It certainly wasnt one of the most memorable Tweed Cup encounters, however, both teams battled hard with Coleraine coming out on top with a 17-12 win at Kilaraught’s Road.
The visitors started well against a very young and inexperienced Ballymoney team with scrum half Bokkie Carstens quick to move the ball to his back line or exploit any gaps to attack the Ballymoney lines. The deadlock was broke when a Ballymoney lineout was penalised for not being straight. from the subsequent scrum Coleraine moved the ball from Carstens to Poskitt and Irwin and despite good tackles from Ballymoney’s Blair and Kyle they found themselves penalised.
Coleraine opted to run it with McCorkell going over in the corner and Poskitt converting to make it 7-0 with 17 minutes of the game played.
The home side bounced back immediately when Strang broke through a gap in Coleraine’s defence to touch down under the posts before converting to level matters.
With just over 30 minutes of the game played and Ballymoney growing in confidence, they attacked the Coleraine line and their pressure told when they were awarded a penalty when their opposition failed to release. A further ten metres was added for dissent and Strang kicked to touch.
This time the Ballymoney lineout functioned well and Matty Blair crashed over for an unconverted try and a 12-7 lead.
Coleraine came back with the some good powerful forward running putting the defence under pressure. An attempted clearance kick was easily gathered by Carstens who set off on a mazy run, slipping free of three tackles before offloading to Poskins. A gap in the Ballymoney defensive line allowed McAllister to barge through and touch down with Poskins converting on the half time whistle.
The second half was constantly disrupted by injuries with the odd fracas thrown in for good measure and it became a scrappy affair.
Ballymoney had an opportunity to get their nose in front as they came close to the Coleraine line, however, a wayward final pass saw that opportunity go abegging. It was Coleraine who sealed the deal and ensured the cup returned to Sandel Lodge when they were awarded a penalty with a couple of minutes remaining, Poskins converting with ease for a 17-12 win.
Despite losing to neighbours and rivals Coleraine, Ballymoney’s Captain Chris Beverland was upbeat about his squad’s performance in this annual cup clash.
“I thought it was a good competitive game. All the guys played well especially the young lads who came in. Unfortunately we lost and at times in the game we turned down the opportunity to go for the posts and the points to play the expansive game. In the end Coleraine took the points with a penalty towards to seal it.
“We were very impressed with our players and it tees us up well for next year. Coleraine had quite a bit of experience in their side and our team’s average age was 21 years old, so we are over the moon with the way they played today.
“You could see the guys grow in confidence and that’s because we put the side together on Thursday and Saturday and they were starting to gel together. Our set piece struggled at the start, particularly the scrum. Their scrum was very dominant but then we got a handle on it. Our line out got better as the game went on so we were pleased to see the set pieces improve.
“We switched off a bit for a couple of their scores. Our line wasn’t right, we weren’t pressing up and we were leaving gaps which allowed them in. Our line speed and defensive line were a bit disappointing and as we got into the later stages of the match the set pieces started to deteriorate when we made a number of changes.
“We are very pleased with our guys, they represented themselves well and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
One concern was for forward Russell Blair who received treatment on the side of the pitch before being taken to hospital.
“The paramedics were working on him throughout most of the second half. He got a bad stamp on the sternum which was a bit nasty. He’s a big strong lad and although he didn’t look too good for a while, he was looking much better as they were taking him off on the stretcher.”
With the season at an end, Ballymoney are already looking ahead. “We are hoping to recruit a lot of players and we are trying to put plans in place to start early and get back training so that everyone is ready to hit the ground running when the season gets underway.
“It seems like a long way off but it won’t be long wearing round and after a short break I’ve no doubt the lads will be raring to get back at it again.”
Unlike Chris Beverland the victorious coach John Boyd seemed rather subdued follwoing his side’s win.
“It was a typical end of season game, normally it’s hard to get players motivated at this stage but when it comes to Ballymoney it’s always that little bit easier.
“It was a game where two teams were fully committed and neither team wanted to lose and on the day we had the break of the ball. Ballymoney played some good rugby at times and defended fairly resolutely in the end we probably deserved to win given that in the second half we had all the good possession, our scrum was fairly solid and the first up tackling eventually came through.
“We came to play attacking rugby and that’s what we have done all season. Whenever we have had to defend the ball we did look a little shakey but when we are going forward we are a quick and mobile team and we have powerful runners going forward and that’s how we want to play our rugby. We did that for the first 20 minutes and they allowed us to, then we took our foot off the gas and that’s when they started to come back into the game. Whenever you give any team at home, especially Ballymoney, that little bit of incentive, they will exploit it.”
Chatting after the match it was obvious coach Boyd was unsure about his future at Coleraine saying: “Personally I dont know what’s happening. Who knows at Coleraine, coaches come and go, I don’t know what their plan is. I hear they have been looking for another coach. I’m happy with what I’ve done this year and I think David Andrews, Norman Blair and myself have done as good a job as we could do with the personnel we had. Certainly for next season if the club is to progress there needs to be new players brought in to add to the ones we have.”
The comments made by John Boyd, who is well respected both as a player and more recently a coach, proved to be prophetic as he was released from the position on his return to Sandel Lodge leaving Coleraine First XV awaiting news of who will take over at the helm for the new season.