Ballymena 46 – 12 Nenagh
1XV 46 – 12 Nenagh Ormond
Report by Alasdair Frazer. Photos by Ryan Crooks and Sam Wilson
After last week’s loss away to Cashel, Ballymena were keen to make amends against bottom of the league Nenagh Ormond at a bitterly cold and blustery Eaton Park. A smaller crowd of hardy supporters braced the weather hoping to see the Braidmen return to winning ways against a much depleted Nenagh Ormond side due to injuries and COVID.
Ballymena were playing towards the town in the first half and immediately set about pressurising their opponent’s territory with a combination of set piece moves and attacking fluency that we have come to expect from the team this season. And the strong carrying by the forwards was rewarded quickly with the ball being spread wide allowing Tim Small to use exceptional footwork and speed to get on the outside of the defender and touch down in the corner. He also managed to convert his own try from the sideline, applying a beautiful fade to the ball to sneak inside the near post. 7-0 Ballymena.
Off the restart Paddy Browne secured the restart superbly in the air, a theme for the rest of the match. Ballymena then progressed their way up the pitch with relative ease, stretching the Nenagh defence from touch line to touch line. Direct carrying from the backrow, in particular James Howe and James McNabney took play into the 22 and the ball was spread wide to Mark Thompson who made it to the try line but fumbled the ball in the act of touching down. Luckily, Ballymena had the advantage and Timmy Small knocked over the penalty in front of the posts. 10-0 to the home side.
The next 10 minutes followed a similar pattern. Ballymena had the majority of possession and manoeuvred their way into the Nenagh Ormond half to lose the ball or get turned over. A few half breaks from Rodger McBurney at full back and Rhys Ervine on the wing threatened to extend the score but the final ball failed to go to hand. Eventually the pressure showed and after multiple phases in the 22 James Howe hit a great line and showed great strength to power over the line with, taking three Nenagh defenders with him. Again, Small converted to give Ballymena a 17-0 lead midway through the first half.
It threatened to be a very long day for Nenagh, so it was great encouragement to their supporters to see them exert pressure in Ballymena territory for the next ten minutes, targeting Ballymena around the ruck and using their sizeable pack to make ground. Ballymena were up to the task and managed to turn the ball over and clear on multiple occasions. Normal service was resumed for the Braidmen when more sustained pressure gave Adam Lamont the opportunity to Barrel over in the corner. Small missed the conversion this time to leave the score at 22-0.
One of the most impressive aspects of Ballymena game was the scrum; the front row of Cundell, McCormick and Mawhinney made ground at will giving Ballymena a regular stream of penalties to get into the Nenagh 22. As they scrummed down five metres out the Ballymena faithful were expecting a pushover try but the team had other ideas. James McNabney picked and carried down the blind slide being stopped just close of the line. Captain and inside centre Glenn Bailie built up a head of steam and hit the ball at full pace, pinballing his way over the try line and touching down under the posts. Small converted again to take the score to 29-0.
Just before half time Nenagh built their way into the Ballymena 22 and after a series of pick and go’s their forwards touched down under the posts and with a simple conversion this brought the half time score to 29-7 to Ballymena.
The second half began as a scrappy affair, neither team able to put together a series of phases and most of the play taking place between the two ten metre lines. Again, the scrum allowed Ballymena to make gain some territory and after Dean Millar made ground off a good strike play the ball was quickly recycled to Rodger McBurney who offloaded to Rhys Ervine to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed to bring the score to 34-7. Ballymena continued to make line breaks, Johnny Browne in particular slicing through the Nenagh defence in midfield however again the final pass or decision was not quite there.
The highlight of the game came midway through the second half. Rodger McBurney burst through the gap on his own ten metre line, stepped the full back and outpaced the defence to score in the corner. Tim Small added the conversion for a 41-7 lead.
Ballymena’s final try of the game came after some fine continuity and handling from the home side, eventually leading to Jonny Browne crashing through the Nenagh defence. Nenagh finished the game off with a consolation try after a quick tap and from close range, giving a convincing 46-12 win to Ballymena
This was the perfect response to last week’s loss in Cashel and leaves the 1XV in 3rd place in Division 2A of the Energia All Ireland League. Next Saturday, the team face a trip to Limerick to face 8th Place UL Bohemians.