Ballymoney RFC returned to their first rugby action of the 2013 year when they welcomed current League Champions Clogher Valley to Kilraughts road in the league fixture on Saturday.
After a close hard fought game Clogher Valley held on to win the match 17-20.
With the pitch in good condition which made a welcomed change from the past few away games Ballymoney kicked off and the game started at a high pace. From the kick off winger Ewan Strang chanced up and put in a superb tackle on the Clogher captain and No8 that any of the forwards would have been proud off.
It resulted in a knock on and the Clogher Captain had to leave the pitch. Ballymoney hard work at training over the Christmas period was paying off and they had the advantage in the scrums. They took play into the Clogher 22 and were rewarded a penalty which Captain James Cleland slotted over for an early 3-0 lead.
Rhys McAuley was starting his first game at scrum half after coming on in the last few games and Scott Nelson had moved to outhalf. The combination was working well and the back line were creating some good yards.
The first try came from the forwards as they controlled the maul at the lineout and drove Clogher 15metres towards the line. They had a serious of pick and drives at the line before Peter Irvine and Aaron Ramage combined for Ramage to score below the posts. Cleland was again successful with the kick and Ballymoney had a 10-0 lead with 20minutes played.
Clogher forwards worked hard and attacked the Ballymoney line, however the Toon defence held for and forced a number of turnover at the tackle. Although Clogher had a good spell with the ball in hand they could not get through the Ballymoney defence. However with 30minutes gone Ballymoney got a forward red carded for an alleged punch.
With Ballymoney now down to 14 Clogher took advantage and with 2 minutes of the half remaining moved the ball well across the pitch and caught Ballymoney short on numbers and their winger scored in the corner. The kick from out wide went over to leave the score at half time 10-7.
The second half started with both teams battling out procession in midfield. The next decisive point in the game came after 50minutes when a Ballymoney forward was sinbined for holding on 5metres out from his line. The referee deemed it to be a scoring offence and produced a yellow card. Clogher used their expericene and with Ballymoney now down to only 6 in the scrum the Clogher 8 picked and scored. The conversion when
over and gave Clogher the lead for the first time 10-14. They added another penalty shortly after to make it 10-17.
Ballymoney were back to 14men with 20minutes to go and where penalised at the line out for obstruction at the maul. Clogher again slotted over the penalty to leave the score at 10-20. However at this stage Ballymoney increased the pace of the game and started to really move the large Clogher pack around the pitch.
Although a man down Outhalf Nelson was starting to spot a few gaps. Cleland attacked up the blind side of a ruck and drew the last man to release winger Strang. He beat 3 men and outpaced the cover defence to score a great individual try in the corner. Cleland was successful with the kick to leave the score 17-20 with only minutes remaining.
Ballymoney had a lineout on half way and set up the maul. They then moved the ball between backs and forwards until centre Watson found a gap. He powered his way from the half to the 22. With the line in sight he paced to winger Strang, but a cover Clogher tackle had impeded Strang before he got the ball. As the crowd shouted for a penalty try or even a yellow card, the referee awarded a penalty. With the losing bonus point secured Hanna took it into contact. After a few phases of play the move broke down and the referee blew for fulltime.
Team: Ramage, Irvine, Bartlett, Graham, Platt, Clyde, D Campbell, Hanna, McAuley, Nelson, Strang, Cleland (C),
C Watson, J Campbell, McCartney, D Watson, A Surgenour.
Indigo Jewellery Man of the Match: Ewan Strang.
Coaches Comments: “I believe if we would have been at 15men for the full 80minutes we would have won the game. We played with a lot more pace today and it helped being on a solid pitch at home. The defence was good and with McAuley and Nelson at 9 and 10 we showed good ambition in attack and a lot of control. However we still gave away too many penalties and we will need to put this right.
“We have Coleraine at home this week and will need to improve the discipline but if we play at the pace we did on Saturday it will ensure we will be there or there abouts.”
Ballymoney host Coleraine at home this Saturday so come out and watch the local derby. If you wish to attend the prematch lunch contact the bar or Club Chairman Craig Whyte.
In other games Ballymoney 2nd’s beat Clogher 2nd’s. Clogher U19 beat Ballymoney U19 away, Ballymoney 3rdXV were beaten away in the Foster Cup to Hollywood and Ballymoney 4th XV won in the Foster Cup at home to Cookstown RFC.
* The team play Coleraine 1st XV at Ballymoney in the league on Saturday.