Coleraine victorious in stagnant New Year’s cup derby match-up

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On a cold but dry day a bumper crowd turned out to Rugby Road to see Ballymoney take on Coleraine in the Towns’ Cup.

Coleraine had more wins coming into the game, but the Toon had a win away to Donaghadee and a narrow loss to Clogher in their last two outings, and were looking for a chance to spread their wings.

But Coleraine were not in the mood to let that happen, and Ballymoney did themselves no favours with a series of dropped balls and mistakes in the first ten minutes. Indeed Coleraine had an advantage in the scrum and all of the territory and possession for most of the first half - and had any of their chosen kickers been on target, there could have been an early lead with two penalties going astray in the first quarter for the home side.

Both sides had some attempts to play rugby, notably Ballymoney’s Chris Watson having a go up the middle on the counter-attack, but then getting turned over. From the resulting play Coleraine broke up their left, only for Davy Rea to make the cover tackle in the corner. And from there the try line threatened for Coleraine, but Ballymoney cleared - only for the Coleraine backs to miss surely a golden opportunity to open the scoring in returning the kick.

After half an hour, Coleraine finally got on the scoreboard, with a penalty after a high tackle in midfield. From there, Ballymoney finally found some possession in the attacking 22, after a good kick to the corner. Sam Bartlett, on for Sam Kyle, was held up on the line after a set piece play at the lineout. But several drives later, a penalty allowed Coleraine to clear. That left it 3-0 at half time.

With Kyle on for John Bellingham, the second half started in much the same vein - plenty of possession for Coleraine and Ballymoney not doing much with the ball when they got hold of it. With much of the game played around the halfway line, the scorers were not in for the busiest of afternoons.

But the next score did come eventually - a break for Coleraine up the right, stopped in the corner by a cover tackle from Laughlin. But from a scrum shortly after, the Coleraine pack got the wheel, for No. 8 Dickey to pick and drive to the line for the only try of the game. 8-0, and a mountain for the visitors to climb in this low scoring game.

Shortly afterwards, with MacDonald off for Holmes, Ballmoney had a half chance. Brace broke up the left but found little support, and the kick through was cleared. On the other wing Davy Rea put a great chase on a kick through, making two tackles and allowing the turnover from the hunting pack. A couple of phases later the home defence conceded a penalty in front of the sticks, and Jamesy Campbell converted for 8-3.

In the closing phases, with MacDonald back on for Michael Allan, and the Coleraine backline populated by forwards as first Andrews and then Irwin went off with injuries, Coleraine sealed the victory with a 40m penalty. As much as Ballymoney threw into the last minutes, it was not enough to break down the sturdy home defence.

Coleraine progress to the next round of the Towns’ Cup. Ballymoney have league action again this week, and will look to put this stagnant display behind them, and pick up some points if they are to compete in Q1 next year.

Ballymoney: Sam Kyle, Dave Watson, John Bellingham, Adrian Graham, Danny Platt , Callum Macdonald, Michael Allan, Neal Mulholland, Matthew Steele, Jamesy Campbell, Ryan Brace, John Laughlin, Chris Watson, David Rea, Nathaniel Steele, Sam Bartlett, David Holmes