Ballymoney 1st XV hosted Academy 1st XV in the first league game of the 2011-2012 season which resulted in a 36-15 bonus point win for Ballymoney.

In perfect conditions Ballymoney took the pitch with a new look and young side.

The bones of the pack were much the same as last year apart from the absent of Graham in second row who has moved to Ballymena and Houston at prop who is unavailable for a month.

This seen Clyde and Barklett start for the home side.

In the backs it was a new formation and personnel with Ben Henderson and TJ McCaw starting at 10 and 12 respectively and Captain Cleland moving to centre and McCartney moving to fullback.

Ballymoney received the kick off and some early season nerves resulted in a lack of communication and Clyde slide into touch after catching the ball.

However the big second row stole the resulting lineout and allowed Ballymoney to clear their lines. Ballymoney started the game at a good intensity and continued the work from the preseason friendly’s as they controlled the phases and built up good procession.

However some technical penalties at the scrum and a few early knock ons allowed Academy to ease the pressure.

Ballymoney kept attacking and much of the first 10 minutes was played in the Academy half.

Good work by the backs resulted in a break by centre and captain Cleland who passed to winger Watson who took play to 10 metres out with a strong run.

The pack recycled the ball and battered the Academy line.

Good patience from scrum half Nelson allowed the forward to keep the ball and from the base of the ruck a cleaver inside ball from Nelson say Hanna crash over for the opening score.

The conversion was missed but Ballymoney lead 5-0 with 15 minutes gone.

During the middle of the second half a penalty allowed Academy their first venture into the Ballymoney 22.

Ballymoney’s defence was firm with good tackles from the back row and second rows Platt and Clyde. The Academy backs tried to mount pressure on the young toon back line but were met by some big hits in the tackle by Henderson and McCaw.

This results in their outhalf sitting back and kicking over a well struck drop goal to leave the scores at 5-3 with 20 minutes gone.

From the kick off Ballymoney attacked again and were moving the ball well and this pressure resulted in a penalty outside the 22.

Unfortunately Cleland pushed it just wide.

However Ballymoney keep the pressure on the visitors and were awarded another penalty shortly after which Cleland slotted over to make the scores 8-0.

The back three for Ballymoney controlled the kicking the game and returned the Academy clearance attempts cleverly running and kicking at the right times.

McCartney kicked the ball deep into the corner and the return kick from Academy when in field where Hanna plucked it out of the air and from the call of his backs he quickly turned and pass to second row Platt who drew his man and feed Henderson.

His angle created an over lap and the ball was moved to the wing where Waston made a good break and passed back inside to McCaw.

The young centre cut a good line and beak the oncoming Academy defenders to score a good try.

The conversion when wide which left the score at 13-3.

Ballymoney creped into some old habits and took there foot of the gas slightly for the next few minutes and although Academy could not break the toon defence silly mistakes resulted in much of the rugby being played inside the Ballymoney half.

Academy were awarded a penalty for an infringement at the ruck which say their kicking slot over from just inside the 10 metre line to keep them in the game at 13-6.

From the restart Academy kicked the ball into touch and from the resulting lineout Ballymoney drove the ball 20 metres inside the visitors 22.

The ball was released along the back line but Academy drift defence pushed winger Nevin into touch.

A superb restart kick from Henderson allowed Platt and Clyde to spoil the Academy ball.

Ballymoney kept the ball and moved into the Academy 22. There were awarded a penalty and Cleland slotted it over to make the score 16-6 with 5 minutes of the second half gone.

With penalties starting to creep in from both sides the referee spoke to both Captains.

And it was from a penalty just inside the Ballymoney half that the Academy kicker added to their score to make it 16-9.

However it was Ballymoney who showed the invention in attack and from quick ball at the lineout the Ballymoney back line again made space and this time winger Nevin and centre McCaw teamed up to break the line.

McCaw was stopped just inches before the line the supporting forward quickly rucked out but Academy killed the ball at the next ruck and from an easy penalty Cleland kicked over to make the score 19-9.

Again Ballymoney were guilty of taking their foot of the gas for a period of time and put pressure on themselves which saw the visitors slot over another kick to keep them in touch at 19-12. Ballymoney were going to let the game slip away and responded well.

From a counter attack inside their half they moved ball to the left and from the quick ruck scrum half Nelson pass out to the opposite wing where good hands by forwards and backs together resulted in winger Watson receiving the ball in space and the strong running winger used his slight of feet to beat 3 would be defenders and score a great try under the posts.

The conversion was added to make the score 26-12 with 20 minutes to go.

However a lapse of concentration and resulted in a needless penalty being given away.

With Ballymoney controlling the lineout Academy selected to go for posts and their kicked slotted over the kick to make the 26-15 and gave them a chance if not of the win but of a losing bonus point.

It wasn’t to be however as Ballyomey mounted pressure again and were awarded another penalty which Cleland slotted over to make it now 29-15 with 10 minutes left.

Then again from a counter attack when Clyde chipped through and gathered his own kick, he off loaded out of the tackle to Hanna who passed to fellow back row Campbell.

Campbell quickly released the young back line which moved the ball to the right wing. From a quick ruck the ball was moved back left when Surgenour made a break up the middle of the pitch and good hands from the big man gave the ball to McCartney who sprinted over the try line to score the bonus point try and the change the scoreboard to read 36-15 in Ballymoney’s favour.

The last 5 minutes saw Ballymoney play out the clock in their own half and from turnover winger Nevin cleared the ball into touch for the final whistle to sound at the delight of both Ballymoney players and supporters.

Team: P Irvine, D Watson, S Barklet, D Platt, R Clyde, J Hanna, D Campbell, J Richmond, S Nevin, B Henderson, C Watson, T McCaw, J Cleland, N Nevin, C McCartney, A Ramage, A Surgenour.