Cashel RFC 24 – 14 Ballymena
Report courtesy of Cashel RFC
Cashel took on the second placed team, Ballymena, in round six at Spafield on Saturday last. It was Cashel’s first All Ireland League game at Spafield this season and attracted a large crowd eager to see their team in action. Cashel were without a few players through injury, however Ballymena were confident having won their previous four games.
The early exchanges were intense with Cashel taking the game to Ballymena aided by the wind. It took them three minutes to register their first score when they drove to the Ballymena line using their attractive offloading game. Ballymena were penalised and Steven McMahon made no mistake with the penalty. He added another three points two minutes later when the forwards combined to bring play from inside their own half to the visitors twenty two with a devastating number of passes. Conditions for the first half were ideal for running rugby and both sides did not disappoint in this regard. Ballymena put their first points on the board on nine minutes and dominated the next eight minutes. When in a dangerous position, Brendan Ryan turned over a vital ball. Ballymena were penalised, Steven McMahon kicked long to the corner. From the lineout Cashel went through the phases and Brendan Crosse drove over for a try. Steven McMahon converted to put Cashel thirteen points to three ahead.
Ballymena came more into the game and while the exchanges were tough and hard opportunities were at a premium. Ten minutes before half time Cashel were penalised and Ballymena narrowed the gap to seven points with a penalty from Tim Small.
From the kickoff Cashel were in a promising position winning a penalty on the twenty two. It was very kickable for Steven McMahon who had an excellent day with the boot. Unfortunately a touch judge called back play for not wrapping in the tackle and the penalty was reversed. As the game progressed there were handling errors but no let up in the intensity. Ciaran Ryan made a wonderful break to bring play to half way winning a penalty which was kicked to the twenty two. The throw was deemed to be crooked and an opportunity lost. Half time score Cashel 13 Ballymena 6. It was a wonderful forty minutes of top class rugby. Both sides ran the ball and the lineouts were evenly matched.
At half time the heavens opened and a ten minute downpour changed the dynamic of the game as the ball was wet a slippery and made handling difficult. However it did not impact on the quality of the game. Four minutes into the second half Cashel were on the attack but a Cashel player was penalised and given a yellow card for what looked like a legitimate handoff.
Ballymena ran the penalty and scored a try in the corner with Dean Millar collecting a Crossfield kick,to narrow the gap to two points. The game at this stage was on a knife edge and the next score would be vital. It fell to Cashel when a driving maul from a lineout on the twenty two was driven over for Niall Fitzgerald to touch down. The difficult conversion went narrowly wide.
Cashel kept the pressure on and two minutes later a wonderful phase of power rugby by the Cashel forwards reaped a penalty which Steven McMahon despatched to put Cashel ten points ahead. The gap was reduced again to seven points within five minutes with another Tim Small penalty from the twenty two.
With fifteen minutes left in the game the Cashel dominance in the scrum was rewarded with a number of penalties. However a seven point lead is a dangerous one and Ballymena were more than capable of levelling the game at any time. Eventually the pressure took its toll and Cashel were awarded a penalty which Steven McMahon kicked to put ten points between the sides. Ballymena had one last chance to rescue a losing bonus point, which they deserved for their contribution to this great game, when they were awarded a penalty forty five meters out. They took a quick tap and brought play to the twenty two where James Ryan turned the ball over and the chance was lost. Final score Cashel 24 Ballymena 14.
Once again this was a top quality game. The All Ireland League is now thirty years in existence. It is the premier club rugby competition in the thirty two counties and brings teams of the quality of Ballymena and many others to Cashel and indeed brings this Cashel team to all corners of the country where they play with great pride and ability.
Tries: Dean Millar
Penalties: Tim Small x 3