Ballymoney RFC U18 hosted their counterparts from City of Derry in a very important league fixture and the lads from the Town did not disappoint.
Playing with the strong wind in their backs during the first half, the Town began strongly, forcing Derry back on the defensive, but they were unlucky not to score within the first few minutes when centre Jack Kane broke through the Derry defence only to be tackled short of the line.
From the resulting scrum Gary Balmer heeled one against the head and the ball was passed through several pairs of hands to the onrushing Ben Graham, who appeared to have scored only for the referee disallow it, saying the ball was held up.
From the resulting scrum the Town backs pressurised Derry into fumbling the ball and their persistence paid off when Ben Graham received a good pass and faultlessly scored an unconverted try beside the posts.
Derry immediately retaliated, catching the Ballymoney backline unawares by a swift change of direction, handing their big Ulster number eight an easy try in the corner which was superbly converted into the strong wind.
A few minutes later, an injury to centre Jack Kane resulted in a team re-shuffle, with wing forward Chris Campbell moving to centre and Lewis Wilkinson moving into flanker. Ballymoney, however, did not allow this to upset their game plan and they continued to press Derry back into their twenty two.
Strong runs by the halfbacks and centres and voracious tackling by the forwards, particularly William Parkhill, Gary Balmer, Ben Graham and Matthew Johnston, continued to cause problems for Derry and the Town were rewarded for their efforts when Man of the Match, Ben Graham, scored his second try. Following good link play between the backs and the forwards Ben was on hand, ably supported by the rest of the forwards, to charge over the line. Gary Pattison converted, leaving the half-time score Ballymoney 12 Derry 7.
With the very strong wind in their faces the Ballymoney lads had to change their approach to the second half by keeping the ball in their hands and denying Derry any chance to launch long kicks by keeping them in their own half of the field.
This tactic proved successful when five minutes into the half a strong break by outhalf Andrew Young was fed to Aaron Brown. Aaron drew his opposite number and provided an excellent pass to the running wide fullback, Gary Pattison. Gary then created a scoring opportunity for winger Ciaran Neill who ran in from thirty yards to score an excellently worked unconverted try.
By this stage the Derry players were finding the Ballymoney running, rucking and mauling game difficult to control and following a great display of handling and support play by the forwards, winger Ciaran Neill scored his second try which was unconverted.
During the remaining fifteen minutes Derry tried their best to breach the Town defence only to be stopped by some superb tackling from Matthew Bell, Andrew Young, Aaron Brown and Chris Campbell. As the game drew to a close, the Ballymoney lads were still on the offensive, superbly controlling the ball in their hands and maintaining possession even when playing in very windy conditions. The game finished with the final score 22-7 in favour of Ballymoney.
This was a great all round performance from the Ballymoney lads and their tremendous effort, fitness and team spirit has maintained their undefeated home record for two years. Well done lads!
Ballymoney v Hermes
Randalstown v Ballymoney II
Ballymoney III v Mossley (JDLC Fri evening 8:15pm)
Ballymoney Hockey Club deeply regret the passing of Charles Huey, father of highly esteemed club member Angela Huey. The thoughts and prayers of the club are with the family at this sad time.