BALLYMONEY 37 COOKE 7
After a tough start to the season, the tides have started to turn for Ballymoney. A win over Lisburn in the Junior Cup, followed by a promising draw in Dromore, suggest that this year’s side are capable of reversing the poor return from the first few weeks of the season.
Adrian Harrigan of Harrigan Fuels had chosen a cracking day to sponsor the match. With the sun shining and a vocal crowd in place, Ballymoney took the field with a spring in their step. And in the third minute, the first chance of points was offered, Cooke penalised for hands in the ruck.
James Campbell was assigned kicking duties this week, and narrowly missed the kick. That was to prove his only miss of the day.
With pressure building on the young Cooke side, Jonny Hanna was first to capitalise, adding to his scoring streak. Taking a hard line in the centre channel, he burst through the first line, and baffled everyone with a huge sidestep to beat the fullback. Campbell hit the conversion for 7-0.
Thomas Skelton was next up on 17 mins, finishing off a flowing sequence with backs and forwards involved. James Cleland made the initial break up the short side, drew the last defender, and put Skelton in for the try. Campbell converted again from out wide.
There was a further penalty for Campbell on 19 mins, before the forwards took charge for the third try on 25 mins. A maul from the short range lineout was held up, but that was delaying the inevitable. From the resulting scrum Ballymoney drove Cooke back over the line for Hanna to score his second. Campbell again converted for 24-0.
Not to be outdone, the backs put together some more good play, and on 30 mins were rewarded with the bonus point try. James Campbell attacked up the right, put Cleland past his defender, and Skelton again was on hand in support to gather the last pass and score the try. Campbell once again coverted.
With the opening half hour going one way, Cooke showed signs of getting back in contention, and managed a breakaway try on 36 mins from a stolen ball inside their own half. Half time came with the score 31-7.
With the game all but won, Ballymoney let the foot off the gas in the second half. Cooke’s team talk was clearly about getting some intensity in the challenge, as their defense improved greatly around the ruck. Ballymoney’s scoring chances were limited to penalties for Campbell in 51 and 58 minutes.
Cooke, while defending better, also got hold of the ball more in the second half - several scrambled defensive efforts were needed to keep them out. But the frustration started to tell, with a red card in the last minute that was clearly unnecessary.
The final score was 37-7, and James Campbell was awarded man of the match for controlling the kicking game and launching a series of successful attacks.
Around the league, Clogher Valley beat Portadown 10-5, Dromore put 50 past UUC, Bangor won 37-17 over Coleraine, and Donaghadee lost 18-12 away to CIYMS.
Next week sees the first full men’s program of the year, with all 5 teams in action. The 1s visit Donaghadee, who will have a fast attacking game to contend with.
Elsewhere the 2s are in Coleraine, and the 3s, 4s, and 5s are all at home, to Ards 3, Dromore 3, and Ballynahinch 7s respectively. In addition, the youth section take 3 teams to Dungannon, and Limavady bring their mini section on Saturday morning.