In an excellent contest last Wednesday, Dalriada’s Medallion went down to a very strong Ballymena Academy side 34-10. The boys from Ballymoney fought hard and defended stoutly throughout the game against a team tipped early season to lift the Medallion Shield.
Right from the kick off the Ballymena side play would revolve around an excellent No. 8, scrum half and centre. Dalriada certainly came out with a strong determination to be solid in defence particularly early on. Again the midfield pairing of Finnerty and Henderson proved to be quick and physical in getting up and preventing their opposite centres from creating and getting the ball wide.
Dalriada were penalised at a ruck in midfield and it allowed Ballymena to get on the scoreboard with a penalty. They followed this on the twenty minute mark with a rather sloppy try after some confusion at the breakdown at which their No. 8 was for the first time allowed space to run. The conversion was successful making it 10-0.
Immediately Dalriada opened their account after again pressing up quickly in midfield Robert Hunter got between their centres and winger and poached the ball. He easily outpaced the cover to score from 50 metres and with the conversion added by out half Rory Strang the scoreline of 10-7 remained till the half time whistle.
Turning round Dalriada came back at Ballymena with Scott Malcolmson, Matthew Christir and Alan Montgomery to the fore from the back row carrying effectively and tackling fiercely. Lineouts were a good source of possession but problems began to appear in the scrum after the loss of tight head prop Joshua Kane.
He had picked up a injury earlier in the week but he battled through the first half before coming off at half time. With the scrum under pressure possession became more difficult to find. However Michael Finnerty and Dan Henderson were able to find holes in the Ballymena defence and create some opportunities. It was Ballymena who scored next after their pacey winger found some space out wide.
The score now moved to 17-7 and with the danger of the game slipping away the Dalriada team responded by keeping the ball through a number of phases and forcing the Academy side into offending at the breakdown.
Aaron Sparkes slotted the kick to bring the score to 17-10 keeping the Ballymoney team in the game. They tried to open the game up move as they entered the last quarter and with the scrum under real pressure their efforts were only to give more and more possession to their opponents who now started to exploit the available space around the set piece and in midfield.
Another penalty was added to make it 20-10 and as Dalriada made changes to their tiring players the Academy added two more converted tries late on to make the score 34-10.
It was a brave performance by the Dalriada side. They had certainly over the season grown into an effective side and definitely ‘punched well above their weight’ beating some very good teams with real epic performances. Credit must also go the Coaching team of Scott Nelson, Norman Malcolmson and Graham Sparkes. They have worked throughout the season to mould the players into a competitive and determine side.
All the players can look forward to next year and establishing their places in the senior rugby teams.