Ballymoney got back to winning ways on Saturday with an impressive six try win over fellow top four contenders Portadown. This win leaves them firmly in third position with only one game left to play, and a win next week would surely secure the Toon men a place in the All Ireland Junior Cup for next season.
The game kicked off in changeable conditions and Ballymoney set about moving the ball at every opportunity. However a number of loose offloads handed possession back to Portadown who used the slight wind advantage to kick downfield. Portadown to their credit were playing some positive rugby trying to move the ball with every attack, but it was on one such occasion that full back Cormac McCartney read the play well and step into the line to intercept. He then showed great pace to outstrip the cover defence and score in the corner, the conversion was missed.
Ballymoney were starting to get into the game now and were mixing play well between backs and forwards, after a number of big carries from second row partners Platt and Clyde the ball was fed to centre Cleland coming into the line, only to be stopped by a high tackle from the Portadown Number 8. Cleland showed some quick thinking and tapped the penalty and ran. He beat a number of players and was brought down 5 metres form the line, quick ruck ball allowed Nelson to pick up and attack, feeding Ewan Strang who went over in the corner. The conversion from out wide was made by James Campbell who had taken over kicking duties from McCartney.
Ballymoney then received a set back as talented out half Ben Henderson had to leave the field injured. Some reshuffling saw Cleland move to out half and Andrew Surgenor came onto the wing. With 10 mins to go in the half ill-discipline started to creep in to Ballymoney’s play and after a number of penalties given for off side, Portadown kicked to within 5 meteres of the Ballymoney line. The intial drive from the line out was repelled but after a number of pick and drives close the ruck Portadown’s prop crashed over for the first points of the game. The half time whisle sounded shortly after leaving the score 12 – 5.
The second half began with Portadown on the attack, but resolute defence from Ballymoney saw them repel all attacks and some good tactical kicking forced Portadown to run from deep in their own half. The Forwards’ defence around the fringes was excellent and after a thunderous tackle by Irvine the ball came loose at the back of a ruck. Converted winger Surgenor swooped on the ball like a young Brian O’Driscoll bounced his opposite number and outpaced the cover defence to touch down in the corner. Campbell was successful with the conversion.
Ballymoney were beginning to dominate in the scrums and good work from Ramage and Houston saw Ballymoney turnover the ball at the scrum and attack through Watson in the centre. The back row were carrying well and James Bellingham found himself bursting through the line and bringing play into the 22. Quick ruck ball again saw John Richmond coming into the line brushing aside two or three defenders and scoring beside the posts, securing the bonus point for the Toon. The conversion was successful and Ballymoney now had a commanding lead of 24 points to 5.
Ballymoney were not done yet and scored two more tries in a fast paced final 10 minutes. The first came from a solid scrum that allowed the backs to set up a strike move that saw Watson hit the line at pace, hand off his opposite number and score underneath the posts. The second came after Surgenor, who was now feeling at home on the wing, stepped in to make an interception. With players in support Surgenor turned down the risky pass to set a ruck on the edge of the 22. Some more dynamic ball carrying took play up to the line where Bartlett smashed over the line only to have the ball and the glory stolen by Clyde who touched down for the final points of the game. Final score 36 – 5.
This was Ballymoney’s final home game of the season and players and management would like to thank all supporters who have turned up every Saturday rain or shine. The final game of the season will see the men from the Toon travel to league favourites Clogher Valley. This will be a tough encounter, however if Ballymoney play to their strengths they will be confident about returning with all 4 points.
Men of the Match Ryan Clyde and Danny Platt