted try for Banbridge after some powerful driving play opened up an opportunity for the home side to cross the whitewash. To their credit the young Ballymena team regrouped and set about establishing a foothold in the game with some continued possession, playing through the patterns they’ve worked so hard on in the early weeks of the season.  And it was an excellent piece of combined play between forwards and backs which saw Josh Henry make a break to feed Callum Balmer on the wing. The defence eventually brought the winger down but from the breakdown Mark McGarry was sharp enough to spot an opening on the blindside. After making some good ground he chipped the ball through and Henry was on hand to finish off the move and score for the second week running.

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The visitors continued to assert pressure at the breakdown and won numerous turnovers with their strong defence against a side that had plenty to offer in attack.
Ballymena had started to grow in confidence and following some excellent go-forward ball from the pack Ian Mills at 10 moved the ball along the back line to find Stephen Getty in the outside channel. The winger outpaced his opposite number before feeding inside to his skipper, David Fullerton, who had run a great support line and as the cover defence closed in the ball was offloaded to scrum half Chris Smyth who finished off under the posts for a try that had the side lines applauding its quality. Mills converted to take the braidmen further ahead.
The pack had begun to control the game by this stage and as they battered the opposition in both attack and defence reward came in the form of another score from one of the top players on the day, Caelan McLaughlin, who crashed over form short range to add another try to the mounting total. With the conversion missed Ballymena went into half time with a 17-5 lead despite having spurned a few other opportunities.

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The second half saw both sides create their own chances with the Banbridge centre running hard at the Ballymena defensive line.  The organisation of the visitors defence was frustrating the home team with Henry and his new centre partner Josh van Loggerenberg putting in tackle after tackle. The midfield change came as a result of a hand injury to the unlucky Haydn Roebuck and this also saw the introduction of Jefferson Logan to the pitch and he immediately set about terrorising the opposition at the breakdown. The back row was working well in tandem with Sean McCormick carrying strongly, Logan stealing ball at the tackle area and Fullerton providing the link between backs and forwards.
Despite this it was Banbridge who closed the gap with another try, which was converted, as the Ballymena boys started to concede a series of penalties.
With the margin now at only 5 points it could easily have rattled Ballymena but they had a confidence in their game which saw them continue to attack at any opportunity and it was that finally led to the score that sealed the win when the back line again outpaced their counterparts for the flying Steven Getty to cross untouched. Mills converted to leave the final score 24-12 in favour of Ballymena in what was a fantastic game of youth rugby.

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Well done to the whole squad for their effort so far this season.

U18s v City of Derry – League – 10th October 2015

Ballymena 12  City of Derry 7

It was two well matched sides who lined up against one another at Eaton Park and it was a hard fought team performance that left Ballymena victorious at the final whistle.

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The home team took control of early possession, and with the pack working hard through the phases, the defensive line narrowed and the ball was moved into midfield where Josh Henry cut the perfect line  to break through and, with half the field still to cover, stepped the full back and outpaced the scrambling defence to score beneath the posts. Ian Mills converted to send Ballymena into a 7-0 lead.

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Curtis Bones hits David Fullerton in the lineout

Both sides then traded attacks for long periods with both defences standing up to the task including some big hits from Josh van Loggerenberg and Sean McCormick for the Braidmen. It was, however, the overall teamwork in defence that wore the visitors down and despite City of Derry scoring a converted try to level matters on the scoreboard Ballymena rallied and with the pack upping their work rate and strong carries from John Glover and skipper David Fullerton the momentum swung back to the home side.  Retaining the ball for a period of time they worked through the phases and eventually moved the ball through the hands for centre Haydn Roebuck to crash over near the corner to pull ahead at 12-7.

As time ticked away both teams took the game to one another but it was the home side who took away the points on a day which saw two good squads offer up some entertaining and physical rugby.

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It was a good win and next up the youth sides move on to Banbridge next Saturday hoping to continue their positive starts to the season on all fronts.

U18s v Malone – Pre-Season Friendly – 19th September 2015

Ballymena  19  Malone  0

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No 10 Ian Mills makes a break with Tim McGuinness

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Captain David Fullerton carries with Chris Smyth in support

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John Glover takes on the Malone pack