Ballymoney started the 2011 – 2012 season with a 14-13 win in a friendly match against Ballyclare at Kilraughts Road on Saturday.
The result was never the most important thing of this game but as a pre season friendly it was a chance for coach Jason Taggart to look at his new young players before the league campaign starts on the 3rd September.
The game was played in four quarters so both teams could use all of their large squads.
The game kicked off and from the start Ballyclare were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on their number eight.
This allowed them to mount early pressure on the Ballymoney line, however the Ballymoney defence was not able to be breached. In a true friendly style Ballymoney ran the ball at every opportunity but early season handling errors allowed Ballyclare to keep the pressure on the home side.
With both teams making a large number of changes at the end of each quarter it had an effect on the flow of the game. Ballyclare showed their intent to win the match by opting to kick a penalty awarded in the 25th minute. They then kicked another in the 35th minute to leave the score at 0-6 in their favour.
Ballymoney continued to run the ball from anywhere in the pitch and were rewarded with a number of great line breaks from Cleland, Henderson, McCaw, Richmond and Campbell.
However try scoring changes were lost through forced passes and poor discipline which gave possession back to Ballyclare too easily.
From penalties Ballyclare worked their way up to the Ballymoney five metre line and from a set move they took a quick tap and their number six crashed over to give them a 0-13 lead at half time. The second half saw Ballymoney start to put more structure on the game.
A great break from his own half by James Cleland saw him draw the last defender and pass to James Campbell who scored in the corner however the referee judged the pass to be forward and the try was disallowed. Ballymoney started to really dominate the scrum and lineout and went close to score again but Danny Platt was held up over the line.
The try finally came on the 60th minute when a break by Alex Houston led to a pass to number eight John Richmond who showed great pace to race in from 30 metres out to score a good individual try to make the score 7-13 as the final quarter started.
The last 20 minutes saw Ballymoney continue to break the line.
David Campbell made a great break from a lineout but again the final pass went to ground. Another chance came when quick thinking by Nigel Nevin resulted in him taking a quick lineout to fullback TJ McCaw to score, however again it was disallowed as the referee judged that the ball was touched by the linesman before it was thrown in.
The winning try came on the 75th minute when after a quick line out good work by the forwards brought the play to the Ballyclare five metre line.
A quick ruck allowed scrum half Stuart Nevin to float a pass for prop Sam Barklet to crash over below the posts. The conversion was kicked to leave the final score at 14-13 in favour of Ballymoney.
Captain Cleland commented: “It was good to start the season off with a win but the purpose of the game was to give a lot of squad some match time and build our fitness for the start of the season.
“We made a lot of handling errors and maybe forced some passes but that is what happens in pre-season especially when people are competing for places.
“We had a really young back line today with myself and David Calvin the only backs who were over 21.
“Generally everyone played well and still have another two weeks of training before we play Academy at home in the first league game on 3rd September so I am confident we will be ready for that match, although after today selection is going to be difficult!”
1st XV Squad: A Ramage, A Houston, S Barklett, J Bellingham, P Irvine, D Watson, D Campbell, D Platt, J Hanna, J Richmond, A Surgenour, G Bellingham, L Montgomery, S Nevin, B Henderson, D Calvin, J Cleland (c), TJ McCaw, C Watson, N Nevin, J Campbell, C McCartney