A development game played in four quarter, fifteen minute sessions at Ballymoney Rugby Club on Sunday afternoon saw the Ballymoney 1st XV Ladies Rugby Team narrowly defeated in a match separated by less than a converted try.
On a high from last week’s 10 – 22 win away to Newry, which saw the Ballymoney Ladies take home the Ulster Development Shield, expectations of a victory against their opponents, Malone, filled the air. However, it was soon realised that the visitors were going to be no pushover, as good hands, quick ball and their fast running backs spirited them to dotting down two tries within the opening seven minutes of the first quarter.
Entering the first break twelve points down a resurgent Ballymoney took to the field in the second quarter of the match. With the home team dominant in the forwards battle, it wasn’t long before number seven, Laura Johnson, squeezed over for Ballymoney’s first try. Much to the delight of the home fans the conversion, by Carla Dickie, was also good.
Ballymoney began to realise that keeping the ball tight and from the opponent’s backs was the way to play the game. With this in mind, they were successful; denying Malone any further scoring opportunities and going into the second session break trailing the visitors 7 – 12.
Keeping to their new game plan, more forward battles ensued in the third session and the power of the front eight soon began to wear down the opposition’s defence. In a well worked try for the home team, Carla Dickie popped the ball up from the ground to Maggie McCaughan who passed it to a charging Ciara Mulholland. Ciara then put her head down and minced through three of the opposition and finally offloaded to Caitlin Barry. Caitlin then tore through the remaining Malone defence to score her first try of the match in the fifth minute of the quarter. Carla Dickie added a further two points from a successful conversion.
With the home ladies in the ascendancy, another try soon followed, this time by the hands of Ballymoney’s tight head, Ciara Mulholland. With their new found dominance in the third session, things were looking good for the local ladies. However, lapses in concentration and game execution saw Malone taking their opportunities to counter strike. With two near identical well run in tries down the wing at pace, with very little opposition from the Ballymoney defence, Malone entered the third session break three points in the lead at 21 – 24.
Ballymoney had shown what they could do in the third quarter by keeping the ball tight and using this blueprint much more of the same would be needed in the final session to eradicate Malone’s small lead.
With this in mind, indeed, Ballymoney came out and started with this game plan with Caitlin Barry scoring her second try of the match. With another successful conversion by Carla Dickie, the home lasses looked set for a 4 point win.
Late into the final session however, mistakes by the home team would lead to their demise. The first was a penalty conceded right in front of the posts. Malone opted to kick and the successful conversion brought the score to within a point at 28 – 27.
With the restart not travelling ten meters Malone gained possession of the ball. Working it wide and running it in from the wing saw no answer from the Ballymoney defence. Inevitably a try was scored. With a successful conversion the away team’s lead was stretched to 28 – 34.
Ballymoney still battled hard to the end, but time ran out for them deep in the oppositions twenty-two. A kick to touch by Malone ended the match and the search for their first home win for the Ballymoney Ladies continues.
Ballymoney Team: Ciara Mulholland, Andrea Barkley, Charlene McClafferty, Jen Murphy, Caitlin Barry, Laura Johnson, Gill Powell (cpt), Samantha Hickinson, Claire Graham, Carla Dickie, Maggie McCaughan, Heather Mitchell, Jenna Trainor, Nicola Clyde.