On Saturday 28 January Ballymoney RFC 5th XV made the trek to Stranolar, Co. Donegal, for their Butler Shield game against Finn Valley RFC.
Atmospheric conditions were nearly perfect for a good afternoon’s rugby. Pitch conditions, however, were far from perfect – the playing surface was a muddy lagoon with a series of grassy islands. The referee, having travelled almost as far as Ballymoney, consulted both team captains and, after quite a bit of deliberation, it was decided to try and play the game.
Choosing to take the kick, Ballymoney pushed hard to take the initial advantage but it became evident very quickly that this would not be a high scoring game. Both teams fought hard at the breakdown and it was a testament to both teams that neither were going to gain the advantage here either.
However, midway through the first half, Finn Valley made the best advantage of the conditions and their backline, having broke three tackles and jumped over four puddles, ran in the first score. The kick was duly converted to take the half time score to 7 – 0 to Finn Valley.
Not to be outdone, Captain J. Hunter worked his magic again at halftime and in true ‘never say die’ fashion, the Ballymoney team took to the field in the second half with all guns blazing.
The Ballymoney pack contested at every opportunity, winning their fair share of line outs and scrums, and were even able to feed the ball (which was like a bar of soap), to the back line on at least three occasions. The gain line was broken time and again and, after sheer persistence, second row R. Pollock dived over the line to take the score to 7–5 to the home team. The judges were undecided on whether the conversion, kicked by P. Elliott, had been good and, after inspection of the crossbar the kick was not awarded – the muddy mark being on the underside of the crossbar rather than the top.
The tail feathers were now up and Ballymoney, within a breath of winning the game, again pushed hard after the restart. Ballymoney player E. Murray had to be substituted after he was discovered blowing bubbles at the bottom of a ruck. Replacement R. Culville was immediately targeted by the opposition as he wasn’t yet as dirty as the rest of the players.
Having pushed into the Finn Valley 22, Ballymoney resolved not to leave until the next score was secured. The referee awarded Ballymoney a penalty on the Finn Valley 5 metre line and scrum half D. McLaughlin finally made the break when he broke the goal line to make the final score 10 – 7 to Ballymoney.
Ballymoney RFC 5th XV would like to thank Finn Valley for a hard fought game and their after match hospitality. However, we would ask that you inform us next time if we need to bring a snorkel and flippers as well as the rugby ball.