COOKE RFC 12 BALLYMONEY RFC 32
BALLYMONEY RFC travelled to Cooke RFC for the last league game of the season and ended up comfortable 32-12 winners over the Belfast side.
Ballymoney had changes again through injury with Rhys McAuley withdrawing on Friday, which resulted in Sandy McAuley starting on the wing, Thomas Skelton at outhalf and Cormac McCartney returning to fullback.
The Toon men looked to put the poor performance against Dromore the previous week behind them and end the league campaign with a win.
They however got off to the worse possible start as Cooke kicked through a loose ball and scored in the corner with only a few minutes gone.
The kick went wide but Cooke had a 5-0 lead. Ballymoney went straight down the pitch and were awarded a penalty for Cooke not rolling away at the tackle. Cleland slotted it over to bring the score to 5-3.
It was all Ballymoney for the rest of the half. They were controlling the physical battle and set piece. With the pitch in poor condition it was never going to be a day for running rugby.
The backs defended well and many of the tackles caused the knock-ons and turnovers from the larger Cooke team.
The next score came from the lineout as an effective catch and drive resulted in the hardworking Peter Irvine crashing over close to the line. The kick from out wide narrowly missed but the score was now 5-8.
Cleland failed with another long range effort. Then it was Ballymoney who pressed again when a break by Irvine found Micheal Allen on a charging run towards the line.
He was stopped just short and when the forward picked and drove towards the line a certain try was prevented when a Toon forward failed to control when grounding the ball.
The next try came moments later when a kick through the defence by Captain Cleland saw the winger Strang outpace the Cooke cover to score in the corner. Again the difficult kick went wide but the score was now 5-13.
Ballymoney ended with another try when once again Strang showed great pace to break through but was stopped just inches short. The forwards kept the ball openside Allen scored below the posts. The conversion was successful to leave the half time score at 5-20.
The second half started with some unforced errors from Ballymoney which mean Cooke had a lot of pressure on the Toon line. Numerous attempts to clear their lines from Ballymoney were unsuccessful due to kicks missing touch or penalties given away.
This resulted in the large Cooke pack crashing over for a converted try near the posts. With the score now 12-20 it looked as if Cooke would come back into the game. However, Ballymoney rallied together and increased the intensity.
They moved play to the half way and the pressure in the line out resulted in a turnover. The forwards took the ball to Cooke and then the ball went through the backs where another kick through was grounded by McCartney in the corner.
With the score now 12-25 and with the bonus point in the bag Ballymoney now scored their 5th try of the game and a second for Strang. From a lineout the pack drove the ball and then set up a number of phases.
The ball was switch back where centre Watson made a storming run and drew the last defender to pass to Strang. Strang with support backed his pace and out sprinted the cover to score below the posts. The 7 points took the score to 12-32.
With only 3 minutes to go Cooke got procession at the half way. Their centre Cartmill made a half break and was tackled by Ballymoney. Straight away he seemed in distress with a serious leg injury, which would need medical attention.
With only 3 minutes remaining both sides agreed to end the game.
All of Ballymoney wish the Cooke Captain Phil Cartmill as speedy and successful recovery.
Indigo Jewellery Man of Match: Ewan Strang and Michael Allen
Ballymoney: Irvine, D Watson, Bartlett, Platt, Graham, Clyde, Allen, Bothwick, Nelson, Skelton, McAuley, Cleland (C), Watson, Strang, McCartney, Blair, Hanna
Coach’s comments: “It was good after the poor performance last week to see the guys go out today and get the bonus point. It has been a difficult season with injuries but the guys who have come in have done well.
“Michael Allen and Andy Bothwick in the pack have been great this year. Sandy and Rhys McAuley have came into the back line in recent weeks and done well. There has also been a great development in existing players from last year with Chris Watson and Ewan Strang having good seasons. We have a week off now, then two conference league games to play. We are away to Ballymena and finally home to Armagh 2s.
The Ballymoney Rugby Club Annual Dinner has been changed from the 6th April due to the Ulster European Quarter Final game. It will now take place at the Clubhouse on Saturday 13th April.