3XV Foster cup win – Report and photos
Ballymena 3 33- 25 Ballyclare 3s (Extra Time)
Ballymena 3s edge out Ballyclare 3s after 100 minutes of thrilling rugby to win the Forster Cup Final in front of a huge home crowd at Eaton Park. The Braidmen showed strength of character to clawed back from a 10 point deficit at half time to score in the dying minutes to tie the scores to push the game into extra time. With Momentum on their side, one piece of individual brilliant from centre Harry Spiers proved the difference.
On a sunny afternoon, A big crowd travelled over the Collin to support Ballyclare and they certainly made their voices heard with Ballyclare getting off to the perfect start, pouncing on an unforced error from Ballymena to score the games first try. Ballymena responded well to score a try of their own when captain Finlay Walker spun the ball wide to young winger Peter Munce who showed some rapid footwork to score in the corner. Kicker, Aidan Ritson, slotted a fine conversion from the touch line to take the scores to 7-5.
Nerves definitely got the better of Ballymena in the first half, making a number of unforced errors and Ballyclare were very clinical when they got the ball, much to their fans delight. Their strong pack gave them the platform to score another 2 tries and a penalty to take the scores to 20-10 at half time.
Ballymena 3s have made a habbit of second half comebacks this year, so they new the task ahead of them was well within their reach. They had the perfect start, when Cloughmills man Louis McGuckian scored a fine solo try from 50 meters, selling the Ballyclare fullback a fine dummy to canter under the posts to bring the scores to 20-17 with Ritsons conversion.
Ballyclare forwards scored another fine try from the back of a lineout maul to increase the lead to 25-17 on 60 minutes. The home crowd must have felt the game was slipping away from them when, on 65 minutes, Tighthead prop David Stevenson got sin binned for a high tackle on his opposite number. Against 14 men, Ballyclare looked sure to have taken the game out of the reach but for a knock on with the line at their mercy. That moment kept the Braidmen’s hopes alive and they managed to regain territory and possession to win a penalty for offside on the Ballyclare 22. Ritson once again converted to bring the scores to 20-25.
Back up to full complement on 75 minutes, Ballymena new they needed a try and started to build their best phases of possession of the game. Sub Ryan Mattison, aka the Duracell Bunny made a trademark break from the base of the ruck to put ballymena in the opposition half, and bruising carried from Connor White, David Fullerton and co gained ballymena further territory. The home fans were captivated with what they were seeing and they finally got what they wanted when the ball was moved left and fine handling from Lewis McClinton and Sam Henry put Cushendall Hooker Daire Mort on the outside to show tremendous pace to score in the corner to send the fans into raptures. Scored tied 25 a piece with a difficult conversion to come, Ritson hit the post and the game went into extra time, with 2 x 10 minutes to come.
The physicality of the encounter was clear to see, with players out on their feet, down with cramp and sore bodies. The youth of the Ballymena side proved to be the difference with centre Harry Spiers, who has been a great find this year for Coach Stephen Shaw, beat his opposite man to sprint 50 meters and score to give Ballymena the lead for the first time in the game, 30-25. Ballymena dominated the territory and possession in the final 10 minutes and won another penalty out wide on the 22. Ritson again stepped up and just pushed the conversion wide. However, in dramatic fashion, he got a second bit of the cherry when the Ballyclare forward tried to charge the kick down. Second time lucky, Ritson nailed the clutch kick to take the game out of reach, with the score finishing 33-25 to Ballymena.
The rugby on show was nothing short of sporting theatre, and credit must go to both teams and fans for their part in a cracking encounter that anyone who witnesses will remember for a long time to come.
Report Stephen Shaw (Ballymena 3s Coach)