Ballymoney 2nd XV travelled to neighbours Coleraine 2nd XV for their first competitive match between the two sides since Coleraine beat Ballymoney 2nd’s in the final of the Crawford Cup in April.
Ballymoney were fired up for the game looking to seek revenge for that cup final defeat and from the start took the game to Coleraine. The match was only a few minutes old when the Toon were awarded a penalty. James Campbell slotted over a difficult touch line kick to give the visitors a 0-3 lead.
Within minutes of the restart Ballymoney’s James Campbell had the side further in the lead with another penalty this time in front of the posts. The lead was now 0-6 to Ballymoney.
Ballymoney had control of the game in the first half and looked if they were the home side. Strong running from forwards Neal Mullholland, John Richmond and Mathew Blair got the team over the gain line and produced quick ruck ball for scrum half Jonny Linton. Linton marshalled the back line well who tested the opposition back line all day. First Centre Andy Bothwick was creating space for outside centre Darren Smyth as he hard running lines committed 3 would be Coleraine defenders.
Ballymoney were also impressive in defence with some excellent tackling from Garvin Bellingham, Michael Allen and captain John Bellingham. This limited Coleraine field possession as they struggled to get out of their half. Coleraine defence around the ruck was also strong and scoring in the first 40minutes was limited to tow more James Campbell kicks to take the score to 0-12 at Half time.
Ballymoney knew that a solid disciplined performance would give them the point as Coleraine found it hard to break the Toon defensive line. Ballymoney started as they finished the first half and took play to the Coleraine line. They were rewarded with another penalty in front of the posts. Campbell again added the 3 points to give Ballymoney now a 0-15 lead with 30minutes remaining. Coleraine took play into the Ballymoney half on a rear attack but were awarded a kick at goal which they converted to leave the score at 3-15. The Toon backline were now starting to move the ball and the wings of Thomas Knight and Sandy McAuley were making good yards in attack. A line break by McAuley saw him speed down the wing and with the fullback to beat he stepped inside but an excellent cover tackle was stopped just short of the line. Come good defensive play from Coleraine allowed them to clear their lines and ease the pressure.
Pressure was only to subside for a short spell and the Ballymoney forwards had the upper hand in the lineouts and scrums. Andy Gardner and Neill Mullholland gave Irvine good targets to aim at. On Coleraine ball Gardner was able to put pressure on the throw and turnover a number of their throws. From a scrum 15metres out Ballymoney started the move which sealed the game. Richmond picked at the base and set up the ruck 10metres out. Jonny Linton gave Campbell at 10 quick ball and he pass to Andy Bothwick who line of run again sucked in 2 tacklers, however he was able to get the offload away to fullback Nigel Nevin who’s pace took him through the line and unselfishly pass to McAuley to score in the corner. The conversion was wide but Ballymoney now lead 3-20 with 20minutes remaining.
Coleraine knew they had to throw everything at the game and strong running from Shields at 10 and Patterson at centre tried to get them over the line. However some great tackling by Smyth in particular not only halted Coleraine attack but caused a turnover. With 15minutes to go Coleraine determination paid off as the Ballymoney team started to tire. The home teams forwards started to carry the ball more vigorously with runs from their prop forwards and hooker Brown. With nothing to loose they tapped quickly any penalties and took play to the Ballymoney 22yard line. Quick ruck ball allowed hooker Paul Brown to crash over down the narrow side for a consolation score. The conversation attempt was wide and the game ended 8-20 in Ballymoney favour.
Team: Blair, Irvine, J Bellingham (c), Gardner, Mullholland, Allen, G Bellingham, Richmond, Linton, Campbell, McAuley, Bothwick, Smyth, Knight, Nevin.
Captain Comments; After the game Captain John Bellingham commented “Off course we are very pleased with the result. Derby games can always go either way. After the defeat at Ravenhill last season we wanted to prove that nerves might of got the better of us that day and we are a better team than the score line in the final suggested. I think we did that today. From 1 to 15 we defended well and Coleraine found it hard to break us down. The older experainced players came to the fore with Mullholland and Gardner working well in the forwards and Smyth and Bothwick leading from example in the back line. Neal Beddows joined the coaching team from Coleraine this year and he has made a big difference to our play along with that of the 1st XV. The guys are really putting to practice the stuff he is showing us at training and you can see the difference in our backline this year compared to last year. The team would all like to thank Neal and Mark Culbertson for the work they put in not only on Saturday but every week”.