Ballymoney lose out in McCambley Cup Final by the narrowest of margins
Match report by Jimmy Speers
It was heartbreak for Ballmoney fourths and their dream of retaining the McCambley Cup after they lost out to a very well drilled, competitive, Ballymena side at The Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill.
Ballymoney were first on the score sheet and took a six point lead courtesy of two penalties from Cormac McCartney. This followed some good early pressure by the Ballymoney pack forcing infringements from the opposition defence. Ballymena reduced the deficit with a penalty and then levelled the score with drop goal just before the interval leaving the half time score 6 point each.
The second half continued in the same fashion as the first, as either sides attacking flair was cancelled out by some resolute defence. Ballymoney took the lead again midway through the second half with nicely struck McCartney penalty.
Ballymena drew level just before the end of normal time with a fine penalty from their out-half, struck from almost the half way line. As the final whistle of normal play was sounded, both teams already exhausted by their efforts, prepared for another 20 minutes of extra time with the score even.
The drama continued into the first period of extra time when Ballymoney were reduced to 14 men after Ryan Brace was yellow carded and sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. Ryan’s last ditch tackle to prevent the Ballymena winger from scoring was judged high and illegal. Half time in extra time the score remained 9 points each.
The second period of extra time brought the first try of the match. Ballymena sent up a high kick which made the Ballymoney defence hesitate. The ball landed and the bounce unkindly escaped all the Ballymoney defenders to land sweetly into the Ballymena full backs hands for an easy, converted score under the posts.
Ballymoney knowing time was now evaporating quickly threw all into attack. Ryan Brace rejoined the game and with the back line back to full strength Cormac McCartney threw a fine pass to winger Drew Frew to score in the corner. Out-half McCartney had the conversion, the last action of the cup final, to draw the game and share the trophy. Unfortunately the kick fell just short and the final whistle blew. Ballymena 16 – Ballymoney 14
Team captain John Waide commented. “I am very proud of this Ballymoney squad. We put everything into this game and each member of the team can hold their heads high and be proud of what they have achieved. Unfortunately the outcome literally went down to the bounce of ball and the last kick of the game and that is sometimes just how it turns out. Especially in a game as tight as this one. This Ballymoney team is still developing though and I am confident that we will be back bigger and stronger next season. The team would also like to thank the large number of travelling support who cheered the team on up to and after the final whistle. It highlights what this rugby club means to the town and we were very grateful to all who attended and supported us”.