Blue day for the Toon

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It was a blue day for Ballymoney as they suffered defeat away to Portadown on Saturday. Ballymoney never really got into the game and ended up on the wrong side of a 35-10 score line.

A changed Ballymoney team took the pitch with some changes to the backline. Ben Henderson was unavailable at 10 and Scott Nelson did not recover from a bug he had the night before the game so Nigel Nevin came into centre and Stuart Nevin was brought up to scrum half.

Ballymoney kicked off in near perfect conditions and straightaway put pressure on the Portadown team. Early forwards battles were all won by the lighter and more mobile toon forwards; this was especially the case in the scrum where they took three against the head in the first 10 minutes.

It was on 10 minutes that Ballymoney broke the dead lock with some good hands in the backs finding Strang on the wing.

The young winger beat his opposite man and broke from the halfway line. He stepped the final defender to score below the posts. McCartney added the conversion to give Ballymoney a 0-7 lead.

Portadown used their experience to kick down into the Ballymoney half and won a soft penalty for an offence at a ruck.

It was slotted over to bring them back to 3 – 7. Ballymoney however again went on the attack but some relaxed and sluggish play meant that mistakes gave the ball back to Portadown too easily and allowed them to clear their lines.

Ballymoney were awarded a penalty however from an attack as McCartney slotted over from 30metres to give the toon a 3 – 10 lead.

From here on, mistakes and penalties gave Portadown too much time on the ball. Some sustained pressure on the edge of the 22 resulted in Portadown passing the ball out to their centre, and he broke a tackle to score next to the posts and level the game at 10-10.

Then only a few minutes later a charge down in the 22 from a Cleland clearance allowed Portadown to score again and extend their lead to 17-10.

Although their no8 had left the pitch their forwards were now playing with confidence and renewed energy. Portadown 9 and 10 were controlling the game and playing the rugby in the Ballymoney half. A drop goal brought the score to 20-10 at half time.

The game was effectively won by the Port’s in the start of the second half and they controlled the game and slowed the pace, keeping the ball well. By keeping procession they received another penalty to extend their lead 23-10. This penalty 10 minutes in resulted in Ballymoney having a player sin binned. Now down to 14 men Portadown were able to even out the scrum and nil the advantage Ballymoney had in the set piece.

From missed tackles again in midfield Portadown showed good hands to move the ball and score their bonus point try. With 10 minutes to go Ballymoney were again reduced in numbers as their prop had to leave the field with a injury to his neck. With the toon hooker already off the pitch earlier in the game with an injury, all front row replacements were used and the game went to uncontested scrums.

Ballymoney put together their best passage of the game but mistakes let Portadown through their outhalf clear the danger. From a penalty 5 metres out Portadown decided to call for the uncontested scrum and from a back row move their No 8 scored in the corner. The conversion was missed and the game finished 35-10 to Portadown.

Team: Ramage, Irvine, Houston, Clyde, Platt, Surgenor, D Campbell, Richmond, S Nevin, Cleland, J Campbell, C Watson, N Nevin, E Strang, C McCartney, D Watson, J Hanna

Jason Taggart commented; “The guys all tried hard today and never gave up but we just made too many mistakes and gave procession away too easily.

“We had all the play early on and should of really stamped our name on the game but let Portadown back into the match.

“They have a lot of experience and quality in their team and once you let them get their heads up it was always going to be a tough game. We will bounce back and have the perfect opportunity to make up for it when we play Portadown again this week at home in the Quarter Final of the Junior Cup! We had injuries today to Irvine, Ramage and David Campbell so I need to see how they are on Tuesday night.

“Also Bartlett, Hanna and Richmond are all carrying knocks but hopefully we can get them all back to be consider for selection for Saturday.”