Ballymoney First XV start new season with home game

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BALLYMONEY Rugby Club sponsored by McElderry Tractos Ltd and Bayview Hotel start their 2012-2013 competitive season this Saturday 1st September with a home league game to Academy, writes Jonathan Hanna.

Ballymoney RFC will again be fielding 6 senior teams with the 2nd XV captained by John Bellingham away to Carrick on the 1st September. The 3rd XV who took part in the 15a-side tournament at City of Derry RFC on 25 August have a free week and will start on the 8 September with a home game against Carrick 3’s. The 4th XV start promoted to Junior League 4 with a away game against Randlestown. The 5th XV join the 1st XV with a home start on the 1st September to Limavady 3’s while the Under 19’s competitive fixtures start on the middle of September.

Coach Jason Taggart has been busy putting the guys through there paces in a tough preseason. “The players have all been working hard over the summer. Most had been doing their own training so everyone had a reasonable level of fitness when we started in August. They have been doing a lot of physical strength training the first few weeks and now coming into the final week before the first league game we will be concentrating on the team play side of things” comment Jason Taggart.

Ballymoney welcome back Aidy Graham from Ballymena and have signed Andy Bothwick who moved from Newcastle to Ballymoney along with ex Queens out half Mark Robinson and Rainey second row Andrew Gardner. Jason went onto say in addition to these guys Neil Mullholland and Jonny Linton returned home from Australia last week and a number last year’s under 19’s have impressed at training with Jordan Munnis and Thomas Knight being at the fore. Our squad for the 1st XV and 2nd XV has remained the same as last year so we are in a strong position especially when it comes to second row and back row.

This year’s preseason say the 1st XV squad play two friendly fixtures against Ballyclare and Limavady. Ballymoney took a large squad of 28 to Ballyclare with a number of last year 1st XV missing due to holiday’s and work commitments. The game was played in 4 20minute quarters with Ballymoney winning the first quarter 1 try to nil scored by Scott Nelson after a good break by Chris Watson. The second quarter say the introduction of 6 of the last years 2nd’s to the forwards and 5 to the back line.

The changes took a while to settle in and Ballyclare managed two good trys through overlaps in the back line. The 3rd quarter say Ballymoney have the majority of procession but Ballyclare scoring a intercept try from half way. The final 20minutes Ballymoney upped the aggression and put pressure on the Ballyclare line and after some good forward play a try was scored by Jonny Hanna. On Thursday 23 August Ballymoney played Limavady at home again in more like winter conditions. The game was played in the normal 2 halves but the coaches agreed to use rolling subs. Ballymoney took the lead after 20miutes through a try by Cormac McCartney which he converted. Ballymoney then conceded a penalty on 35minitues to make the game 7-3 at half time.

The second half say the rain get heavier and ruled out any hope of seeing a free flowing game. The referee also were penalising Ballymoney heavily at the breakdown and this allowed Limavady to mount kick deep and put pressure on the Ballymoney line. Ballymoney defended well but a laps in concentration say the Limavady loose head prop score in the corner. Ballymoney responded by increasing the pace of the game and after some surging runs from the pack it was the turn of Ballymoney prop Aaron Ramage to score beside the posts and Cormac again added the conversion to leave the final score at 14-8.

Jason concluded the friendlies on Thursday night by stating “There was a good improvement from the Ballyclare game to the Limavady game. Our fitness and defence was better and more organised. We looked more aggressive as the Limavady game when on. However due to the poor pitch in Ballyclare and the weather conditions at Ballymoney the backs haven’t really had a chance to get going yet although they did show some good defence tonight. We will put our plans in place early this week in the build up the games on Saturday so we can prepare to hit the ground running come 2.30pm on Saturday.

Uwel McDowell, former Ballymoney 1st XV hooker has come out to join Jonny Hanna in coaching the 3rd, 4th and 5th XV sides. Training has been going well and the guys seem to be enjoying the mixture of fitness and drills. Training started earlier this year on the first week of September and numbers have been good with a total of 48 players out last Wednesday night. This Wednesday night will see a build up to the league season with a practice match as the Captains have the hard job to selecting their first teams for the start of the season.

Away from the playing side of things John Campbell and Craig Whyte start their second year as President and Chairman of the Club and will be thrust into the first social duty of the season which will be the pre-match lunch this Saturday 1st September before the Academy game. The lunch is sponsored by R. Robinson & Sons Architect’s in Ballymoney. Anyone who is wishing to attend the lunch please contact Club President John Campbell to reserve a place.

Ballymoney are grateful to all their sponsors and 2012-2013 see’s McElderry Tractors Ltd and Bayview Hotel continue their sponsorship of the club. They along with Tennents and Europa Foods will once again be sponsoring the 1st XV who will be receiving new kit to mark the clubs 60th Anniversary. Unfortunately the Ferguson and Logue Solicitors 3 year sponsorship of the youth section is finishing but Power NI have recently agreed to sponsor the U19 side who also will be receiving new kit. The other main club sponsors will be Centra Ballymoney who continue to sponsor the clubs strong Mini Maxi section and Trolans Supervalu who have agreed to come back on board and sponsor the Ladies Rugby Teams.