Ballymena 3XV 27 – 20 Rainey 3XV
Ballymena 3s snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with 2 late tries to beat Rainey at Hatrick Park on Saturday 13th November.
The bonus point victory makes it 4 wins on the bounce for the Braidmen, but they needed the full 80 to pull this one out of the bag, in what was a gripping contest from start to finish.
It was Ballymena who took the early lead, through sustained pressure in the opening quarter. Rainey’s defence was resolute, but Ryan Mattison aka “the duracell bunny” spotted the gap and snipped from the base of the ruck to leave the defence bamboozled, with fly half Sam Henry adding the extras.
Rainey dominated the second quarter and scored 2 fine tries of their own, moving the ball from side to side and making ground with each carry, before scoring in the corner for their second. After a stern talking to under the posts by captain Lewis McClinton, Ballymena rallied themselves and gained a penalty from a ruck offence. Number 10 Henry added the extras to take the score to 14-10 at the break to the hosts.
Ballymena opened the second half like the first gaining good field possession from a string of penalties. The Lineout had been operating well and a series of rolling mauls took Ballymena close to the line. They were disappointed when the ball was turned over but stayed in the hunt, with Ben Scullion using all of his height to charge the clearance kick down, with Joshua Howe first to react to dot the ball down, on his first start since return from injury, taking the scores to 14-15.
Rainey were not beat by any stretch and gained 2 penalties from Ballymena mistakes in their own half, which their number 10 duely converted for a 20-15 lead. The game look all but settled when the Rainey 13 plucked an intercept when Ballymena were probing in the wide channels.
From a standing start and a 10 meters to make up, Centre Curtis Henry showed serious gas to reel his opposite number in and make a try saving tackle 5 meters short of the line. Ballymena managed to make the turnover and relieve the pressure, with a sigh of relief. That was the game changing moment which sparked the Ballymena fightback.
Rainey received a yellow card with 11 minutes remaining from repeated penalty offences, and were out on their feet after a bruising contest. Ballymena fitness and numerical advantage showed and after some slick hands from flanker Thomas Bovill put winger Arron Stirling in space to dive in the corner to tie the scores at 20 all. The conversion was pushed wide but with 3 minutes remaining,
Ballymena had the bit between their teeth, and from the restart, made bursts up the middle and out wide. A big surge from centre Curtis Henry out wide took Ballymena into the opposition 22, and some good recycling from the pack lead to an overlap on the right hand side. The ball moved through the hands and with the backs queuing up to score, fly half Sam Henry sold the dummy and just had enough to evade the last ditch tackles to cross the line, sending the travelling support into raptures. Sam once again added the extras for a personal tally of 12 points and a bonus point win for Ballymena 3s 27-20.
A big thank you to Rainey for what was a cracking encounter which could have gone either way and best of luck to them for the rest of their season.
Ballymena 3s welcome Donegal Town to Eaton Park next weekend Saturday 20th November.