BALLYMONEY 16 DROMORE 37
Ballymoney took to the field on a cold but clear day, looking to make up for the previous league fixture, where players and coaches alike were left disappointed by the effort in losing out to Coleraine. Having drawn away in the league, and won in the cup, Ballymoney knew this was a game that was there to be won, but it was never going to be easy.
Changes to the side saw Ryan Clyde on for Danny Platt, and David Campbell starting in place of Jonny Hanna, who dropped to the bench. In the backs, Ryan Brace returned for John Laughlin, and Thomas Knight got a start after some strong displays for the second XV.
James Campbell and Ben Henderson also swapped the 10 and 12 jerseys.
It was to be a frustrating day for the new charges, as time and again penalties, errors, or bad decisions cost the Toon what field position and possession they could get from a dogged and pacey Dromore side, who seemed to be breaking tackles more easily than most teams have all season.
The loss of Peter Irvine to a knee injury early on was a blow; Matthew Blair replacing him much earlier than usual. And an early try for Dromore attacking round the fringes was a marker of what was to come; Dromore made the most of the ball in hand, and picked out a half-gap to crash over past Bellingham.
At this stage the home side were still making yards in the forwards, and creating space out wide, but the combination of a blitz defence and poor attacking choices meant that Dromore were able to snuff out the best efforts.
Perhaps the highlight of the Toon’s first half was Watson and Kyle combining to make 20 yards up the left in a front row sortie, but the pacey cover defence snuffed out the opportunity.
The second try on the half-hour mark was more of the same - ineffective fringe defence allowing the visiting forwards to crash over. A third try soon followed, and one of the meanest defences in the league was on the verge of giving up a bonus point in the first half.
With a handful of penalties for each side, the half time score was 6-25, and there were contrasting emotions as the coaches gathered their troops.
In the second half, play continued much as before - the bonus point duly arrived on 50 minutes for Dromore, before Ballymoney finally started to show some urgency and crossed the line through Ben Henderson, before he too limped off for 15 mins with a knee injury.
But Dromore weathered the storm and Jonny Hanna’s late introduction added some urgency and physicality but little penetration to the Ballymoney attack.
A final try for Dromore in the last minute was the icing on their cake.
Coach Neil Beddow said: “We simply did not perform again today. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions about the fitness, preparation, and attitude to the game. If the responses are not right, there are places up for grabs at training.”
This Saturday, the 1st XV travel to Cooke in a must-win game to get some momentum back. For the 2nds, Coleraine make the short trip along the A26, while the 4s host Holywood 2s and the Ballymoney 5s visit Ballynahinch 7s.