Ballymoney return to winning ways


BALLYMONEY returned to winning ways in the league with a 13-0 victory over neighbours University of Ulster Coleraine (UUC) at Ballymoney on Saturday.

The pitch was in good condition considering the heavy snow and rain there was over the past number of days. However with the rain starting at the kickoff and a strong wind blowing towards the clubhouse it was never going to be a day for running rugby.

Ballymoney made a number of forced last minute changes to the team on Saturday with Scott Nelson and Aidy Graham were unavailable thus U19 Nathaniel Steele made his debut on the wing and Michael Allen moved to play at wing forward. From the previous week the 1st XV were also missing Surgenour, Bartlett, David Campbell and Platt in the forwards.

Even with these changes Ballymoney started off well and took the game to UUC. However some early handling mistakes and ill-discipline allowed the UUC players to clear their lines. Ballymoney had the advantage at the set piece and put pressure on the UUC scrum and lineout. The Toon defence was to dominate the game and although the visitors had some good early procession they could not break the strong Ballymoney line.

After 15 minutes captain Cleland slotted over a long range penalty with the wind to take the lead 3-0. He then missed with another long range attempt on 20 minutes.

A good break from the backline took play near the UUC line. A number of attacks from the forwards took the home side close to scoring but a knock on from Hanna near the line resulted in a scrum to the visitors.

Ballymoney pressure resulted in the scrum being turnover. However after a number of resets the visitors were let off the hook again as the home team was unable to convert the pressure.

Moments later Ballymoney did get the try when a lineout take by Ryan Clyde allowed the forwards to set up the maul. They drove it for Hanna to touch down over the white wash for a good forwards score.

Cleland added the extra points to leave the score at 10-0 with 30 minutes of the game gone. Cleland stepped up and added another penalty to make the score at the break 13-0.

Ballymoney turned round to play ‘up the hill’ and were determined not to show the lack of concentration that resulted in the lead slipping in the last number of league games. This was not to be the case. For the majority of the second half the play was in the UUC 22.

With the wind increasing Ballymoney at the penalty opted for the scrum. With a number of resets awarded and no penalty try coming Ballymoney were happy to grind out the result.

UUC were unable to get any ball through the set piece as the home team kept up a good defensive performance. When the forwards and back did link together they look dangerous and took play close to the try line a number of time but due to handling errors were unable to get another try.

With only 10 minutes left and a scrum on the UUC 22, their prop had to leave the field with a injury resulting in uncontested scrums. This gave them the platform to use there back line and they managed to take play out of there half for the first occasion. However unlike the week before no last minute shocks were to come as Ballymoney keep their discipline to close out the game.

Team: Ramage, D Watson, Irvine, Gardner, Clyde, Bothwick, Allen, Hanna, Cleland (c), Campbell, Nevin, C Watson, Strang, Steele, McCartney, Bellingham, Taggart.

Coach Jason Taggart said: “It maybe wasn’t the best day for rugby but was happy with our communication and defence. We got the win which was the main thing. We also closed the game out today which hasn’t happen in the recent games where we have given away a lead late on.

“Our biggest issue is consistency as we have a number of injuries. James Cleland had to move into scrum half at late notice but this gave a good chance to Strang to move to centre and Nathanial Steele to start on the wing.

“We also started with Andrew Gardner, Michael Allen David Watson and Andy Bothwick this week but we coped very well with the changes and everyone gave 100% commitment.

“We play Clogher Valley this week in the Towns Cup at Ballymoney which is a big game and we will need to be at our best to put the holders out of the competition”.