Virginia 0 – 33 Ballymena
Ballymena under 18s made the long trip to Deer Park on Saturday for the return league fixture at Virginia.
The game was played in great spirit in wet December conditions on a muddy pitch both teams performed well; demonstrating a determination and ambition which defied the conditions.
The game was extremely tight for the first 20 minutes, neither team troubling the scoreboard with Ballymena dominating territory and possession but Virginia battling and defending well to prevent the Braidmen registering a score.
In the end the deadlock was broken flanker David Surgeoner who crossed the line after a number of phases of forward carrying, a pass by O’Rawe picked him out expertly as he hit a gap in the Virginia defensive line.
The second try came minutes later after a few phases of carrying by the pack created an overlap for the backs and replacement winger Aidy McSparren took advantage, stepping inside the last man to cross the line and set the ball down under the posts, O’Rawe added the extras.
Half time score 14-0
The second half saw Ballymena’s dominate more of the play, the pack continuing to carry hard and backs handling well given the conditions. Ballymena’s defence has been excellent all year and hard work from Wylie, Heggarty, Thompson and Shaw all made sure that record was maintained as Virginia struggled to break the gain line.
Forward replacements second row Jack Addision and prop James Stirling came on and immediately made an impact carrying well and being a constant thorn in the home defence and it was the pack who earned the next score with a training ground lineout move – hooker Ryan McCartney touching down.
Virginia tested the Ballymena back 3 with well-targeted high kicks gaining them territory and putting pressure on the Braidmen’s defence, but the McSparren brothers and Jack Gaston were up to the task and dealt with the high slippery ball competently.
It was Mark McSparren who scored next try following a neat pass by scrum half Ryan Thom who went blind from a ruck, drawing his man before putting McSparren in to score.
Both teams battled bravely and produced some excellent, committed rugby on an increasingly heavy pitch and the tempo of the game understandably dropped somewhat. The game also became a little disjointed with handling errors and penalties, and it was from a quickly taken tap penalty that flanker Surgeoner made a burst for the line, he was well tackled by Virgina but Ryan McCartney picked and went from the resultant breakdown to score his second try of the game.
Given the conditions this was an excellent game and a credit to both sides who committed fully to the game. It was also pleasing to see Connor Crabbe get his first game for the under 18s having recently joined the side.
Final score 33-0.
Tries: Ryan McCartney (2), David Surgeoner, Mark McSparren, Aidy McSparren
1 Jack French
2 Ryan McCartney
3 Jonny Wylie
4 Timmy Carson
5 Craig Houston
6 Ben Shaw
7 David Surgeoner
8 Tiarnan Heggarty
9 Connor McQuillan
10 Joe O’Rawe
11 Richard McCann
12 Rhys Thompson
13 Jack Gaston
14 Callum Mitchell
15 Mark McSparren
16 Michael Read
17 Jack Addison
18 Conor Crabbe
19 Aidan McSparren
20 Ryan Thom
21 James Stirling