Seconds edge hard fought encounter

On Saturday Ballymoney seconds hosted Ballynahinch third XV at Kilraughts Road in what would prove to be a very close run match in difficult conditions.

The visitors kicked off, playing into the wind in the first half and were immediately put under pressure by some hard running by the Ballymoney pack led by captain for the day, Matthew Blair at prop.

With the wind behind them, Ballymoney played most of the first half in opposition territory and before long the pressure told with Ballynahinch conceding a penalty in front of the posts. This was duly converted by Garvin Bellingham, the back rower taking over kicking duties from the absent James Campbell.

From the restart a knock on gave the visitors a scrum and the opportunity to test the Ballymoney defence with some strong running from a quick back line and heavy pack.

Ballymoney were up for the challenge with some fierce tackling around the fringes from the front five and in open play from the Bellingham boys in the back row.

After regaining possession Ballymoney moved into the opposition half through some great running with forwards and back linking well, always looking to offload in the tackle, resulting in attractive rugby for those watching.

The first try of the match came from captain Matthew Blair when a break by the centre partnership of Smith and Clarke saw them deep inside the Ballynahich ‘22’. The ball was quickly recycled and spread to the left by scrumhalf Nevin, finding Blair who crashed over for his second try in two games. Bellingham added the extra two points.

From the restart Ballymoney again moved the ball wide and headed back into the opposition half, and from a ruck in the middle of the pitch the ball was passed back from Nevin to Skelton at outhalf who slotted over a drop goal to leave the score at 13-0.

Ballynahinch responded well forcing a penalty from an infringement at the ruck. This was slotted over to give the visitors their first points of the day.

Aware that the wind would be against them in the second half, Ballymoney sought to extend their lead and after some slick handling through the back line, scrumhalf Nevin kicked a perfectly weighted ball through the ‘hinch defensive line, which was collected by centre Clarke who dived over for a try in the corner.

The conversion was missed in the windy conditions but it wasn’t long before the home team added more points through another try. This was a carbon copy of the previous one, this time Clarke supplied the kick through and the flying Sandy McAuley was on hand to collect and circle the defence to score below the posts.

This time Bellingham made no mistake with the conversion leaving the half time score at 25 points to 3.

The second half was a total role reversal with the majority of the pressure applied by Ballynahinch who now had the wind at their backs.

They used this advantage well, pinning Ballymoney back into their own half at every opportunity.

Ballymoney showed great strength at the tackle situation, forcing the visitors to work hard to retain possession. Their break came 15 minutes in to the second half when a strong drive from a line-out saw the visitors crash over for their first try of the day.

Ballynahinch continued to apply pressure and use the wind to their advantage, scoring two more tries, despite some fierce tackling from both Ballymoney forwards and backs. In particular, the Ballymoney back line, supported by a talented back row, dealt well with sustained pressure from a heavy Ballynahinch pack.

The last few minutes of the game were tense, with Ballymoney desperately clinging to the slimmest of leads. Ballynahinch missed a penalty with three minutes to go which proved to be their last scoring opportunity of the game. The boys from the Toon had managed to secure a hard fought victory against one of the top teams in the league, winning by 25 points to 24.

This Saturday they will travel to Ballyclare seeking to consolidate their position at the top of the league.