McElderry Tractors and Bayview Hotel sponsored Ballymoney RFC started their competitive league fixtures on Saturday 1st September.
The 1st XV were host to Academy 1st XV in the Qualifying League 1 fixture. The team had a new look back line with Jonny McLaughlin starting at 13 and Thomas Skelton Jnr occupying the 10 shirt.
There was a slight breeze toward the club house and although the sun was hidden the high temperature mean that fitness would be a key factor. Ballymoney kicked off towards the clubhouse and immediately put pressure on the visitors. The referee was influential as Ballymoney turned over a scrum against the head 5metres out the Referee blew up for a penalty against the Ballymoney flanker. Again moments later a catch and drive from the line out was blew up as they were heading over the line for an offside offence.
Academy reacted well and although against the run of play scored the first points of the game after 15minutes. A Scrum on the halfway line say the Academy No8 make a break down the blind side and use the overlap to send the winger clear to score in the corner. With the conversion missed they lead 0-5.
Ballymoney went back on the attack and from more pressure secured a penalty on the 10metre line. Cormac McCartney got his first points of the season with a well struck kick to reduce the visitors lead to 3-5. Academy missed with two further long range penalties as Ballymoney defence gave them little options. The half finished with Ballymoney on the ascendancy and a number of pick and drives from the forwards brought another penalty below the posts which Cormac again converted to give the Toon men the lead at the halfway mark 6-5.
After some stern words from Coach Jason Taggart and Backs Coach Neil Beddows, Ballymoney brought more structure to the game and start to wear down the opponents forwards pack. Lineouts were going well with David Watson accurate with his throws and the return of Aidy Graham mean that not only did Ballymoney secure their own ball but also stole a number of the oppositions. Scrums were also going the way of the more physical Ballymoney forwards. From driving line out David Campbell and Scott Nelson were held up just over the line. The resulting 5 metre scrum saw the pressure from front row of Ramage, Watson and Bartlett result in a penalty to Ballymoney. Captain James Cleland ceased the opportunity and called for another scrum in front of the posts. After a number of Academy penalties Ballymoney were rewarded a penalty which McCartney converted.
This put Ballymoney into a 13-5 and soon after receiving the kick off they were back up to the visitors line again. This time a backs move was stopped 5 metres out and Ballymoney were awarded a scrum from an Academy knock on. The introduction of John Bellingham and Ryan Clyde brought fresh enthusiasm to the pack and this resulted in the scrum being driven over for No8 John Richmond to calm the score. The conversation was wide but the score was now 18-5.
A mistake from the gathering of the kick off gave Academy a chance to reduce the score from a penalty which they converted to now narrow the lead to 18-8. Ballymoney and Academy exchange further penalites to make the score 21-11 with 15minutes left on the clock.
Another break into the Academy half set up some fast ruck ball from the forwards with some good ball carrying. Scrum half Scott Nelson moved to wide through the hands off the back line and Jonny McLaughlin used his pace and strength to cut through the gap and score in the corner. The conversion was wide but with the score now at 26-11 the game was over with 10minutes remaining. Ballymoney however knew one more try would give them the bonus point and they tried to move the ball wide as they were starting to effect a number of turnovers against a slowing Academy team. A great break from second row Danny Platt saw the big man ghost through a gap and a hand off to the on-coming tackles freed up the pass the winger Watson. With the try line beaconing the winger couldn’t gather and the move broke down as the referee blew for the end of the game.
Man of the Match: Danny Platt
Team: A Ramage, D Watson, S Bartlett, D Platt, A Graham, J Hanna, D Campbell, J Richmond, S Nelson, T Skelton, E Strang, J Cleland (c), J McLaughlin, C Watson, C McCartney, J Bellingham, R Clyde.
Coaches Comments: After the match coach Jason Taggart commented: “We started the match well in the first 10minutes but you could see there was some nerves on the pitch which you can expect from a young team. We lost our shape slightly and gave away too many silly penalties which gave them territory. However our defence was good and we stopped them from creating too many chances. The second have we settled down and started to really control the game. The forwards got hold off the game and dominated the scrum and lineout. This was the first time the backs really got together this year and they combined well as the game went on. Thomas Skelton had a solid game at 10 but Man of the match was Danny Platt who along with the forwards put in a good second half performance. We will be working on our match sharpness this week as we will have a tough physical game against a strong Donaghadee side at home this Saturday”.
Thanks to Robinson and Sons Architects you supported the match and thanks to all the supporters who came out this week and I am sure they will be out again on Saturday 8th September.