Ballymoney RFC 1st XV suffered defeat for the first time this season with a 32 – 17 loss at home to a physical Clogher Valley team.
Again there were changes in the Ballymoney forwards with James Bellingham and Peter Irvine being ruled out from injury the previous week. This saw Mathew Blair making his first appearance in the squad and David Campbell starting at openside wing forward.
Ballymoney received the kickoff and played towards the club house with a small advantage to a slight wind. Early exchanges were close with Clogher setting out their game plan early on of using there large experience forward pack to make the hard yards. The opening 10 minutes saw both teams exchange penalties and the score balanced at 3-3 each. The first score of the game went to Clogher Valley. From a lineout 5 metres out then drove toward the line. Good defence saw the maul stopped a few metres out. After some close pick and drives by their forwards, Ballymoney ran out of defenders and their prop Bennitt crashed over for a converted try to leave the score at 3-10 to Clogher Valley.
The young Ballymoney team respond well and kept Clogher Valley in their own half. The referee awarded another penalty at the ruck just inside the Clogher Valley half and Captain James Cleland stepped up to slot it over and close the gap to 6-10. A few minutes later Ballymoney were back in the Clogher half again but could not put many phases together due to Clogher slowing the ball at the ruck. They did for their efforts get awarded another penalty which Cleland kicked to close the score to one point at 9-10.
Valley worked hard to clear their lines and a kick deep into the Ballymoney 22 was returned by the Ballymoney fullback but the Kick went out on the full and Valley were awarded a scrum back deep into the Ballymoney 22. From this field position they kept the ball close and showed good organisation to pick and drive at the Ballymoney forwards. Any penalties the visitors were awarded they opted to set up field position with the scrum. Again from the maul 5 metres out they moved the ball to their prop who rode the tackle and popped to the Valley hooker who dived in at the corner to take the score to 9-15 with only 10minutes of the half left.
Ballymoney again were awarded a penalty shortly after the restart in the Valley half and this time the referee lost his patience and set the Clogher Valley second row to the sin bin. Unfortunately the penalty was unsuccessful and the half finished 9-15 in the visitors favour.
Ballymoney started the second half strongly but their one man advantage didn’t last long and centre TJ McCaw was very unlucky to be sin binned for a dangerous tackle. The toon did get up field position in the Valley half and from a scrum they took advantage of an over lap and scrum half Nelson powered through a gap just to the right hand side of the post to take the score to 17-15 and saw Ballymoney take the lead for the first time.
They know showed some good believe but another error of judgement meant from the restart a missed catch at the kick off gave Clogher Valley another easy field position and there forwards started to put pressure again on the Ballymoney line. A penalty awarded close to the line Valley opted for the scrum. However the Ballymoney forward defended well and after some sustained pressure were able to force the knock on and get a scrum to clear their line.
Poor communication and pressure from the Valley back row put the clearance kick under pressure and gave the ball back to Valley.
From the line out another scrum was awarded.
This time Ballymoney got the wheel in place but the referee without warning blew for a penalty try and the puzzlement of the home support and coaching team.
However with even with a successful conversion the score was still close at 17-22. The next passage of play basically ended the game. After the kick off Ballymoney stole the ball and moved to the wing, however Clogher Valley won the ball at a ruck and moved the ball to the midfield where a long pass found a gaps in the rushing Ballymoney defence and let their winger in for a try in the corner to take the score to 17-29 with only 10 minutes on the clock.
Ballymoney increased the tempo of the game and moved the ball from side to side but poor handling and losing the ball in the tackle game it back to Clogher too easily. From a penalty Clogher kicked successfully to posts and closed the game out winning 32 – 17
Next week Ballymoney will hope to have a few of their injured players return and look to get back to winning ways when they play Omagh at Kilraughts road in the first round of the Junior Cup.Team: J Bellingham, D Watson, S Bartlett, D Platt, R Clyde, J Hanna, D Campbell, J Richmond, S Nelson, B Henderson, J Campbell, TJ McCaw, J Cleland (c), C Watson, C McCartney, M Blair, J Taggart.