Ballymoney Under-18s bring the Ulster Bowl to Kilraughts Road

Ballymoney Under-18s with the silverware
Ballymoney Under-18s with the silverware

BALLYMONEY RFC U18s 72

FINN VALLEY RFC U18s 10

Ballymoney Under-18s

Ballymoney Under-18s

On Saturday Ballymoney RFC Under 18s travelled to the Mid Ulster Sports Arena to play Finn Valley RFC Under 18s in the Final of the Ulster Carpets Bowl and came away with a resounding win, triumphantly returning to the Kilraughts Road with the Ulster Carpets Bowl.

Finn Valley came in a determined mood to overturn the heavy defeat inflicted upon them a few weeks earlier, supported by a large squad of twenty-three players compared to the Town’s sixteen. The Final was played on the Arena’s artificial surface, which was new territory to both teams but really suited the Ballymoney style of play.

In excellent conditions the Town opted to play into the wind and from the start put pressure on Finn Valley with strong rucking and speedy passing. Despite losing prop forward, Gary Balmer, after three minutes with an ankle injury (replaced by James Wilson), this incessant pressure paid off when scrumhalf Chris Campbell crashed over for an unconverted try.

Five minutes later, second row, Matthew McConaghy, scored another good unconverted try when he peeled off a maul to score. Finn Valley gradually crept back into the Town half and were rewarded with a penalty kick which was converted by their outhalf. Three minutes later Finn Valley tied the score at 10-10 when they scored another well-worked converted try. Ballymoney went into the lead when centre Aaron Brown cut an excellent line through the Finn Valley defence to score a try, converted by Gary Pattison. The discipline in the Town defence proved beneficial, especially when Finn Valley hit back with forward rushes, one of which resulted in outside centre Jack Kane receiving a facial injury, necessitating fifteen minutes of medical treatment. In the spirit of rugby sportsmanship and the ethos of Finn Valley, they withdrew one of their players to even up the contest until Jack’s return, even though there was no requirement to do so. The first half ended with the Ballymoney lads leading 17-10.

Ballymoney captain

Ballymoney captain

After half time, the Town lads went on the offensive, pinning Finn valley into their own half. A number of tries then followed, the first of which was executed by hooker Ben Graham with one of his usual forward surges. Outhalf Matthew Bell scored the second when he found a gap in the Finn Valley backline to run clear and touch down beside the posts.

mCentre Aaron Brown scored two in quick succession with his good support play. Fullback Gary Pattison scored the fifth when he beat the defender to the touchdown, following a lovely chip kick by Matthew Bell. Number eight Matthew Johnston scored a sixth after good work by the forwards on the Finn Valley line. Winger Ciaran Neill scored the seventh when he was released down the wing by hooker James Wilson. Outside centre Jack Kane scored the next try when his acceleration caught the Finn Valley defence unawares to touch down unopposed between the posts. The final and definitive try came from scrumhalf Chris Campbell, when he broke from a ruck to score. Five of the second half tries were converted by fullback Gary Pattison. When the final whistle blew, with the score 72-10 to the Town, the Ballymoney lads knew they had completed a hard day’s work against a very good and competitive Finn Valley team.

This was a marvellous team performance from every player, who gave their all and contributed to making this a terrific contest. Man of the Match was Tommy McMullan, whose line-out work and loose play was of excellent quality. Special credit must also go to Captain Ben Graham for keeping the team focused throughout, and to substitute hooker James Wilson who had a tremendous game.