BALLYMONEY travelled to Clougher Valley on Saturday to play last year’s league winners and in a tough game came out eventual winners by 6–10.
Ballymoney welcomed back John Richmond at Number 8 and Cormac McCartney at fullback while Andy Borthwick was rewarded for his recent performances with a place on the bench. Ballymoney started off slowing and an early penalty gave Clougher Valley a 3-0 lead.
Ballymoney replied with a penalty of their own to draw the game at 3-3 thanks to a kick from Cormac McCartney. Ballymoney had the early scoring chances as the visitors lineout was working well.
A number of catch and drives were stopped close to the line as the referee penalised the Toon pack for infringements at the ruck. This allowed Clougher to reduce the pressue and move back on the attack. Again an offside penalty gave last year champions a chance to regain the lead at 6-3 with 20minutes gone.
The game was very scrappy at this stage with the referee having a big influence on the game for both sides. Valley were winning the break down in the first half as Ballymoney looked complacent after the break from rugby last week and the travel down to Clougher Valley. However the Toon defence stopped any real scoring chances from occurring and in fact should have taken the lead after McCartney intercepted on the half way to race clear but the referee called play back for a Ballymoney player being offside.
Again Ballymoney had the chance to take the lead after Aidy Graham went over after a catch and drive at the lineout but the referee again adjudged Ballymoney to be offside. On the stroke of half time Cormac McCartney missed with a penalty to draw the game. Strong words from Coach Jason Taggart came at the interval to try and lift his side.
However from the kickoff Ballymoney gave away another two penalties but luckily for the visitors but kicked sailed wide to the relief of the large travelling support. Andy Borthwick came on for Danny Platt who had been playing with a flu bug he picked up the night before the game. Borthwick experience helped to settle the team.
With 20 mintues to go and most of the play in the Ballymoney half, a moment of brilliance from Number 8 John Richmond created the try that eventually won the game.
The big man picked at the back of a scrum on the half way line and broke on the blind side. A dummy fooled the cover defence and after a 30metre run he found the support of Cormac McCartney who showed great pace to beat the cover defence and score below the posts. He converted the score to give Ballymoney the lead for the first time at 6-10.
From the kick off they again attacked the Clougher line and some good rumbling from the pack saw the ball move to the try line however a turnover and some cool passing behind the try line allowed Clougher to clear the kick. As this point Clougher had up a head of steam and were putting pressure on the scrum and lineout which had been working well for Ballymoney in the first half.
The last 15minutes saw play take place in the Ballymoney half as Valley looked for a try to take victory. However the Ballymoney defence was holding firm and limited play to outside the 22 metre line. The last few minutes of the game saw way of attack from Clougher being repelled by Ballymoney.
The toon men fitness was showing as Valley started to tire and this meant that there runners were being isolated allowing Ballymoney to win the turn over or get the penalty for Clougher holding on. Scrum half Scott Nelson was playing like an openside and caused a number of turnovers and the last of which was awarded by a penalty which he kicked to touch to end the game and give Ballymoney a valuable away win by 10 points to 6. Man of the match: Jonny McLaughlin
Team: Ramage, D Watson, J Bellingham, Platt, Graham, Hanna, Surgenour, Richmond, Nelson, Skelton, Strang, McLaughlin, Cleland (c), C Watson, McCartney, Bartlett, Borthwick.
Coaches Comments: “We didn’t play that well today but we got the win, which is more important. This is a very hard place to come and get a win and we are happy to go home with 4 points. “We looked out of sorts today and couldn’t get things going and ended up playing into Valley’s hands. However generally we were able to scramble in defence to limit the home teams try scoring chances. We have another week and to be honest I would rather have a game.
“Although it will give us a chance to work hard at training as there was a large amount of things we need to improve. The next game is away to Coleraine on Saturday 6th October and I hope to have Ryan Clyde, David Campbell and Alex Houston back in contention for a place on the squad which will increase the competition.”