Ballymoney Ladies XV started their league fixtures with a 7-20 away win over Coleraine Cobras Ladies Rugby Club. As always when Coleraine and Ballymoney meet, this local derby was a tense and hotly contested match.
Ballymoney started in possession, mostly playing within Coleraine’s 22 but not capitalizing on their territorial advantage through the strength of their forwards.
Coleraine tackled well in defence, holding Ballymoney to the 5m line, until handling errors by Ballymoney gave Coleraine some breathing space. Ballymoney reorganized their forwards, and displayed their pack advantage, winning the majority of the scrums and competing well at the lineout. Coleraine, missing some experienced players, were suited to a more open style of play and struggled to deal with determined drives by Lauren Marshall, Vicky Wade, Jenni Lindsay, Lisa Parke and Eileen Irvine. These, combined with quick hands and offloads led to two tries in the first half, from Lauren Marshall and Eileen Irvine – the latter coming from an excellent individual break through the home sides defence.
In the second half, the home side were initially on the back foot, but tackled well, forcing handling errors by the visitors. Possession swapped to and fro, Ballymoney tackling well with big hits coming in from Sheena Jamieson, Lisa Parke and Jen Murphy - Murphy displaying her versatility, swapping from forward to back positions as subs alleviated the pressure on Ballymoney – Julie Newton returning to the side after a season out. Murphy’s versatility soon led to her scoring the third try for the Toon.
With this the first competitive game of the season, players’ started to tire, and errors began to creep into the game. Tensions and ill-discipline flared, causing one player from each team to be yellow carded. With a key presence in the Ballymoney forwards missing, the Coleraine back line capitalised and linked together plays effectively which brought them back into Ballymoney’s half. Missed tackles and lack of covering defence allowed Rachel Wallace from the Cobras to get over the try line, followed by a successful conversion to leave the score 7 - 15. Refocused, Ballymoney pushed Coleraine to their 5m line and with two minutes to go they charged down a kick from Coleraine, which was picked up by Andrea Marshall who crossed for the final try for Ballymoney.