Ballymoney travelled to CIYMS, Belfast, needing a win to maintain their 3rd place position in the league, but unfortunately this was not the case as a CIYMS late try gave them a 19-16 victory.
With Alex Houston unavailable this week, Curtis Montgomery was called up to the squad for his first league appearance at 1st XV level for Ballymoney. Conditions were good for running rugby and Ballymoney started off the brighter of the two sides. The forwards, led by Sam Bartlett, were dominating the scrum and from a scrum the referee awarded Ballymoney a penalty. However Cormac McCartney pushed the ball wide.
Repeated infringements from CIYMS forwards resulted in one of their backrow being sent to the sinbin. During this time Ballymoney continued to add pressure to the CIYMS line which resulted in Scot Nelson finishing off some good work from the forwards when he darted over the line at close range. Cormac McCartney added the extra points to give Ballymoney a deserved 0-7 lead.
CIYMS had few rear breaks into the Ballymoney 22, and these were mainly orchestrated through their 12 and 13. However the fitter Toon men were able to scramble back in defence and clear the danger. The only disappointing fact of the first half for Ballymoney is that they did not turn their dominance into more points as at the end of the half McCartney converted another penalty to leave the score at the interval 0-10 to Ballymoney with the visitors having 80% procession.
The start of the second half started as the first half finished with Ballymoney on the attack, however frustration was creeping into their game and they started to give away some needless penalties. CIYMS 13 and winger were starting to make some good breaks on the back of missed tackles as they put concentrated pressure on the Ballymoney line. This period of pressure brought about the turning point of the game as the referee sent firstly Ballymoney No6 to the sin bin for offside and then a minute later the Toon hooker was also yellow carded for not rolling away. CIYMS took advantage straight away as they scored from a maul after a lineout. With the try converted the lead was cut to 7-10.
Again with Ballymoney now down to only one in the back row CIYMS made a break from a scrum and attacked the line. Although Ballymoney turned the ball over a knock on in the tackle gave CIYMS space to move the play wide and with Ballymoney down in numbers the CI openside broke down the centre of the pitch to score a converted try below the posts.
Ballymoney were restored to full 15 men with 20 minutes to go and started to claw back the lead through the boot of McCartney as he covered a penalty to bring the score to 14-13.
Then with 10 minutes to go McCartney kicked another penalty to take the lead 14-16.
With time running out a loose kick in the CIYMS half resulted in their winger and fullback combining to break up the pitch before the cover defence stopped play on the 22. However with the CIYMS forwards now in the 22 they moved the ball wide and sucked in the defence before quick ball to the back line caught Ballymoney out of position and the winger crossed in the corner to give the home team the lead 19-16 with only minutes to play.
Ballymoney regained the ball from the kick off and moved it up the blind side to winger Strang. He showed good pace to beat his man but CIYMS fullback stopped him on the 10metre line. The forward hit the ball up again but as was the story of the second half, the ball was spilled in contact and CI kicked it out of play to bring the match to an end.
Man of the Match: Arron Ramage
Team: Ramage, Irvine, Bartlett, Platt, Clyde, Campbell, Surgenor, Richmond, Nelson, Henderson, Nevin, Watson, McLaughlin, Strang, McCartney, Montgomery, Hanna.
Jason Taggart commented after the match: “I was very disappointed with the result today as we were the better team. We dominated the game in the first half and I thought we were fitter and had the better game play.
“We also had the edge in the scrum so should of really put CIYMS to the sword in the first 40 minutes but didn’t and I think we came to regret that. In the second half we let them back into the game and old habits came in to play.
“The double sin-binning was big turning point as we had no backrow and they took advantage of that. However we came back and led the game 16-14 with 10 minutes to go and should of closed the game out but didn’t. However as I have said all season we are a young side and with James Cleland missing today and Jonny McLaughlin in at centre the average age of the back line was 20.
“Had we shown a bit more experience we would have closed the game out and got the points but I am sure we will learn from this in the future. We have two games left and with the top four finish a priority we must beat Portadown at home on Saturday.
“The guys will be working hard at training this week to get ourselves prepared for Portadown as we look to finish the season on a high.”