Toon back to winning ways
J Hanna reporting
The JKC BMW Sponsored Ballymoney 1st XV got back to winning ways with a bonus point 31-6 win at home to Ards RFC.
Daniel Ramage and Ian Moxen were unavailable due to work commitments and were replaced by Adam Pollock
and Neal Mulholland
. Andrew Young
started on the wing after scoring 2 tries for the 2nds the week before in a man of the match performance and Andrew Stevenson
took a place on the bench.
Ballymoney like last week against Randalstown started off strong and put together some very good phases of attack with scrum half Matthew Steele
mixing play well between the forwards and the backs. After sustained pressure Matthew Steele
broke through a gap and off loaded to prop Peter Irvine
who showed good strength to drive over for the opening score. James Cleland
stepped up and knocked over the conversion to give Ballymoney an early 7-0 lead.
Ards showed their experience and with some good play resulting in their centre getting on the outside of the Ballymoney defence and it took a fearless tackle from fullback Cleland to prevent a try. Ballymoney scrambled well and while Cleland was receiving treatment the remaining 14 men showed some excellent defence work to keep Ards at bay. Ards did get a reward for the break as they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which they knocked over to give them their first points and made the score after 15minutes 7-3. After some handbags at the ruck the referee sent a Ballymoney and Ards player to the bin to cool off.
It was a battle of defences and Ballymoney looked very eager to make up for the disappointment of defeat last week as they raised the intensity at the delight of the large home support. From pressure in the Ards 22, Ballymoney were awarded a penalty on 30 minutes. James Cleland
was narrowly wide with the attempt but made up for the miss with another successful penalty kick on 35minutes to give Ballymoney a 10-3 lead and that is how it remained to half time.
The second half started with both teams up to 15men but not for long. Another session of handbags this time seen a Ballymoney player head to the bin on his own to reduce the home side to 14men. This added to Ballymoney’s determined defence. Ards were able to add a penalty to take the score to 10-6.
Now back to 15men Ballymoney were starting to take control of the game as Ards looked to tire. From a knock on in the Ballymoney half, winger Chris Watson
scooped up the ball and went on a strong run deep into the Ards half. The ball was moved wide until scrum half Matthew Steele
picked out Andrew Stevenson
who showed some good strength to drive over for the vital score. James Cleland
added the extras to give them now a strong 17-6 lead.
The game was ended as a contest a minute later when Ards gathered the ball from the kick off after some good work with their forwards, but as they moved the ball wide through the back line, Ballymoney centre Thomas Hunter
leaped to the air to catch an interception and sprint from 60m out to beat the cover defence and score below the posts. James Cleland
again added the points and Ballymoney now lead 24-6 in a game which looked that it would have been closed out at 10-6 only 5 minutes earlier.
Ballymoney showed their fitness as they increased the pace of the game. A quick line out took play deep into the Ards half but a turnover lead to a scrum. The ball was hooked by Ards but shot out the tunnel and the referee signalled the ball was out. Quick thinking from Matthew Steele
saw the scrum half kick the ball through and win the race to the line to dot it down for the bonus point try and with the James Cleland
conversion being good the score was extended to 31-6.
Ards did end the game strong with pressure on the Ballymoney line but just as they thought they might have had a conciliation try their efforts ended as they were held up over the line by the stern home defence and the referee blew his whistle for full time and the final score was 31-6.
Maine Gym Man of the Match: Martin Irwin
1st XV Squad P. Irvine, A. Pollock, A. Brown, N. Mulholland, J. Bleakly, D. McKeeman, M. Allan, J. McFetridge (c), M. Steele, R. Strang, A. Young, M. Irwin, T. Hunter, C. Watson, J. Cleland, M. Blair, A. Stevenson
Coaches Comments, After the game coaches Cleland, Irwin and Hanna stated “We were disappointed with our defensive performance last week against Randalstwon and asked the guys for a reaction this week and they did. We were very good defensively today and that is what laid the foundations for the win. The score line flattered us today as it wasn’t that sort of game as Ards competed well all game and will be a very tough team to beat when we go to them later in the season. A number of guys took knocks today and showed great character by playing on but we will have to access these injuries this week before we finalise the squad for this Saturday Junior Cup Quarter Final at home to Bannbridge 2nd XV. There was a lift in intensity today but we have a long way to go and again will need a hard weeks work at training if we are to keep improving. The guys will relish the break in the league this week as they build up for the cup on Sat